Exhibition | Hungarian Treasure: Silver from the Salgo Collection

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 7, 2015

Press release (24 November 2014) from The Met:

Hungarian Treasure: Silver from the Nicolas M. Salgo Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 6 April — 4 October 2015

Curated by by Wolfram Koeppe

DP271859 TeaserNicolas M. Salgo (1915–2005), a Hungarian native and former United States ambassador to Budapest, was fascinated by the art of the goldsmith in Hungarian culture and formed his own “treasury” by collecting pieces that are individual and unique. Hungarian Treasure: Silver from the Nicolas M. Salgo Collection will celebrate the gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art of the major part of the silver collection assembled by this focused collector over three decades.

This large collection of silver—about 120 pieces, most dating from the 15th to the late 18th century—comprises a variety of types with especially refined appearance and high levels of craftsmanship, representing Hungarian silver at its best. The earliest works in the Salgo collection are medieval: seven objects, including two rare chalices with mastered filigree enameling. The intriguing shapes, inventive decoration, and historical importance of the objects, products of once-prosperous local aristocratic dynasties, make this ensemble exceptional. As a result of this generous gift, the Metropolitan Museum is now the only museum outside Hungary to possess such an array of sumptuous goldsmiths’ work from the region.

The rich natural resources and a flourishing mining system in what it is today Hungary and Romania (including the major parts of Transylvania and the so-called Siebenbürgen area) attracted artisans from all over Europe who created decorative objects with what was to become a characteristic opulence. Because the Balkans and the neighboring dominions were a major battlefield between the West and the Ottomans for centuries, few of these objects have survived. Those that have endured—many of which are included in this exhibition—offer a fascinating look into the techniques and abilities of this distinct interpretation of Renaissance and Baroque ornamentation.

The abundant deposits of silver ore in the region sparked the development of an active goldsmith community, the forerunners of which were mainly masters of German origin who were working under the strong influence of the German-speaking cultural area. Many of these craftsmen and workers emigrated from Saxony, which at that time was one of Europe’s main mining centers. In addition to German styles, the shape and ornamentation of the objects typically show an Ottoman influence, since this region was regularly occupied by the Ottoman Empire. The ornate embellishment on many of the pieces is derived from contemporary prints, textiles (such as lace), and other luxury goods that were sought-after all over Europe.

Comparative material culled from other areas of the Metropolitan Museum’s collection—including the Arms and Armor Department, the Costume Institute, and the Robert Lehman Collection— will also be on view in the exhibition to illustrate the multi-regional, wide-ranging influence on Hungarian silver during this period.

Hungarian Treasure: Silver from the Nicolas M. Salgo Collection is organized by Wolfram Koeppe, the Marina Kellen French Curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive web feature on the Museum’s website, including a scholarly essay on the subject of Hungarian goldsmiths’ work, a history of the collection and its collector, and catalogue entries. This online feature is made possible by the Salgo Trust for Education, New York.

Exhibition | A Passion for Jade: Heber Bishop and His Collection

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 7, 2015

Press release (22 November 2014) from The Met:

A Passion for Jade: Heber Bishop and His Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 14 March 2015 — 8 May 2016

00 boy TeaserAn installation of some 100 precious carvings in Chinese and Mogul jade and other hardstones, collected by Heber R. Bishop, will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning March 14. Featuring various types of objects—from containers for everyday use and pendants to ornaments intended for an emperor’s desk—A Passion for Jade: Heber Bishop and His Collection will illustrate the wide range of the lapidary’s repertoire.

An industrialist and entrepreneur, Mr. Bishop was an active patron of the arts and a Trustee of the Metropolitan Museum during its formative years. In the late 19th century, he assembled a collection of more than a thousand pieces of jade and other hardstones from China and elsewhere, and in 1902, he bequeathed the collection to the Museum.

Dating from Han dynasty (221–207 B.C.) to the 20th century, the objects on view in the installation will be selected entirely from the Museum’s collection. They will include outstanding Qing-dynasty (1644–1911) examples that are representative of the sophisticated art of Chinese lapidaries, as well as highly accomplished works by Mogul Indian jade carvers that provided an exotic inspiration to their Chinese counterparts. Also on display will be a set of Chinese lapidary tools and illustrations of jade workshops in China.


New Book | Le Luxe, les Lumières et la Révolution

Posted in books by Editor on January 7, 2015

From Les Éditions Champ Vallon:

Audrey Provost, Le Luxe, les Lumières et la Révolution (Seyssel: Éditions Champ Vallon, 2014), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-2876739796, 25€.

C_Le-Luxe-les-Lumieres-et-la-Revolution_2535De sa réhabilitation par Voltaire dans son scandaleux poème du Mondain à son utilisation dans les pamphlets prérévolutionaires, le luxe est l’un des sujets les plus brûlants, les plus débattus du siècle des Lumières. D’innombrables auteurs, petits ou grands, se sont interrogés sur cet objet futile et sulfureux qui leur permet de parler de tout : des arts et des sciences, des femmes et de la confusion sociale, du bonheur et des inégalités, du progrès ou du déclin de l’esprit humain.

Alors que la monarchie a cessé d’édicter des lois somptuaires, alors que le discours de l’Église est marginalisé, des écrivains s’érigent en juges, en avocats et en législateurs de la « culture des apparences ». Ce faisant, ils s’adressent à l’opinion publique et proclament haut et fort les nouveaux pouvoirs de l’écriture : l’affrontement autour du luxe met en jeu les compétences et la légitimité des hommes de lettres à fixer des valeurs communes, en concurrence directe avec le pouvoir royal.

Au cœur de cette effervescence polémique, nous croisons les figures attachantes de ces petits polygraphes, ces « Rousseau des ruisseaux » qui tentent de prendre place dans la République des lettres ; nous faisons connaissance du « serial publicateur » que fut le chevalier du Coudray ; nous apprenons comment écrire un livre sur le luxe, à la manière d’un Rabelleau ; nous suivons la lutte entre Butel-Dumont et ses contradicteurs pour changer le sens du mot, et inventer des adjectifs et des étymologies transformées en autant de munitions dans cette guerre de libelles et de pamphlets.

À la fin des années 1780, les fastes de la monarchie ont cessé d’éblouir et le luxe de Marie-Antoinette, « l’Autrichienne » est devenu, sous la plume acérée des pamphlétaires, une arme politique redoutable, car ce débat foisonnant a aussi contribué au changement de culture politique qui mène à la Révolution.

Née en 1970, ancienne élève de l’ENS (Ulm), Audrey Provost est agrégée d’histoire.

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From its vindication in Voltaire’s scandalous poem Le Mondain, to its strategic use in pre-revolutionary pamphlets, luxury figures as the subject of some of the most heated debates of the eighteenth century. Innumerable authors, canonical and non, raised questions about this frivolous and yet fiery topic that allowed them to speak about everything and anything: of the arts and sciences, of women and social confusion, of happiness and inequality, of the progress or decline of the human spirit.

As the monarchy stopped issuing sumptuary laws, as the Church’s discourse was marginalized, writers presented themselves as judges, defenders, and legislators of the “culture of appearances.” In the process they addressed themselves to public opinion, and loudly proclaimed the new powers of writing: indeed, the debates about luxury put into play the competence and legitimacy of men of letters as they established a common set of values in a direct challenge of royal authority.

At the heart of these polemics, we find the touching figures of small polygraphs, those “Rousseau des ruisseaux” who tried to establish a place for themselves in the Republic of Letters. We meet a “serial publisher” in the figure of the chevalier du Coudray; we learn how to write a book on luxury according to Rabelleau; we follow the competition between Butel-Dumont and his opponents as they sought to change the meaning of the word “luxury,” and to invent adjectives and etymologies that became ammunition in this war of libels and pamphlets.

At the end of the 1780s, the fasts of the monarchy ceased to dazzle, and the luxury of Marie-Antoinette the “Austrian” became a considerable political weapon under the pen of pamphleteers. The ensuing debate contributed to a change in political culture, which eventually would lead to the Revolution.

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