New Book | Thomas Whately’s Observations on Modern Gardening

Posted in books by Editor on April 18, 2016

From Boydell & Brewer:

Michael Symes, Observations on Modern Gardening by Thomas Whately: An Eighteenth-Century Study of the English Landscape Garden (Martlesham, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2016), 261 pages, ISBN: 978-1783271023, $56.

61hLttQsdUL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_Thomas Whately’s Observations on Modern Gardening (1770) is the first and most comprehensive study of what has come to be known as the English landscape garden, often claimed to be this country’s greatest original contribution to the fine arts. It became the standard text on the subject; its authority was accepted at home and abroad, and the book was read widely across Europe, mainly in a French translation. It influenced taste and design; taught visitors how to respond to gardens; analysed natural and built elements of the garden; suggested principles of design; and provided descriptions of major gardens of the day, such as those at Blenheim and Piercefield (Monmouthshire), together with the author’s responses, aesthetic, mental and emotional. It indicates a taste for the natural and the ‘picturesque’, foreshadowing romanticism. This first modern edition of the text is accompanied by an introduction and full commentary, covering both general considerations and specific points and topics. Contemporary illustrations have been chosen to illuminate further the gardens and places discussed.

Michael Symes is an author, lecturer and garden historian. He founded the MA in Garden History at Birkbeck, University of London, and specialises in eighteenth-century gardens in Britain and on the continent.


1  Introduction
Observations on Modern Gardening by Thomas Whately
3  Latapie and Whately
4  Commentary

Further Reading
Index of Place Names

At Sotheby’s | Musical Automaton ‘Bird Cage’ Clock

Posted in Art Market by Editor on April 18, 2016

The clock dates to around 1825, but it is an eighteenth-century kind of object—a kind of object that’s not yet appeared here at Enfilade. Try a keyword search for ‘bird cage automaton’ (to the right) and now something turns up. Press release from Sotheby’s:

Important Watches (Sale #GE1601)
Sotheby’s, Geneva, 14 May 2016


Attributed to Jean-David Maillardet with clavier by Charles-Frédéric Nardin, musical automaton bird cage clock, ca. 1825–30 (Sotheby’s Sale #GE1601; estimate: $411,000–825,000).

Sotheby’s upcoming sale of Important Watches, to be held on Saturday, 14 May, will be led by an exceptional and rare musical automaton clock, shaped as a bird cage. This stunning object proudly showcases the very finest of Swiss craftsmanship: its external appearance combines exquisite design and detail, while its inner mechanics represent the most advanced horological complications of the age. The bird cage features two charming singing birds as well as a captivating butterfly. Thanks to three automaton mechanisms, the elements combine to form a delightful scene filled with movement and music. This exceptional piece will be offered with an estimate of CHF 400,000–800,000 ($411,000–825,000).

Speaking ahead of the sale, Pedro Reiser, Department Manager of Sotheby’s Watch Division in Geneva, commented: “It is truly an honour to have been entrusted with such an extraordinary timepiece for our upcoming auction of important watches. This wonderful automaton is a rare find—all the more exceptional because it features an automated butterfly. Records suggest that only one other double-bird cage clock with an automaton butterfly is currently known. We are delighted to be able to present this exquisite creation, which would be equally at home in the collection of a connoisseur or in a museum.”

The ornate cage, of chiselled golden bronze, sits on four lion paw-shaped feet atop a pedestal. The whole structure is finished in shiny piqué-mat. Inside the rectangular cage are two singing birds, which jump from one perch to another, opening and closing their beaks alongside an animated fountain. The fountain is topped by a beautiful butterfly, whose hand-painted wings move as it turns within the cage. The mechanism articulating these delicate movements, built in brass and steel, are ingeniously concealed inside the lower section of the cage. The birdsong, mimicking canaries and nightingales, is reproduced by a combination of bellows, whistles and cams, enabled by an intricate fusee-and-chain mechanism. This feat of horological complexity can be attributed to a highly accomplished craftsman, Jean-David Maillardet (1748–1834) from La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Birdcage clocks were primarily made between 1780 and 1840. In the late 18th century, singing birds were produced in extremely small quantities, and they were considered the ultimate in luxury. The number of privately held pieces has diminished greatly, and their appearance at auction generates tremendous interest.

The music box, which is concealed inside the base of this striking piece, plays three melodies which are triggered on the passing of each hour or on demand. The mechanism triggers brass cylinders, which in turn vibrate the 93 blades of the clavier, or the ‘comb’. The clavier is signed ‘C. F. Nardin’ for Charles-Frédéric Nardin from La Chaux-de-Fonds. The three charming melodies which can be selected include Der Jägerchor (The Huntsmen’s Chorus) by Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826), written in 1820.

This masterpiece combines the exceptional skills of Swiss craftsmen, including horologists from Neuchatel, la Vallée de Joux and Geneva, who specialised in singing birds. Among the best known makers were Jaquet-Droz, Frédéric Leschot, Jacob Frisard, Jean-David Maillardet, the Rochat family and the Bruguiers. Their popularity can be seen to rise in parallel with the expanding commercial relationship with the Chinese, Ottoman and Russian markets, which blossomed towards the end of the eighteenth century.

Call for Papers | SAH 2017, Glasgow

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on April 18, 2016


From SAH:

2017 Society of Architectural Historians Conference
Glasgow, 7–11 June 2017

Proposals due by 6 June 2016

The Society of Architectural Historians is now accepting abstracts for its 70th Annual International Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, June 7–11. Please submit an abstract no later than June 6, 2016, to one of the 32 thematic sessions, the Graduate Student Lightning Talks, or the open sessions. The thematic sessions have been selected to cover topics across all time periods and architectural styles. SAH encourages submissions from architectural, landscape, and urban historians; museum curators; preservationists; independent scholars; architects; and members of SAH chapters and partner organizations.

Please note that those submitting papers for the Graduate Student Lightning Talks must be graduate students at the time the talk is being delivered (June 7–11, 2017). Open sessions are available for those whose research does not match any of the themed sessions. Instructions and deadlines for submitting to themed sessions and open sessions are the same.

Submission Guidelines
1  Abstracts must be under 300 words.
2  The title cannot exceed 65 characters, including spaces and punctuation.
3  Abstracts and titles must follow the Chicago Manual of Style.
4  Only one abstract per conference by author or co-author may be submitted.
5  A maximum of two authors per abstract will be accepted.

Abstracts are to be submitted online at the SAH website.

A selection of sessions of particular relevance for scholars working on the eighteenth century are included below. See the call for papers for the full list.

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‘A Narrow Place’: Architecture and the Scottish Diaspora
Session Chair: Neil Jackson, University of Liverpool

This session, which is hosted by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, invites papers on Scottish architects who have made their mark outside their native country. Despite the Acts of Union of 1707, south of the border was, and still is, a separate country, and it has been in England that many Scottish architects, from James Gibbs to Norman Shaw and Basil Spence have built their best work. The colonies, and later the British Empire, attracted a disproportionate number of Scots: to America went Robert Smith who built Nassau Hall at Princeton University and who sat on the First Continental Congress of 1774, while to Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand went others, either to official positions or simply to make a living. Most recently, in 2015, Kirsteen MacKay was appointed Government Architect in South Australia. “Scotland,” Robert Adam wrote in 1755, “is but a narrow place.” Was it just the opportunities offered elsewhere which, for so long, drew Scottish architects abroad, or something deeper—a need to atone for the supposed barrenness of their own country? Is there something in the Scottish architects’ character and education that allows them to be so peripatetic? What made Colen Campbell, Robert Adam and James Stuart, all resident in England, such propagandists of foreign architectures? Was it no more than informed patronage which brought Charles Cameron to the Moscow of Catherine the Great or encouraged James Stirling to design university buildings at Rice, Harvard, Cornell and UC Irvine—but only once in Scotland, at St Andrews? And could Kathryn Findlay ever have achieved in Scotland what she did in Japan? Papers which investigate any architectural aspect of the Scottish diaspora will be welcome.

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Architectural Ghosts
Session Chairs: Karen Koehler, Hampshire College, and Ayla Lepine, University of Essex

This session explores the concept of the ghostly in architecture. While the ‘ghost’ in architecture might refer to actual haunted places, it also refers to the unfinished, the remnant, the referenced, the remembered, and the ruined. How, when, and where do we find and interpret the ghostly in architecture? Whether it be the flicker of spatial remembrance like a passing sense of cold, the palimpsest of a former window on a solid brick wall, or a crumbling foundation overgrown in the woods—spirits, souls, traces, and the spaces in between abound in our experience of, and critical approaches to, architecture and its histories. The ghostly can complicate ideas about originality, temporality, authenticity, and the sacred. It may imply a process of design that could linger in uncanny twilight between the conscious and the unconscious. Moreover, might architectural ghostliness lure us towards nostalgia, utopia, and imagined histories? Architects haunted by various histories may be caught up in the ghostly too: the spectres of lost opportunities or ruined spaces, and, significantly, the persistent power of the past. The concept of the architectural phantom could equally imply spaces of the ephemeral—opening up possibilities of the architectural image in visual culture or performative practices. What can writers—from ancient dramas to gothic tales to modern critical theory—offer to the study of the ghostly in design? We are interested in papers that explore any aspect of the architectural ghost: the unfinished project, the troubled biography, the voices of the memorialized in monuments or crypts, the fragment and its imagined completion, or any case study or theoretical paradigm in which architectural apparitions, residues, shadows or wraiths might be found.

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Architecture and Carbon
Session Chairs: Jason Nguyen, Harvard University, and Marrikka Trotter, Harvard University

In the eighteenth century, the scientist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur set about differentiating steel from cast iron. What separated them, he discovered, was their carbon content, and he praised the lower levels in steel for its artistic and industrial benefits. Later, John Ruskin lectured his Victorian audience that limestone was nothing but carbon, air, and lime: “the breath of the earth joining with the cold metals produced a thing that was a blessing to man.” Today, the element evokes images of damaging excess rather than the promise of a limitless resource. Creating a ‘carbon-neutral economy’ was the goal of the COP21 conference, which proposed leveraging taxes against greenhouse emissions. As these examples suggest, architecture’s entanglements with carbon range from materials science to ethical claims and cultural taboos. Yet even casual borrowings like the expression ‘the building block of life’ underscore carbon’s fundamental role in human existence. On the one hand, it is an essential component of all living assemblies, from DNA to the plants and animals making human life possible. On the other, as we plunder the carbon-rich remains of previous mass-extinctions, we risk precipitating our own. This panel seeks to probe architecture’s relationships with carbon in its multiple guises, across any period or region. We ask that papers attend to architecture’s engagement with nature in its elemental forms, preferring case studies to trans-historical speculation. How has the study, manufacturing, or use of carboniferous resources influenced architecture and its discourses? What are the stakes where the ‘organic’ or ‘sustainable’ are concerned? What avenues have been opened by non-carbon-based products like glass and silicon? How might these inquiries relate to larger discussions on nature and man’s place within it?

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Chinese Architecture and Gardens in a Global Context
Session Chair: Tracy Miller, Vanderbilt University

Although known as one of the world’s most distinctive cultural traditions, the architecture of China did not develop in isolation. Ongoing research in the field continues to break new ground regarding the complexity of the ‘architectures’ of traditional China and the ways in which they influenced, and were influenced by, the artistic and philosophical traditions of other regions. The goal of this panel is to provide a forum to discuss the influence of global networks of exchange on the development of the architecture China, broadly construed. Possible topics would include: the impact of non-native religious traditions, such as Buddhism and Islam, on the development of temple architecture; how conceptions of paradise and the exotic from South and West Asia inspired innovations in landscape garden design in the Chinese context; the influence of Chinese garden design and horticulture elsewhere in Eurasia and the US; and how concerns for sovereignty impacted the choice of architectural style in East Asia during periods of aggressive imperialism in the recent, and more distant, past. In an effort to foster lively discussion and introduce creative approaches to the examination of the role of China within global architectural history, the final panel will be composed of papers emerging from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives.

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Colour and Light in Venetian Architecture
Session Chairs: Andrew Hopkins, University of L’Aquila, and Deborah Howard, University of Cambridge

The session explores the ways in which architects in Venice manipulated colour and light. How did light reflected upward from water surfaces influence design decisions on canal facades? How was lighting adapted to the respective needs of coloured or whitewashed interiors? Shadows and darkness also deserve attention. That the facades of both major plague churches, the Redentore and the Salute, are almost permanently in shadow might have a symbolic meaning. The use of Murano glass chandeliers seen through large windows changed the city’s appearance at night, making Venetian palaces glow like lanterns. How were streets and campi lit after dark: did moonlight and starlight prove adequate in a less lightpolluted environment than today? In what ways were lighting and colour controlled or modified to create a particular religious effect? How were existing churches modified in the post-Tridentine era? How did the hanging of carpets and tapestries transform church interiors and palace facades on special occasions? How did the use of coloured materials change over time? Did the availability of marbles and glass mosaic condition the local demand for polychromy? Did the colours used in Venetian painting, and the flourishing trade in pigments, influence architectural patronage and practice? Did colour symbolism confer specific meanings on different marbles? What effect did the burgeoning phenomenon of architectural treatises—all printed in black and white— have on the perception of architectural colour from the sixteenth century onwards? How were changes to material colour perceived, such as the rebuilding in stone of the Rialto bridge rather than in wood? Can different colour choices be defined for different patronage groups? This session invites proposals on any dimension of the use of light and colour in the Venetian townscape, whether in terms of design, construction or meaning.

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Evidence and Narrative in Architectural History
Session Chairs: Michael Osman, University of California, Los Angeles, and Daniel M. Abramson, Tufts University

To write histories of architecture necessarily employs tools of rhetorical persuasion: what facts to select in support of an argument, and how to sequence events to tell a convincing story. Architectural historians, however, have generally not been self-conscious about these devices. What kinds of facts are deployed as evidence in architectural history? What kinds of stories do we tell to make sense of events? How have strategies for evidence and narrative evolved over time in architectural history? Nor have architectural historians usually explored the methods of evidence and narrative they share with other disciplines, and what may be particular to architectural history. Like other historians, for example, architectural historians take much of their evidence from textual archives. But photographs, drawings, buildings, and other material objects also support our arguments and stories. How are these materials selected and deployed as evidence in architectural history? How do they relate to techniques for developing evidentiary claims in other fields, such as science or law? This session, on the uses of evidence and narrative in the historiography of architecture, welcomes papers from all periods and all geographies. The aim is to focus on methodological questions in historical scholarship. Papers may focus on a particular text or work of an architectural historian; or within a group of texts and/or figures within a period in architectural history. Papers may also treat narrative and/or evidence in architectural history from a theoretical perspective, and in comparison with other disciplines. We are particularly interested in papers that point to specific problems of using evidence and narrative to position buildings, cities, and architectural techniques, in a broader account of historical change.

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Piranesi at 300
Session Chairs: Heather Hyde Minor, University of Notre Dame, and John Pinto, Princeton University

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), one of the most outstanding graphic artists of any age, made enduring contributions to both the representation of architecture and the narrative of its history. Through the alchemy of his etching needle, he gave expression to the mute poetry of Roman ruins. Piranesi also published a series of artfully structured volumes in which he orchestrated textual erudition and visual pyrotechnics to advance his polemical views on the history of architecture. Always a passionate advocate of the virtues of creativity and innovation over blind adherence to rules, Piranesi became a touchstone in the roiling Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. Piranesi’s polemical publications and extensive corpus of over one thousand prints extended his reach and exerted a powerful influence on architectural discourse that persists into our own day. Much new information relating to Piranesi has emerged in recent years, such as numerous drawings, archival documents, and the eloquent testimony of his surviving copper plates, which have recently been conserved. In the run-up to the three-hundredth anniversary of Piranesi’s birth in 2020, we propose a session that will provide a fresh view of Piranesi and his place in the history of architecture. We invite papers that address such themes as Piranesi’s representational strategies, his polemical vision of architectural history, his audience and reception, as well as how his ideas and his art have been taken up in more recent years.

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Graduate Student Lightning Talks
Session Chair: R. Scott Gill, University of Texas at Austin

The Graduate Student Lightning Talks provide graduate students with an invaluable opportunity to test their ideas, refine their thoughts, and enhance their presentation skills among a circle of empathetic and supportive peers. This session is composed of approximately 12 five-minute talks that allow graduate students to introduce their current research. We are seeking work in various forms, including a focused summation, concentrated case study, and methodological exegesis. The individual talks are divided into thematic groups with a short question and discussion period following each set of presentations. Graduate students are invited to submit a concise abstract (under 300 words). Authors/co-authors must be graduate students at the time the talk is being delivered (June 7–11, 2017). Preference will be given to doctoral students, but all graduate students are encouraged to apply, and the Lightning Talks co-chairs welcome geographic and institutional diversity.