Call for Papers | Romantic Art in the Context of Philosophy and Science

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 26, 2016

From H-ArtHist:

Romantic Art in the Context of Natural Philosophy and Natural Science
Die Kunst der Romantik im Kontext von Naturphilosophie und Naturwissenschaft
Goethe Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 14–16 September 2017

Proposals due by 3 December 2016

“All art should become science and all science art,” declared Friedrich Schlegel in one of his many aphoristic fragments. As Schlegel envisioned, strengthened ties among art, philosophy, and natural science characterized the Romantic epoch. Literary salons in European artistic and intellectual centers, such as Dresden, facilitated the exchange of ideas and nurtured collaborations among intellectuals and artists that transgressed disciplinary boundaries.

In recent years, there has been substantial scholarly interest in how Romantic literature engaged with the scientific activities of its day. For example, the writings of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Novalis, Jane Austen, William Blake, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Heinrich von Kleist, and Mary Shelley have all been linked to developments and concepts in the natural sciences. This attention to science and literature around 1800 is just beginning to prompt re-evaluations of related projects in the visual arts. In the 1990s, studies by Rebecca Bedell, Werner Busch, Charlotte Klonk, James Hamilton, Timothy Mitchell, and John Thornes brought the practice of Romantic landscape painting in proximity to natural science. These scholars proposed that new theories in optics, geology, botany, and meteorology to varying degrees inflected depictions of primordial mountain ranges, glaciers, vegetation, skies, and cyclical facets of nature by artists such as Carl Blechen, Caspar David Friedrich, Carl Gustav Carus, Joseph Anton Koch, Johan Christian Dahl, John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, and John Martin. However, in the German context especially, links between science and the visual arts remain contested. Caspar David Friedrich is an especially polarizing figure. With a few notable exceptions, most scholars continue to focus on the aesthetic, political, and, above all, religious dimensions of his practice, and locate his work outside of larger, European-wide trends in the visual arts.

This conference—a cooperation between the German Society for the Study of the Nineteenth Century and the Freies Deutsches Hochstift, where the German Museum of the Romantics will be established—considers anew the intersection between the visual arts  (including, but not limited to landscape painting) and the natural sciences, as well as nature philosophy in the Romantic context across Europe. Papers are especially encouraged that explore how the nature philosophy of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling or his contemporaries, such as Carl Gustav Carus, Gotthilf Heinrich Schubert, Lorenz Oken, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, and Frederik Christian Sibbern, influenced artists, informed their practices, and shaped art theory in the early nineteenth century. Please send abstracts (ca. 300 words) for 30-minute presentations, along with a curriculum vitae, to the conference chairs by December 3, 2016. Travel expenses and accommodations will be covered.

Gregor Wedekind
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Institut für Kunstgeschichte und Musikwissenschaft
Jakob-Welder-Weg 12
55128 Mainz


Nina Amstutz
Assistant Professor
History of Art and Architecture
Lawrence Hall 212
5229 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-5229 USA

Exhibition | Charles Percier: Architecture and Design

Posted in books, catalogues, conferences (to attend), exhibitions by Editor on October 25, 2016

Press brochure for the exhibition at Bard Graduate Center:

Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions
Bard Graduate Center Gallery, New York, 18 November 2016 — 5 February 2017
Château de Fontainebleau, 18 March — 19 June 2017

Curated by Jean-Philippe Garric


Robert Lefèvre, Portrait of Charles Percier, 1807, oil on canvas (Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles; photo by Gerard Blot).

Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions will be the first large-scale exhibition to survey the magnificent range of projects undertaken by the French architect and designer from the end of the eighteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Jean-Philippe Garric, professor of the history of architecture at the University of Paris I, Panthéon- Sorbonne, is the curator.

Although largely remembered for his close collaboration with Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762–1853)—together they defined the Empire style and created the decorative program of Napoleon’s reign—Charles Percier’s (1764–1838) artistic style was unique, complex, and ever-evolving. From the last years of the ancien régime, when Percier was a promising student—first at the Académie royale d’architecture in Paris and then at the French Academy in Rome, where he concentrated on graphic work—his commissions for public and private clients significantly influenced decorative arts and architecture during an extremely turbulent and rapidly changing period in French history.

Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions breaks with the tradition of considering Percier and Fontaine together. This choice, shaped by the discovery of new documents relating to the production of the two partners, allows a better understanding of Percier’s multifaceted artistic practice. The exhibition will feature more than 130 art works from principal museums and cultural institutions in France and the United States, as well as key objects from private collections, including his designs for furniture, porcelain, metalwork, and the renovation of the rue de Rivoli—the construction of which transformed the center of Paris. Rare drawings and spectacular examples of early nineteenth-century cabinets, candelabras, and tureens will also be displayed. By focusing on his most famous and seminal works, such as sketches for the arc du Carrousel, the interior designs for Josephine Bonaparte’s rooms in the Tuileries Palace, and the magnificent books dedicated to Roman palaces and interior decoration, the exhibition will demonstrate the diverse and extraordinary creations of an artist whose work brilliantly bridged ancien régime court culture and the industrial production of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Organized by Bard Graduate Center Gallery, New York, in association with the château de Fontainebleau and the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais, Paris. Following its presentation at Bard Graduate Center Gallery, Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions will be on view at château de Fontainebleau from March 18, 2017 to June 19, 2017.


Pierre Phillippe Thomire after design by Charles Percier, Andiron with Psyche, 1809, chased and gilt bronze (Château de Fontainebleau, inv. F 943 C)

Pierre Phillippe Thomire after design by Charles Percier, Andiron with Psyche, 1809, chased and gilt bronze (Château de Fontainebleau, inv. F 943 C)

With thousands of drawings in public and private collections, several architectural and urban interventions of prime importance in the heart of Paris, numerous furniture and interior designs commissioned by prestigious patrons, publications that left their mark on several generations of architects and decorators, and, among his students, sixteen Prix de Rome winners and seven members of the Institut de France, the genius of Charles Percier was evident to his contemporaries. While his importance has been acknowledged by most historians of art, architecture, and decorative arts, no exhibition or book has yet attempted an overview of his production as a whole. This is not merely an injustice to him given his central role in the arts at a time of transition between the ancien régime and the modern period and his proximity to those in power under Napoleon, it has compromised our understanding of the architecture and decorative arts produced during this time, not just in France but throughout Europe.

While there are many surviving graphic documents and other works by Percier, there is no Percier archive. The principal sources—Fontaine’s journal and memoirs, the former written for posterity and the latter for his grandchildren—purport to be accurate, but often overlook entire aspects of his career. Fontaine failed to mention all of the projects undertaken by Percier alone. As a result, this exhibition, by concentrating on Percier, offers a biographical synthesis of his career that focuses on specific projects, whether realized, published, or drawn.

Percier and His Circles

Charles Percier owed a great deal to the academic world, and he gave a great deal back to it. After studying drawing at an exemplary philanthropic institution of the last years of the ancien régime, the École gratuite de dessin (Free Drawing School), he was a model student at the Académie royale d’architecture (Royal Academy of Architecture) and then, after winning the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1786, an enthusiastic pensioner (fellow) at the Académie royale d’architecture. He began teaching students of his own in 1791—almost immediately after returning to Paris from Italy—and gradually became one of the most important French architecture professors of the first third of the nineteenth century, entering the Institut de France in 1811. Percier lived alone but often worked with others—Pierre Fontaine, the most important of these, was by no means the only one—and befriended many of his fellow Rome pensioners as he would later do with several of his students, many of whom collaborated with him. His circle included fellow École gratuite de dessin pupils such as Anne Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767–1824); his teacher Antoine François Peyre (1739–1823); fellow Rome pensioners, most notably Jean German Drouais (1763–1788); architects and painters including François Gérard (1770–1837); and several generations of students who engaged in com- mon projects and socialized, both casually and within more structured frameworks such as the dinners of the society of artists known as the Duodi.

This theme presents Percier’s various academic projects, including his Grand Prix winning architectural design, sketches he made in Rome, his graphic reconstruction of Trajan’s Column, as well as portraits of and work by his students.

Between Italy and France

Percier’s Italian sojourn (1786–91) had a profound effect on him. Like many fellowship students at the French Academy in Rome, his stay there was characterized by enthusiasm and wonder, but, more than any other, he made this experience a key moment in his emotional, artistic, and intellectual life. A relentless campaign of measuring and drawing made it possible for him to gather material for two volumes of engravings that were to have considerable influence on his con- temporaries and later designers. For the rest of his life, he remained a fervent admirer of Italian antiquity and Renaissance art and architecture, and planned a second trip to Italy that never happened.

Despite his ardent Italophilia, Charles Percier was not indifferent to French architecture, especially that of the French Renaissance, and he admired the decorative and sculptural production of Jean Goujon (active 1540–65) and Pierre Lescot (ca. 1515–1578). Consistent with his admiration of Italian architecture, he carefully studied the château de Fontainebleau through hundreds of drawings. He also collaborated with art historian Alexandre Lenoir (1761–1839) on the installation and graphic reproduction of works in the Musée des monuments français, a museum dedicated to French architectural heritage, which Lenoir opened in 1795.

This theme evokes the artistic context of Percier’s Italian sojourn through drawings from his stay at the French Academy in Rome, a volume on Roman palaces and villas, and sketches. It also examines his involvement with the Musée des monuments français.

A Graphic Artist

Apart from a few letters, Percier left behind almost no writings. From the several thousand carefully organized drawings he bequeathed, it is apparent, even during his early training at the École gratuite de dessin, that his skill as a draftsman enabled him to stand out, consolidate his position, and prevail over his contemporaries. His line is fine and precise, and he was less interested in the art of perspective than in delineation and linear agility. His mastery of outline and contour coupled with his passion for abundant ornament were the very heart of his creative work. This ability, cemented by his prolonged study of the bas-reliefs of Trajan’s Column, enabled him to stand out as the illustrator, graphic designer, and decorator of his own publications and other prestigious editions, as well as of luxury objects.

Percier’s most remarkable achievements, given that he’s an architect, are his drawings for the editions of Horace and the Fables of La Fontaine published by Didot. –Alexandre Lenoir, 1805

This theme emphasizes Percier’s graphic work, considered both as an independent artistic domain and as the unifying thread between Percier’s other creative projects. Exquisite drawings from the Louvre, luxury books, including a commemorative book for Napoleon’s coronation, prints, and even a fan for Josephine will be on view.

The Recueil de décorations intérieures

Charles Percier, Clock, by Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, 1813, bisque porcelain, gold highlights (Sèvres, Cité de la céramique, MNC 13022).

Charles Percier, Clock, by Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, 1813, bisque porcelain, gold highlights (Sèvres, Cité de la céramique, MNC 13022).

Percier’s production in the realm of interior decoration and furniture design was considerable. Not only was he called upon to design a great many interiors, furnishings, and objects—from his first commissions for the National Convention in 1793 to the carriage for the coronation of Charles X—his major works were much publicized by the Recueil de décorations intérieures (1801–12). This collection of 72 plates of furniture and interior designs was one of the most important and influential ornament books in France and indeed in Europe of the time. It established an international neoclassical taste and became a model for commercial catalogues of ornaments, unwittingly inaugurating an era of industrial arts production. The Recueil was a major source of inspiration for generations of decorators and designers. It ensured Percier’s legacy while simultaneously linking it inextricably to that of Fontaine.

Percier, whose temperament and taste, indeed his gifts, were ill-suited to the trouble and demands of business, left all practical matters to me. I handled the correspondence as well as the accounts, and he focused almost exclusively on study drawings and graphic compositions. –Pierre Fontaine, 1804

As Fontaine acknowledged himself, the Recueil was Percier’s masterwork. Percier drew and engraved the plates largely on his own, despite including both of their signatures. ‘Percier and Fontaine’ is thus perhaps more akin to a luxury brand than an indication of shared artistic paternity. Separating Percier from Fontaine, this exhibition restores Percier’s role and singular contribution to the decorative arts as an expert draftsman and designer.

But the contributions Charles Percier made to the realms of furniture and interior decoration do not all fall within the chronological parameters of the Recueil de decorations intérieures, nor are they limited to the ensembles and objects represented there. His work for artisanal firms like Jacob frères and that of Martin Guillaume Biennais and his designs for manufactories like Sèvres were the point of departure for national and international diffusion of the style Percier. This diffusion ran parallel to the gradual industrialization of the arts, as well as a certain democratization of access to luxury objects.

This theme first focuses on the Recueil de décorations intérieures, juxtaposing rare hand-colored prints from the publication with corresponding drawings, furniture, and objects. It will include extraordinary pieces made for Napoleon, Josephine, and members of the imperial circle from the collections of Versailles, Fontainebleau, and the Elysée Palace. It also demonstrates the dissemination of Percier’s style and its vulgarization, as well as Percier’s continued artistic development after 1815.

The Louvre, the Tuileries and the rue de Rivoli

Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine, Arc du Carrousel, south side view, 1806–15, watercolor and pen (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, RESERVE FOL-VE-53 C).

Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine, Arc du Carrousel, south side view, 1806–15, watercolor and pen (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, RESERVE FOL-VE-53 C).

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Napoleon engaged Percier and Fontaine to execute one of the most ambitious projects of his reign and of their careers—linking the Louvre and Tuileries palaces. This large-scale enterprise had three principal ambitions. The first and oldest one was to connect the Louvre with the Tuileries, thereby creating a palace of unmatched magnitude. As heir to the Revolution, Napoleon could not reside at Versailles, and he wanted to complete a project that a century of royal rule had been unable to bring to fruition. The Tuileries became the principal imperial residence, with all its practical and symbolic consequences. The second ambition was to transform the surrounding city. Given their dimensions and location, connecting the Louvre with the Tuileries meant recasting the center of Paris. From this perspective, the operation constitutes a link between the great urban embellishment projects of the eighteenth century and the transformations of the Second Empire. Finally, the third ambition, doubtless the most contemporary, was cultural in nature: to complete and restore buildings considered jewels of French architectural patrimony as well as to create, within the Louvre, the world’s largest museum.

This theme presents Percier and Fontaine’s designs for the Louvre and the Tuileries, from an urban scale to the arrangement of interiors and decoration. It will also include their designs for the renovation of the arcades on the nearby rue de Rivoli.

Paper Architecture

Much of the architecture Charles Percier designed with Pierre Fontaine was never built. Paper architecture, or plans for unrealized structures, was the reality for architects during this era of political turmoil. In fact, paper architecture became a practice in itself at the Académie royale d’architecture when Percier was a student there during the late eighteenth century. Economic crises in the 1780s resulted in a lack of architectural commissions and architects like Percier began defining themselves as artists who produced beautiful drawings of hypothetical structures, rather than builders.

When Percier left Paris for Rome, he was still training to be a court architect. By the time he returned in the midst of the French Revolution, the world he knew was shattered. Percier’s talent for drawing enabled him to be flexible and versatile in seeking other forms of work. Besides book illustration, in the 1790s, Percier and Fontaine served as co-directors of set design at the Paris Opera, where they created spectacular yet ephemeral scenery for the stage.

Despite being swept into Napoleon’s extravagant ambitions, including his plans for a Palace of the King of Rome, Percier and Fontaine managed to build only a small number of important structures. Their contributions to the staging of Napoleonic power, notably the emperor’s coronation and his marriage to Marie-Louise, represent a significant portion of their realized work. The fact that they produced more ephemeral projects and—especially—designs for buildings that were never constructed resulted in a corpus of works on paper that reveal the richness and diversity of their imaginations. This final theme presents architectural drawings, water- colors, commemorative volumes, and objects, related to Napoleonic ceremonies and commissions, as well as opera sets designed by both Percier and Fontaine.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Symposium | Percier: Antiquity and Empire
Bard Graduate Center, New York, 18 November 2016

Taking place on Friday afternoon, 18 November 2016, the symposium will feature speakers including Jean-Philippe Garric, Ulrich Leben, Iris Moon, Darius Spieth, and more. RSVP is required. Please click on the registration link here or email public.programs@bgc.bard.edu.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

From Yale UP:

Jean-Philippe Garric, ed., Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions (New Haven: Yale University Press, with Bard Graduate Center, 2017), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-0300221589, $75.

61vk6-tmywlHandsomely designed and richly illustrated, this publication surveys the magnificent spectrum of projects undertaken by French architect and interior designer Charles Percier (1764–1838). After gaining an illustrious reputation for supervising the scenery at the Paris Opéra during the French Revolution, Percier was later appointed by Napoleon Bonaparte. With the Emperor’s support, he developed the opulent versions of neoclassicism closely associated with the Napoleonic era, and now known as Directoire style and Empire style. Percier worked on the renovation or redecoration of many of France’s royal palaces, including the Louvre, the Tuileries, and the chateaux of Malmaison, Saint-Cloud, and Fontainebleau. The full scope and variety of Percier’s design projects are revealed in this book, which also includes archival material detailing Percier’s relationships with patrons and peers.

Jean-Philippe Garric is professor of architecture at the University of Paris I, Panthéon Sorbonne.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Note (added 28 November 2016) — The symposium included the following presentations:

• Jean-Philippe Garric (Professor, History of Architecture, University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne and curator of the exhibition Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions), Charles Percier: Beyond the Antique Model
• Iris Moon (Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Pratt Institute), New Heads for Old Bodies: Percier’s Designs for the French Revolution
• Ulrich Leben (Research Scholar and Visiting Professor, Bard Graduate Center), Charles Percier’s Vision of Antiquity
• Darius Spieth (Professor, Art History, Louisiana State University), Percier and Piranesi
• Jean-François Bédard (Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Syracuse University), Franks, Not Romans: Medieval Imagery and the Making of Imperial France










UK Export Bar Placed on Mazarind Tapestry, ca. 1700

Posted in museums, resources by Editor on October 25, 2016


Michael Mazarind Workshop, Chinoiserie Tapestry with Courtly and Hunting Scenes, made in London,
ca. 1696–1702.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Press release (20 October 2016) from Gov.UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport:

Culture Minister Matt Hancock has placed a temporary export bar on a rare tapestry by Michael Mazarind to provide an opportunity to keep it in the country. The tapestry is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £67,500. Inspired by Indian, Chinese, and Japanese design, it is the only surviving tapestry to feature Michael Mazarind’s workshop mark [lower right-hand corner]. Little is known of his workshop, but it is believed he was based in Portugal Street, London, between 1696 and 1702. Mazarind was relatively unknown, but is said to have connections to John Vanderbank, the Soho-based weaver. The tapestry includes small groups of oriental figures, buildings, exotic creatures, and plants. This combination of elements was described as ‘in the Indian manner’ and was one of the most popular decorative fashions of the period.

Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock said: “This intricate design provides us with a unique opportunity to explore the tapestry workshops of 1600s London. I hope we are able to keep it in the country so we can learn more about our nation’s textile industry, and of the decorative fashions of the time.”

The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council. The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds of significance for the study of Mazarind’s work, English tapestry of the period, and London’s history.

RCEWA member Christopher Rowell said: “This beautiful blue ground tapestry, with an equally unusual border of Chinese inspiration, dates from the late 1600s and is the only one to bear the woven signature of the mysterious Michael Mazarind, who was a rival of the more well-known London tapestry weaver, John Vanderbank. This type of ‘Indian’ tapestry depicting a Chinoiserie fantasy paradise in Cathay, with courtly and hunting scenes, was devised for the court but soon became more broadly popular. Saving the tapestry for the nation will allow specialists to study it in detail and help to reconstruct Mazarind’s contribution to tapestry production in early-Georgian London.”

The decision on the export licence application for the tapestry will be deferred until 19 January 2017. This may be extended until 19 April 2017 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £67,500. Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Matt Hancock. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to a public institution wishing to acquire the item.



A-Levels in Art History to End in 2018

Posted in graduate students by Editor on October 24, 2016

From Apollo:

Ben Street, “Make No Mistake, Art History Is a Hard Subject. What’s Soft Is the Decision to Scrap It,” Apollo (15 October 2016).

So: art history A-level is to be scrapped in 2018. However much they protest the fact, the decision taken by the exam board AQA seems related to the Conservative government’s policy of ranking subjects by perceived relative difficulty, using an analogy of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ that seems designed to belittle students and teachers who’ve apparently taken the easy way out. AQA deny this. Their claim is that art history—ditched along with archaeology and classical civilisation, whose demise has raised much less of a public fuss, for which you can provide your own punchline—is too difficult to mark successfully in an exam setting. It’s too ‘complex and specialist’, apparently. Too ‘hard’, in other words. . . .

In Memoriam | Mary D. Sheriff (1950–2016)

Posted in Member News by Editor on October 20, 2016


◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Mary D. Sheriff, internationally celebrated art historian and beloved teacher, died on October 19, 2016 at the age of 66. She specialized in eighteenth-century French art and transformed the field by re-evaluating rococo painting, introducing feminist perspectives, and examining European art in a global context. She published widely on artists such as Fragonard and Vigée-Lebrun, as well as on questions of art and gender. She taught at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill since 1983, was a former chair of the Art Department, and was named W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor in 2005. She was also a central figure in eighteenth-century scholarship as an editor of the journal Eighteenth Century Studies and as a founding member of the Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art group. Her scholarly achievements were recognized through numerous visiting professorships, invitations to lecture around the globe, awards, and fellowships from, among others, the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEH. She also made a great impact on the field with her teaching. Both undergraduate and graduate students revered her, and she trained many doctoral students, who follow her example of commitment to excellent teaching and scholarship. In addition to her professional work, she was also an avid traveler, bird watcher, and scuba diver. She and her husband Keith Luria were devoted to each other and shared these professional and non-professional passions.

Mary Sheriff was born on September 19, 1950 in Plainfield, NJ to Robert William Sheriff and June Leaf. She was educated at Bucknell University and the University of Delaware. She is survived by her husband Keith Luria of Chapel Hill, NC and her father Robert Sheriff of Tarpon Springs, FL. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor her memory can make donations to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or the Duke Homecare and Hospice of Durham, NC. A memorial will be held in her honor in the spring.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Update (added 25 January 2017) — Here’s information on a special CAA session to be held in memory of Mary in New York:

Key Conversation: Mary Sheriff (1950–2016): A Memorial Session
Saturday, 18 February 2017, 12:15–1:15, New York Hilton, Madison Suite, 2nd Floor

Chair: Francesca Fiorani (University of Virginia)

Join this session to remember Mary Sheriff. Come together, share memories, and celebrate her achievements.


Seminar | Hannah Wirta Kinney on Copies of Antiquities

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on October 20, 2016

From the seminar flyer:

Hannah Wirta Kinney | Commissioning Faithful Copies
of Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century Florence

The Wallace Collection, London, 31 October 2016

In Some Observations Made in Travelling through France, Italy, Etc Edward Wright concluded his account of the famous antiquities of the Tribuna of the Uffizi by describing bronze copies of its four most important statues, which were on display in the Duke of Marlborough’s Blenheim Palace. Visiting Florence in 1720, Wright had assisted the Lord Chancellor Thomas Parker to purchase bronze copies of the same famous antiquities. The casts’ maker, Pietro Cipriani, promised that they would “at least equal [Massimiliano Soldani Benzi’s for Marlborough], and be the most exact that ever were made.” In correspondence with their patrons, both sculptors suggested that the exactness of their copies resulted from the moulds they used to cast them, which had been taken directly from the original marble. But the authorization to make and thus acquire a faithful copy of a Medici-owned sculpture was carefully controlled. Permission to copy came from Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo III himself. The mould thus became the material proof of the copy’s close relationship to the original, and therefore of the copy’s value. It was also, importantly, the meeting point between the interests of the artist, the commissioner, and the owner of the original.

During the age of the Grand Tour collectors desired copies of the renowned works in Italian collections, but the authorization to make a copy was carefully controlled by the original’s owner. A copy of a well-regarded original could be read not only as evidence that the purchaser was aesthetically discerning, but, further, that he had the diplomatic connections that would allow it to be made. Conversely, for Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo III, the ritual of the request for a copy, like the praises of his statues that echoed in the halls of his galleries, reinforced his claims of political relevance in a moment of weakening power. This paper explores how ‘faithful’ copies materialized and displayed political relationships in the eighteenth century. The larger goal is to invert the standard narrative of the Grand Tour, to look at artistic production, rather than just at consumption, as a process of identity formation.

Seminars in the History of Collecting
Hannah Wirta Kinney (DPhil candidate, University of Oxford)
Commissioning Faithful Copies of Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century Florence
Monday, 31 October 2016, 5.30pm
Lecture Theatre, The Wallace Collection

Admission is free and booking is not required. More information and details of the seminar series can be found here.

Call for Papers | European Court Culture and Greenwich Palace

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 19, 2016

From the CFP:

European Court Culture and Greenwich Palace, 1500–1750
National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House, Greenwich, 20–22 April 2017

Proposals due by 1 December 2016

Royal Museums Greenwich and the Society for Court Studies are pleased to announce this call for papers, for a major international conference to mark the 400th anniversary year of the Queen’s House, Greenwich. Designed by Inigo Jones in 1616 and completed in 1639, this royal villa is an acknowledged masterpiece of British architecture and the only remaining building of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century palace complex. Today the Queen’s House lies at the centre of the World Heritage Site of Maritime Greenwich, which also includes the Royal Observatory and the Old Royal Naval College (previously Greenwich Hospital). The site as a whole is often celebrated as quintessentially ‘British’—historically, culturally and artistically. Yet the sequence of queens associated with the Queen’s House and Greenwich more generally reflect a wider orientation towards Europe—from Anne of Denmark, who commissioned the House, to Henrietta Maria of France, Catherine of Braganza and Mary of Modena—in addition to Greenwich’s transformation under the patronage of Tudor and Stuart monarchs. Located on the River Thames at the gateway to London and to England, royal residences at Greenwich served an important function in the early modern period as a cultural link with the continent, and in particular, with England’s nearest neighbours in the Low Countries and France. After major refurbishment, the Queen’s House reopens in October 2016 with new displays that focus on a number of important themes to historians of art, architecture and culture, and strong links to politics, diplomacy, war and royal and maritime culture.

Some of the themes that might be considered (but are not limited to) include
• Royal portraiture, in particular the representation of queens regnant and consorts
• ‘Princely magnificence’ and the design of royal spaces (such as the division between a King’s and Queen’s sides)
• Dynastic links between the houses of Stuart, Orange, Bourbon, Wittelsbach (Palatinate), and Portugal
• The history of Greenwich Palace as a royal residence and centre of power and culture
• The Queen’s House and Greenwich Palace situated in a wider royal and architectural context
• Connections between court life in Greenwich and the development of the navy (as represented by Thornhill’s allegorical paintings in the Painted Hall, and James, Duke of York, as Lord High Admiral, etc.)
• Fashions and artistic influences from overseas, notably Dutch, Flemish or French artists, architects and royal spaces (Inigo Jones, Orazio Gentileschi and James Thornhill), usage of allegory and mythology in royal/naval settings
• other areas patronized by the court, such as maritime exploration, scientific advances, prints, as represented by the Royal Observatory Greenwich

The conference will be held 20–22 April 2017 in the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House. Keynote speakers will include Dr Simon Thurley. We invite the submission of abstracts (300 to 400 words) for twenty-minute papers. The deadline for submissions is 1 December 2016. Please direct queries, if any, to Janet Dickinson: janet.dickinson@conted.ox.ac.uk and proposals and a brief biography to research@rmg.co.uk.

Conference Organisers
Janet Dickinson (University of Oxford), Christine Riding (Royal Museums Greenwich), and Jonathan Spangler (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Exhibition | Thomas Gainsborough: Methods of Making

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 18, 2016


Thomas Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with Old Peasant and Donkeys outside a Barn, ca. 1755–57, oil on canvas 49.5 x 59.7 cm (Gainsborough’s House, accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to Gainsborough’s House in 2015).

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

From Gainsborough’s House:

Thomas Gainsborough: Methods of Making
Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk, 22 October 2016 — 19 February 2017

This exhibition marks the culmination of a conservation research project, generously funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and carried out in partnership with the University of Cambridge’s Hamilton Kerr Institute. Focusing on a single painting from the Gainsborough’s House collection, it sheds new light on the artist’s early painting technique and methods of working.

The painting in question was allocated to Gainsborough’s House in 2015 through the government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme. Titled Wooded Landscape with Old Peasant and Donkeys outside a Barn, it has long been recognized as a significant work from Gainsborough’s Suffolk period, demonstrating his growing interest in the sentimental depiction of simple country folk. The identity of the principal subject is unknown, although an additional figure study by Gainsborough appears to represent the same man. Traditionally known as A Suffolk Costermonger, this mysterious character was reputedly well known in the Ipswich area.

A central part of the project has been the conservation and technical examination of the painting, carried out by Kari Rayner. Through the removal of yellowed varnish and overpaint, details previously obscured have been made visible. As part of her research, Kari has also created a partial reconstruction, revealing how Gainsborough’s canvas was prepared and how the paint was applied. The opportunity to view this reconstruction alongside the original painting affords a rare glimpse into the artist’s working methods.

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

From the accompanying pamphlet detailing Rayner’s reconstruction:

Reconstruction by Kari Rayner, after Thomas Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with Old Peasant and Donkeys outside a Barn.

Reconstruction by Kari Rayner, after Thomas Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with Old Peasant and Donkeys outside a Barn, 2016.

The purpose of this reconstruction, carried out by Kari Rayner at the Hamilton Kerr institute, was to gain firsthand experience emulating Gainsborough’s painting technique. This type of study results in an increased understanding of the material aspects of a work of art and can provide unforeseen insights into the artist’s processes, interests, and influences. Unlike a replica, which reproduces a work in full, a reconstruction leaves the canvas support, priming, and underlayers of paint exposed so that the method of creation is visible to the viewer. This particular painting was an ideal candidate for reconstruction due to its excellent condition: treatment in the spring of 2016 ensured that discoloured varnish and past restorations did not significantly affect the appearance of the work.

During the process of reproducing Peasant and Donkeys, the painting’s minutest details were scrutinized. it soon became apparent that this was a highly experimental work in Gainsborough’s Suffolk period. He was clearly learning during the process of its execution, adjusting colours and tonal relationships as he painted. playing with the recession of space and varying the level of detail, he expertly guides the viewer’s eye through the work: his development of the composition is truly visionary. The observation of such details, facilitated by the creation of this reproduction, has led to an increased appreciation of Gainsborough’s skill as an artist at this formative early stage in his career.




Exhibition | French Drawings from the Time of Gainsborough

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 18, 2016

From Gainsborough’s House:

French Drawings from the Time of Gainsborough
Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk, 22 October 2016 — 19 February 2017

Curated by Christoph Vogtherr

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Tete de Jeune Fille

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Tête de Jeune Fille

This exhibition brings together over 40 drawings from public and private collections, many being on public display for the first time. French Drawings from the Time of Gainsborough covers the period between the Régence (1715 and 1723) and the Revolution (1789–99), when French drawing was the undisputed reference point for the quality and the teaching of drawing in Europe. Curated by the French eighteenth-century specialist Christoph Vogtherr, Director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the exhibition features the great artistic personalities of the age such as Françoise Boucher (1703–70), Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), and Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), and through their work explores the function and development of drawing in France during the period.

Gainsborough was deeply influenced by French drawing and received training from Hubert-François Gravelot (1699–1773) when he was in London in the 1740s. As Christoph Vogtherr notes in the exhibition catalogue:
“Artists in England closely observed the French situation, often with a fair degree of envy. Important commissions in England, mainly private, were given to Italian—and increasingly also French—painters, and English collectors bought French works. The market for engravings was largely shaped by French engravers until well into the second half of the eighteenth century.”

The selection of works on display, which include figure studies, landscapes and genre scenes, are particularly close to Gainsborough’s own works on paper that are held in our permanent collection. This exhibition is an opportunity to see some of the finest examples of French drawings exhibited for the first time and gives a greater understanding of drawing in the age of Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88).



New Book | Le Comte de Caylus et Edme Bouchardon

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 17, 2016

In noting the Bouchardon exhibition at the Louvre this fall, I omitted this publication from Somogy, which accompanies the show (along with an exhibition catalogue and a catalogue raisonné). CH

Marc  Fumaroli, Le Comte de Caylus et Edme Bouchardon: Deux réformateurs du goût sous Louis XV (Paris: Somogy, 2016), 96 pages, ISBN: 978-2757211861, 7€.

fumaroli_caylus_et_bouchardon_vignetteTout semblait éloigner, dans l’ordre social et dans ses apparences, le grand seigneur Anne Claude de Caylus, né sur les marches du trône, et le roturier de province, né dans une obscure famille de sculpteurs champenois, Edme Bourchardon, sinon leur foi ardente et commune dans la supériorité des Anciens et un zèle commun et acharné à remonter la pente du déclin. (…) La rencontre en janvier 1733 entre Caylus l’amateur savant et réformateur et Bouchardon, jeune sculpteur déjà célèbre à Rome et en Europe comme la réincarnation française des sculpteurs grecs Polyclète et Polygnote, infléchit leurs deux carrières alliées dans le grand dessein de faire revivre en France et ensuite en Europe le pur goût grec et « à la grecque ». (…) Un peu forcé, comme l’avait été le retour de Poussin à Paris en 1640, le voyage Rome-Paris de Bouchardon, en 1732–33, ramena en France le nouvel archétype du grand artiste « à l’antique », pierre angulaire éventuelle de la reconstruction de l’Académie royale et d’une restauration de son système éducatif, accusé d’avoir dégénéré les intentions de ses fondateurs.

Marc Fumaroli, né en 1932, historien de la littérature et des arts de l’Ancien Régime français, est membre de l’Académie française, professeur émérite au Collège de France, président honoraire de la Société des Amis du Louvre. Il est l’auteur de L’École du silence, le sentiment des images au XVIIe siècle (Paris, Flammarion, 1994), de Peinture et pouvoirs, de Rome à Paris aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Dijon, Faton, 2007), et de Paris – New York et retour, voyage dans les arts et les images (Paris, Fayard, 2009, et Flammarion, 2011, quatrième édition). Il prépare une ample biographie du comte de Caylus en son siècle, un essai sur la réception du Traité du Sublime de Tacite à Winckelmann, de Kant à Adorno, et un recueil d’articles sur l’art français sous la monarchie à paraître aux éditions Gallimard.