Enfilade

Exhibition | Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Gardens and Gods

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 24, 2018

From Versailles:

Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Gardens and Gods
Grand Trianon, Château de Versailles, 12 June — 16 September 2018

Curated by Béatrice Sarrazin with Clara Terreaux

Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Gardens and Gods, the first exhibition dedicated to the painter, will honour an artist who was very popular in his time, featuring some 120 works: paintings, drawings, engravings, miniatures, and sculptures from public and private collections. Jean Cotelle the Younger belonged to the generation of painters called upon by Louis XIV to decorate the Grand Trianon, a pleasure palace secluded from the hustle and bustle of the court.

For the Trianon Gallery, which overlooks the gardens and connects the Cool Room and the Garden Room, Cotelle was entrusted with the largest portion of the commission: twenty-one paintings. In order to adapt to the setting, he painted in vertical format, rather unusual for landscape painting, to create topographical representations of the Versailles gardens. He adorned the scenes with characters from mythology or fables arranged in two registers (earthly and heavenly), modelled upon the bucolic landscapes of Bolognese painter Albani.

This cycle, completed by three paintings by Jean-Baptiste Martin and Etienne Allegrain, represents a unique ensemble, providing insight into the king’s taste for his gardens which had recently been created by André Le Notre. Hidden by vegetation, the groves served as a backdrop for the portrayal of the loves and pleasures of the gods.

The exhibition will feature the twenty-four restored paintings following a restoration campaign that lasted several years. Along with the large format canvases, the fifteen gouaches created by the artist, masterpieces of miniature painting, will also be displayed. Additionally, a selection of lead sculptures will be included in the exhibition to evoke the decoration of the groves which have since disappeared, in relation to Cotelle’s paintings.

While the Trianon commission represents one of the highlights of Cotelle’s career, retracing the various stages of his work nevertheless reveals different aspects of his talent and his varied career in Saint-Cloud and Versailles as well as in Provence.

Jean Cotelle, Fountain Scene with Alpheus Pursuing Arethusa, 1689–91 (Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN/Jean-Marc Manaï).

Jean Cotelle the Younger was born into a cultured family in Paris in 1646. He grew up in the company of artists, especially painters, including his father Jean Cotelle the Elder, painter to the King, decorator and ornamental painter. He most likely received his early training from the portrait painter Claude Lefèvre. Jean Cotelle the Younger then visited Rome, where he stayed from 1665 until 1670 at his own expense.

His notable works from 1675 and the years which followed include miniatures to illustrate The Campaigns of Louis XIV as well as a large-format May for Notre-Dame in 1681 representing The Marriage at Cana. Cotelle also worked on other decorative commissions, in particular in Saint-Cloud where he created the jewellery cabinet as part of the decoration depicting the story of Venus and Aeneas.

The most important commission he received was a commission in 1688 from Louis XIV to decorate the Trianon gallery also called the Cotelle gallery. Cotelle painted twenty-one topographical representations of the gardens of Versailles, which he adorned with mythological and literary characters. At the same time, he carried out a series of twenty gouaches representing the Trianon Gallery in miniature.

In 1693, he left Paris for Provence, first making a stop in Lyon, where he created the decoration on the ceiling of the great hall for the Château de la Damette. From 1695 to 1700, he lived in Marseille and became the co-director of the opera with Duplessis. He also created ephemeral decorations such as The Entry of the Duke of Burgundy and the Duke of Berry into the City of Avignon. Jean Cotelle the Younger returned to Paris in 1703 where he continued his work for the Academy until his death in 1708.

Beatice Sarazin, ed., Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Des Jardins et des Dieux (Paris: Liénart, 2018), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-2359062366, 39€ / $68.

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In preparation for the exhibition on Jean Cotelle, the Palace of Versailles launches a research notice for three works attributed to the painter: two gouaches and a drawing. These works disappeared from the public eye in the 1980s for two of them and soon after the year 2000 for the last one. However, reproductions and publications confirm that they exist (see the Château de Versailles website for images).

The works are:
La Toilette de Vénus, drawing
Vue du Château de Choisy du côté des parterres et la famille de Louvois, gouache
Eliezer et Rebecca au Puits, gouache

Once found, their identification would enrich the corpus of the artist and the value of these works, which could be displayed in the exhibition. Internet users are invited to spread this search as far as possible with the hashtag: #ExpoCotelle. People having information about these works can contact the Palace of Versailles through: cotelle@chateauversailles.fr.

Exhibition | Splendours of the Subcontinent

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 15, 2018

Payag, Jahangir Presents Prince Khurram with a Turban Ornament (12 October 1617), detail, 1656–57 (London: Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 1005025.an), from the Padshahnama (‘Book of Emperors’), an illuminated manuscript recording the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah-Jahan, which was sent to George III by the ruler of Awadh in 1799. More information on the Christian iconography of the wall paintings is available from the Royal Collection website

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Press release (7 June 2018) from the Royal Collection Trust:

Splendours of the Subcontinent: Four Centuries of South Asian Paintings and Manuscripts
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, 8 June — 14 October 2018

Curated by Emily Hannam

Two exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace bring together some of the finest examples of craftsmanship and literary and artistic production from the Indian subcontinent. Both are drawn entirely from the Royal Collection, which contains one of the world’s greatest and most wide-ranging collections of material from the region. Exploring the long-standing relationship between the British Monarchy and South Asia, Splendours of the Subcontinent: Four Centuries of South Asian Paintings and Manuscripts presents 150 works from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, most of which are on public display for the first time. In the complementary exhibition Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875–6, gifts given to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales go on display in London for the first time in 130 years.

Indian School, Kurma, the Second Incarnation of Vishnu, ca 1790, 41 × 27 cm, page dimensions (Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 1005115.e).

Since the early 17th century, diplomatic gift-giving has played a crucial role in the development of the relationship between the British Monarchy and rulers of South Asia. Among the most important gifts received from the subcontinent is the Padshahnama (‘Book of Emperors’), an illuminated manuscript from 1656–57 recording the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah-Jahan, sent to George III by the ruler of Awadh in 1799. Ten paintings from the Padshahnama, the only contemporary illustrated imperial volume to survive, are shown in the exhibition.

The Khamsa (‘Quintet’) of Nava’i, 1492, and the Gulistan (‘Rose Garden’) of Sa’di, 1584, also presented to George III, are among the finest examples of manuscripts that combine intricate calligraphy with exquisite illuminations. Sacred religious texts were also presented as gifts, including the 3.5m-long Quran Scroll, thought to have been given to George IV by one of the rulers of the Carnatic. All 114 chapters of the Quran are written on the scroll’s 5cm-wide surface in a miniscule naskh script, known as ghubar (‘dust’).

Queen Victoria acquired many South Asian books and manuscripts, including a volume of her own published journals, The Queen’s Travels in Scotland and Ireland, translated into Hindi by the Maharaja of Benares. Victoria’s interest in South Asian culture continued throughout her life, and her studies of the Hindustani language, undertaken in her seventies with her Indian secretary Abdul Karim, are recorded in her Hindustani diaries, which are shown in the exhibition with her Hindustani phrasebook.

Less well known are the paintings and manuscripts given to, and bought by, King George V and Queen Mary during their two tours of South Asia in the early 20th century. The King and Queen acquired contemporary works, such as Queen Tissarakshita, 1911, by Abanindranath Tagore, founder of the Bengal School of Art, as well as historic paintings reflecting the diverse cultures, history and religions of South Asia. These include a series of 16 paintings from the Pahari region, c.1775–90, depicting the story of the boy Prahlada as told in the seventh book of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the great Hindu sacred texts.

King George V’s father, King Edward VII, was only the second member of the royal family to visit the subcontinent, undertaking a four-month tour in 1875–76 when Prince of Wales. Travelling almost 10,000 miles and meeting more than 90 local rulers in an effort to establish personal and diplomatic links, the Prince was presented with over 2,000 examples of Indian design and craftsmanship as part of the traditional exchange of gifts. The visit gave the Prince the opportunity to experience first-hand the magnificence of the Indian courts. Many of the gifts he received were ceremonial items connected to courtly customs, such as a pair of enamelled peacock feather fans, which play an important role in the spectacle of a durbar (audience). A ten-piece gold service, given by the Maharaja of Mysore, contains an attardan (perfume holder), rosewater sprinklers and a paandan  (betel-nut holder), items associated with welcoming guests to an Indian court.

Traditional arms and armour form the largest group of gifts received by the Prince. These presentation pieces, intended to display their maker’s skill and creativity, include a dagger incorporating loose pearls that travel along a channel in the blade when tilted, and a gold punch dagger embellished with rubies and emeralds, fitted with a single flintlock pistol on both sides of the blade. Enamelled jewellery and decorative items from Jaipur were highly sought after by European visitors. An enamelled gold and diamond perfume holder, presented by Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur, took five years to produce. It opens like a lotus flower to reveal a hidden cup and cover, and is decorated with scenes of Jaipur’s great palaces.

The Prince recognised the significant cultural and artistic value of the gifts he had received. On his return to Britain he made arrangements for the items to be placed on public display, first at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) and then at the Bethnal Green Museum, followed by exhibitions in Paris, Copenhagen, and across the UK. Between 1876 and 1880 more than two million people in Britain alone saw the collection, which brought the wonders of Indian art to the British public and played an instrumental role in the intertwined narrative of British and Indian design.

Published by the Royal Collection Trust, catalogues for the two exhibitions are distributed in the USA and Canada by The University of Chicago Press:

Kajal Meghani, Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India, 1875–6 (London: Royal Collection Trust, 2017), 200 pages, ISBN: 9781909741423, $40.

Emily Hannam, Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent (London: Royal Collection Trust, 2018), 256 pages, ISBN 978-1909741454, £30 / $60.

The Royal Library, Windsor Castle, is home to one of the most important collections of South Asian paintings and manuscripts in the world. This publication brings together highlights of these superb works, many of which have never before been publically displayed or published. From dazzling Mughal poetic texts to modern masterpieces, they span a geographical expanse from Kashmir to Kerala and for a period of more than 400 years.

This publication presents new scholarship exploring the history of how these works entered the Royal Collection, tracing the long-standing relationship between the British Crown and South Asia. Beautifully illustrated and meticulously researched, Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent provides a fascinating insight into his rich and hither-to underexplored aspect of the Royal Collection.

Emily Hannam is Assistant Curator of Islamic and South Asian Collections, Royal Collection Trust. She curated Splendors of the Subcontinent: Four Centuries of South Asian Paintings and Manuscripts at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, and featured on the BBC series Art, Passion and Power. She holds degrees in art history from the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, specialising in the art of the book in South Asia.

Exhibition | Afro-Atlantic Histories

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 5, 2018

From ArtForum:

Histórias Afro-Atlânticas / Afro-Atlantic Histories
Museu de Arte de São Paulo and concurrently at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, 28 June — 21 October 2018

Curated by Adriano Pedrosa, Ayrson Heráclito, Hélio Menezes, Lilia Schwarcz, and Tomás Toledo

In the most violent and uncertain times of its recent history, Brazil is revisiting the origins of its racial frictions: the slave trade. Histórias afro-atlânticas (Afro-Atlantic Histories) is a massive, 380-work survey of African, Latin American, and European art from the past five centuries, chronicling the largest diaspora in modern history. Nearly half of all Africans captured by slave traders were brought to Brazil, from the time the Portuguese arrived, in the sixteenth century, all the way through the nineteenth century. The show is a sequel to Histórias mestiças (Mestizo Histories), staged four years ago at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, the cultural center that is also cohosting the current exhibition. Its scope is far-reaching, with pieces by colonial-era Dutch master Albert Eckhout and modern greats Théodore Géricault and Paul Cézanne, as well as contemporary art-world darlings Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, and Hank Willis Thomas. A fully illustrated catalogue and companion reader will help sharpen our perspective on it all.

As noted in the May–August 2018 bulletin from the Yale Center for British Art, the YCBA has loaned six works including four paintings by Agostino Brunias (1728–1796).

Exhibition | Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 2, 2018

Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of the Ladies Waldegrave, 1780-81, oil on canvas, 143 × 168 cm (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, purchased with the aid of The Cowan Smith Bequest and the Art Fund 1952). 

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This fall at Strawberry Hill:

Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill
Strawberry Hill House & Garden, Twickenham, 20 October 2018 — 24 February 2019

Curated by Silvia Davoli and Michael Snodin

This exhibition brings back to Strawberry Hill some of the most important masterpieces in Horace Walpole’s famous and unique collection for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. Horace Walpole’s collection was one of the most important of the 18th century. It was dispersed in a great sale in 1842. For the first time in over 170 years, Strawberry Hill can be seen as Walpole conceived it, with the collection in the interiors as he designed it, shown in their original positions.

Strawberry Hill was filled with a celebrated collection of paintings, furniture, sculptures, and curiosities: great portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Peter Lely, Allan Ramsay, Rubens, Van Dyck, Hans Holbein, and Clouet; miniature portraits by Isaac and Peter Oliver, Hilliard and Petitot, a carved Roman eagle from the 1st century AD; fine furniture including a Boulle cabinet, fabulous Sèvres pieces as well as some oddities such as a lime-wood cravat, carved by Grinling Gibbons, a lock of Mary Tudor’s hair and a ‘magic mirror’ (an obsidian disc) which Dr Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s necromancer, had used for conjuring up the spirits.

In 1842, the collection was dispersed worldwide in a 28-day ‘sale of the century’. From the 1920s to the ‘70s, Walpole scholar and consummate collector Wilmarth S. Lewis, who edited and published with Yale University Press the 48-volume Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence (New Haven, 1937–83), assembled the largest private collection of Walpoliana, including many pieces from Strawberry Hill, which he and his wife bequeathed to Yale University in 1980 as the Lewis Walpole Library, with whose help the Strawberry Hill Trust is delighted to be mounting this exhibition.

Walpole left detailed descriptions of the displays in each of the main rooms of his villa, so that nearly all the works can be shown in their original positions. In The Great Parlour, a display of portraits of Walpole’s family includes the famous Reynolds’s painting of Walpole’s nieces, The Ladies Waldegrave, (now in the National Gallery of Scotland). The Tribune will house the famous rosewood cabinet designed by Walpole, owned by the V&A, together with a display of exquisite portrait miniatures. Walpole’s gilded, crimson Gallery will be once again house the impressive Roman sculpture of an eagle and be hung with life-size portraits, including The Family of Catherine de Medici by Clouet.

Silvia Davoli, Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection (London: Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, 2018), ISBN: 9781785511806, £15.

Print Quarterly, June 2018

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, journal articles, reviews by Editor on June 1, 2018

The eighteenth century in the current issue of Print Quarterly:

Print Quarterly 35.2 (June 2018):

Juan Camarón, Robinson in his Llama Skin Habit and Parasol, 1788–89, brush and grey wash, 110 × 65 mm (London, British Library).

A R T I C L E S
• Benito Navarrete Prieto and Alejandro Martínez Pérez, “Drawings for the Spanish Robinson Crusoe by José Juan Camarón and Rafael Ximeno,” pp. 160–72.
The article addresses newly identified drawings by José Camarón and Rafael Ximeno for the seminal Spanish edition of Robinson Crusoe by Tomás de Iriarte, published in Madrid in 1789. The presence of the drawing for the map and the narrative illustrations among Iriarte’s papers underscore the poet’s close involvement with the book’s production and illustration.
• Kate Heard, “The Royal Collection of Satirical Prints in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” pp. 173–82.
In describing the the history of the collection of satirical prints in Britain’s royal collection before their sale in 1921 to the Library of Congress, the article explains the origins of the collection under George III, its development most famously under George IV, its continued growth under Queen Victoria and Prince Albert—when Georgian works entered the collection that would not have been acquired earlier, including prints that were critical of the royal family—and finally the disfavor the collection solicited during the reign of George V from the royal librarian John Fortescue, who brokered the 1921 sale.

N O T E S  A N D  R E V I E W S
• Celina Fox, Review of Bernard Nurse, London: Prints and Drawings before 1800 (Bodleian Library, 2017), pp. 198–200.
• Susan Sloman, Review of Ann Gunn, The Prints of Paul Sandby (1731–1809): A Catalogue Raisonné (Brepols and Harvey Miller Publishers, 2016), pp. 200–03.
• Flavia Pesci, Review of the exhibition catalogue Nicholas Stanley Price, At the Foot of the Pyramid: 300 Years of the Cemetery for Foreigners in Rome (Casa di Goethe Museum, 2016), pp. 203–04.
• Mark McDonald, Review of the catalogue Peter Raissis, Prints and Drawings: Europe 1500–1900 from the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2014), pp. 204–06.
• Charles Newton, Review of Elisabeth Fraser, Mediterranean Encounters: Artists between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, 1774–1839 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017), pp. 206–09.

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Note (added 6 June 2018) — The original posting did not include descriptions for the two articles.

The Burlington Magazine, May 2018

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, journal articles, reviews by Editor on May 31, 2018

The eighteenth century in The Burlington:

The Burlington Magazine 160 (May 2018)

Agostino Cornacchini, Charlemagne, 1725, marble (St Peter’s Basilica).

A R T I C L E S

• Gloria Martínez Leiva, “Art as Diplomacy: John Closterman’s Portraits of Carlos II of Spain and His Wife Queen Maria Anna of Neuburg,” pp. 381–86.
• Teresa Leonor M. Vale, “Art and Festivities in Eighteenth-Century Rome: Letters from a Portuguese Priest, 1721–22,” pp. 387–93.

R E V I E W S

• Christopher Rowell, Review of the exhibition Thomas Chippendale: A Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design, 1718–2018 (Leeds City Museum, 2018), pp. 414–16.
• Charles Darwent, Review of the exhibition The Dutch in Paris, 1789–1914 (Paris: Petit Palais, 2018), pp. 420–21.
• Stéphane Loire, Review of Giancarlo Sestieri, Il capriccio architettonico in Italia nel XVII e XVIII secolo (Etgraphiae editoriale, 2015), p. 432.
• Andrew McClellan, Review of Geneviève Bresc-Bautier and Béatrice de Chancel-Bardelot, eds., Un musée révolutionaire: Le Musée des Monuments français d’Alexandre Lenoir (Musée du Louvre, 2016), pp. 432–33.

Exhibition | Canaletto, 1697–1768

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 30, 2018

Now on view at the Museo di Roma:

Canaletto, 1697–1768
Museo di Roma, Palazzo Braschi, Rome, 11 April — 19 August 2018

Curated by Bożena Anna Kowalczyk

Italy’s capital celebrates Canaletto (1697–1768) by bringing together works from some of the most important museums and galleries in the world. On display, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the artist’s death, is the largest collection of his works ever exhibited in Italy: 67 paintings, drawings, and documents. Outstanding among the masterpieces are two works from the Pinacoteca del Lingotto Giovanni e Marella Agnelli in Turin, The Grand Canal from the North, towards the Rialto Bridge and The Grand Canal with Santa Maria della Carità, on display for the first time together with the manuscript from the Biblioteca statale di Lucca. Also for the first time, the two parts of a single large canvas cut before 1802, depicting Chelsea from Battersea Reach, are brought together. The left part comes from the National Trust property Blickling Hall in the UK; the right part, from the Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes de la Hanana, has been loaned for the first time by the government of Cuba.

Bozena Anna Kowalczyk, Canaletto, 1697–1768 (Milan: Silvana, 2018), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-8836639328 (English edition), €34 / $55.

New Book | A Princely Pursuit

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 27, 2018

Part of a promised gift to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, approximately 100 works from the Malcolm D. Gutter porcelain collection were exhibited at the Legion of Honor in 2015 and 2016. Published by Hirmer and distributed by The University of Chicago Press, the catalogue of the collection is now available.

Maria Santangelo, ed., A Princely Pursuit: The Malcolm D. Gutter Collection of Early Meissen Porcelain (Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2018), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-3777429847, $65.

Through tremendous grit and research, Malcolm D. Gutter has been forming a remarkable porcelain collection over several decades, primarily on a professor’s salary. A Princely Pursuit presents more than one hundred significant pieces from the collection, which focuses primarily on early Meissen, particularly the royal collection that Augustus II (1670–1733) commissioned for the Japanisches Palais, his pleasure palace in Dresden, and the porcelain works he had imported from China and Japan. In addition to reproducing many documented pieces from the royal collection, this volume includes numerous ‘collector’s stories’ which capture, in Gutter’s own voice, his determined and painstaking hunt for Meissen porcelain around the world, as well as the legendary figures he has met and worked with along the way. Pairing Meissen history with exemplary objects from the German manufactory, A Princely Pursuit makes an essential contribution to the field of decorative arts.

Maria Santangelo is curator of fine arts for Ann and Gordon Getty.

Exhibition | Canova’s George Washington

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 24, 2018

In February, we noted the exhibition (which opened yesterday), but the original posting did not include details for the catalogue, which is now available from Giles Ltd and Artbooks.com:

Xavier Salomon with Guido Beltramini and Mario Guderzo, Canova’s George Washington (London: Giles, 2018), 188 pages, ISBN: 9781911282174, $45.

In 1816, the North Carolina State House in Raleigh commissioned a full-length statue of George Washington to stand in the hall of the State Senate. Thomas Jefferson, believing that no American sculptor was up to the task, recommended Antonio Canova (1757–1822), then one of Europe’s most celebrated artists. The first and only work Canova created for America, the statue depicted the nation’s first president in ancient Roman garb, per Jefferson’s urging, drafting his farewell address to the states. It was unveiled to great acclaim in 1821, and people traveled from far and wide to see it. Tragically, only a decade later, a fire swept through the State House, reducing the statue to just a few charred fragments.

Canova’s George Washington examines the history of the artist’s lost masterpiece, probably the least well known of his public monuments. It brings together for the first time Canova’s full-sized preparatory plaster model (which has never left Italy), four preparatory sketches for the sculpture, and related engravings and drawings. The exhibition also includes Thomas Lawrence’s 1816 oil portrait of Canova, which, like the model and several sketches, will be on loan from the Gypsotheca e Museo Antonio Canova in Possagno, Italy, the birthplace of the artist.

C O N T E N T S

Ian Wardropper, Director’s Foreword
Preface and Acknowledgments

Xavier F. Salomon, ‘The Boast and Pride of North America’: Antonio Canova’s George Washington
Mario Guderzo, The Classical Conception of Antonio Canova
Guido Beltramini, Jefferson, Italy, and Palladio

Appendix
Bibliography
Index
Photography Credits

Note (added 29 May 2018) — The original posting did not included the contents.

Exhibition | The Art of Iron

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on May 24, 2018
Florist’s Sign and Bracket, 18th century, France, wrought iron and rolled iron, cut, polychromed, and gilded; fastened with rivets and rings. Sign: 28 × 21 × 5 inches (71.5 × 52.6 × 12.5 cm), bracket: 33 × 52 × 2 inches (84 × 132.5 × 6 cm) (Rouen: Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, inv. LS 2011.0.199)

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Some of the objects included in the exhibition opening soon at The Clark were also included in the 2015 exhibition at The Barnes Foundation. From the press release (8 May 2018). . .

The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy
The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, 9 June — 16 September 2018

Curated by Kathleen Morris

The Clark Art Institute is the exclusive venue for the exhibition The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy. The exhibition presents thirty-six historic objects in an installation celebrating the craft and beauty of wrought iron. Salvaged by the founders of the Musée Le Secq during the second half of the nineteenth century, when wrought iron was being rapidly discarded and replaced with modern materials, these pieces tell stories of preindustrial times.

The Musée Le Secq des Tournelles’s celebrated collection originated with Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq Destournelles (1818–1882), a painter who studied in Paris and Rome and became one of the first photographers in France. In the 1850s while photographically documenting various French monuments for a government project, he developed an appreciation for the ironwork adorning towns and ancient cathedrals. This inspired him to begin his own collection, much of which contained objects he salvaged as buildings were renovated or torn down. His son Henri (1854–1925, who changed the spelling of his last name to des Tournelles), continued to add to the collection, and in 1900 he loaned nearly a thousand objects to the Paris Universal Exhibition before donating the collection to the city of Rouen.

“We are so pleased to bring this wonderful collection of decorative arts to the Clark,” said Olivier Meslay, the Felda and Dena Hardymon Director of the Clark. “While wrought iron has long been an intrinsic part of the architecture of most European capitals, the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles collection encourages us to consider this work for its beauty—and to appreciate the exceptional ingenuity of the blacksmiths and ironworkers who took a humble material and elevated it to an art form. The Musée Le Secq is a colleague museum in the French American Museum Exchange (FRAME), a consortium of thirty-one major museums in France and North America that promotes cultural exchange through museum collaborations, and we are eager to share this wonderful collection with our visitors.”

The Art of Iron features a myriad of signs, masterful locks and lockboxes, a variety of utilitarian household objects, and architectural grilles, gates, and balcony railings. The objects are at once strange and familiar, inviting the viewer to marvel at the creative inventiveness and technical skill of their makers as well as reflect on earlier ways of life.

The works included in the exhibition represent a variety of the methods used in creating objects from iron. Much of the work is the result of a blacksmith working at his forge to bend, twist, and hammer rods of wrought iron into shape. Sheets of rolled iron were cut to shape and could be decorated by embossing designs from the back and by chiseling on the surface. Small objects might have been hammered or cast in molds and then welded into place. Many objects incorporate all of these techniques.

“The first time I visited the Musée Le Secq, the collection and its display took my breath away,” said Kathleen Morris, the Sylvia and Leonard Marx Director of Exhibitions and Curator of Decorative Arts at the Clark. “The opportunity to work with this collection has been incredible, compelling me to look closely at the extraordinary craftsmanship and design of these handmade creations. The sophistication and skill on display in these objects is phenomenal—and our dynamic installation will both captivate and delight our visitors.”

Signs

Shop, inn, and tavern signs make up an important part of the collection of the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles. Prior to widespread literacy, in an era before buildings were given numbered addresses, businesses depended on pictorial signs for identification and advertising. The Art of Iron contains fifteen signs representing a variety of business from taverns and inns to drapers, florists, and fishmongers. In many cases these signs hung on equally elaborate and well-crafted wrought iron brackets, which are also included in the exhibition.

Henri Le Secq des Tournelles salvaged many such signs, but he was more concerned with preserving them than with documenting their original locations. However, the location of some shops, such as one advertising a draper, is known. A sign known as “The Dry Tree” once stood on the Parisian street that still carries the name of its shop, rue de l’Arbre-Sec (Street of the Dry Tree). Drapers, or cloth merchants, often used the tree as a symbol of their business, evoking legends from the ancient Near East, a source of luxury fabrics. “The Dry Tree” refers to a specific tree that stood alone in a vast desert and was said to grow on the exact spot where Alexander the Great and Darius fought a great battle in the fourth century BCE. Marco Polo reported having seen this legendary tree during his travels.

A lighted bat-shaped sign that once hung outside the entrance to a cabaret or tavern is a remarkable example of nineteenth-century French ironwork. The bat is a clever reference to the nocturnal nature of this business and suggests a dim and mildly dangerous atmosphere within. The light cavity was later fitted with a lightbulb and electrical wiring—probably in the early twentieth century.

Grilles, Gates, and Balconies

Ironsmiths did not necessarily design the objects they created. In particular, wrought-iron grilles, gates, and railings for buildings were often conceived by architects, and in many cases the smith was probably working from a pre-existing drawing. This in no way diminishes the technical and creative skill of ironsmiths, who often infused their works with individual flourishes. The contrast between the strength of the material and the airy, often delicate lines and scrolls that form the composition gives these objects a presence that hovers between the sculptural and the graphic.

The Art of Iron contains many examples of these architectural elements that served a multitude of practical purposes. Window and transom (over-door) grilles, as well as door and balcony railings, allow light and air circulation while offering security against intrusion or protection from falls. An eighteenth-century Italian grille is one of many objects in the exhibition that includes this elaborate scrollwork.

A magnificent eighteenth-century French round grille, finished on both sides, features the symmetrical monogram GBM surrounded by an elaborate array of scrolls and volutes. It was originally installed in a building on the rue des Vergeaux in Amiens, France, perhaps to echo the spectacular rose windows of a nearby cathedral.

Locks and Lockboxes

Before the advent of banks, personal wealth was largely represented by items such as jewels, property deeds, and objects made of silver or gold. Safekeeping these items with locks or lockboxes was essential to financial security. These utilitarian objects, as well as their keys, were often highly decorated.

An eighteenth-century German strongbox and key is a spectacular example of the locksmith’s skill. The keyhole on the front of this chest is a decoy. The real keyhole is on the top of the box, concealed under the body of the double-headed eagle. Pushing on the eagle’s right talon releases a hinge and reveals the keyhole. The locking mechanism is visible on the underside of the box’s lid. The lock’s functional parts, including eighteen sliding bolts, are embellished with decorative flowers, leaves, and scrolls.

A French safe door (1823), signed by a maker named Poifol, is fitted with a complicated mechanism made of wrought iron and brass, including a mounted English pistol by the manufacturer Wilson. Attempts to tamper with the lock caused the gun to discharge, acting as an alarm system.

Household Objects

The durability of wrought iron made it a common material for many household objects, from cooking and kitchen utensils to wares for the bedroom and garden.

Before the invention of modern stoves, food was prepared over open fires in large kitchen fireplaces using cooking pots and pothooks. The ratchets on the pothook could be adjusted to hold the pot nearer to or further from the flame. Cast-iron pots were essential items in any kitchen and were often given as wedding gifts.

In contrast to the unadorned cooking pot, coffee and spice mills were specialty items sometimes elaborately decorated. The Musée Le Secq des Tournelles has extensive holdings of early spice and coffee grinders, including an eighteenth-century mill crafted by Benoit Tivelier the Elder included in the exhibition. The mill was made in the city of Saint-Étienne, France, a center of production for grinders.

The Art of Iron is co-organized by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Réunion des Musées Métropolitains, Rouen, Normandy. Generous contributors to the exhibition include Sylvia and Leonard Marx and the Selz Foundation, with additional support from Richard and Carol Seltzer.

Kathleen Morris, with contributions by Alexandra Bosc and Anne-Charlotte Cathelineau, The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy (Williamstown: The Clark Art Institute, 2018), 112 pages, ISBN: 978-0300237047, $35.

Published by the Clark and distributed by Yale University Press, the catalogue for the exhibition combines stunning photography with fresh and engaging scholarship. An essay by Kathleen M. Morris offers a contemporary perspective on these extraordinary works of art, while current and former curators of the Musée Le Secq provide fascinating insights into the magnificent holdings of the museum’s renowned collection.