Eighteenth-Century Art and the Marketing of Classical CDs

Posted in marketplace (goods & services), today in light of the 18th century by Editor on December 22, 2012

B Y  M I C H A E L  Y O N A N

The visuals that adorn classical recordings are not usually of terribly high quality. CD packaging often seems an afterthought, and when designers try to be creative, bad things sometimes happen (as demonstrated by this Pinterest collection of Worst Classical Album Covers Ever). The age of early stereo LPs probably marked the peak of production values. The famous Dario Soria series of recordings on RCA, issued in the 1960s, featured deluxe packaging with lavish booklets printed on embossed cardstock and brimming with reproductions of art works, recording session photos, and scholarly essays. They remain prized collectors’ items.

The 1970s saw packaging standards decline, and the advent of CDs in the 1980s just made things worse. The smaller format of compact discs reduces the impact of visuals, and the paper inserts are typically flimsy and poorly printed. You might be buying good music, but you typically get an ugly object.

Figure 1Why does it matter, one might ask? Isn’t the music the point? It is, but the visual aspects still work to entice buyers and, in the case of obscure classical music, to suggest what they’re buying. For many, the real item on offer is a mood. Music creates mood, and savvy music marketers know that the right packaging helps. You might even say that since handling the packaging precedes listening to the music, it inflects how one comprehends what one hears.

Recent moves to improve the physical character of classical CDs have enlisted eighteenth-century art to work its magic. Exceptionally successful in this regard is an independent publisher from Belgium, Out There Music. One of its labels, Alpha, notably pairs excellently performed music and strikingly beautiful packaging. In fact, Alpha claims to make “records that are as beautiful to look at as to listen to…”, striving to “shape each production into a unique object reflecting the centuries-old links between various forms of artistic expression.”

Figure 2Take, for example, the CD, “Le Berger poète” (Alpha 148), which features eighteenth-century French music for flute and musette de cour. On the cover is a detail of Hyacinthe Rigaud’s Portrait of Gaspard de Gueidan Playing the Musette de cour, 1738. This image on a simple level helps the buyer visualize a musette, an instrument most of us have never seen. It’s a small bagpipe that enjoyed great popularity among French nobles with rustic proclivities. Its sound is reminiscent of an oboe’s or, less charitably, a kazoo’s. Inside there is a full reproduction of Rigaud’s painting and an additional detail from Gueidan’s garments, both framed by richly colored marbling. Included is a 45-page booklet introduced by a reproduction of an eighteenth-century musical title page. If the recording aims to evoke the world out of which this music comes, then the pictures help, and as someone who loves recorded music, I can say that the combination of visual and aural together powerfully suggest a long lost ambience.

Figure 3“Le Berger poète” isn’t unique. Other Alpha CDs feature high-resolution details of images by Vigée-Lebrun, Goya, Nattier, Liotard, and Tiepolo in equally creative and often gorgeous packaging. Ramée, another label from Out There, uses a similar design principle but shifts the focus from images to objects. Ramée’s covers feature pictures of early modern textiles, metalwork, silver, furniture, architectural elements, and machines. Both labels make frequent use of cropping and details, design choices that counteract the CD’s physical limitations. I’d like to think that such choices are especially apposite for the eighteenth century, an era so fascinated by fragments, ruins, and oblique views. Ramée’s mission statement is even bolder than Alpha’s in that they seek to “create CDs as complete objets d’art,
because we believe the ear’s pleasure is intimately tied together
with that of the eye and the hand.” I agree.

Figure 4I find it interesting that as we increasingly download our music, a process that would indicate the obsolescence of the CD altogether, not only is the CD not (yet?) going away, but in fact it is becoming more and more beautiful (Out There offers recordings both as digital downloads and as CDs). Even with downloaded music, art can remain a component of the musical experience.  The new iTunes redesign continues to let you pair every song with a picture, be it the album cover or an image of one’s choice. It’s another way of doing what Soria did earlier and Alpha and Ramée do now, namely setting the tone for the ear’s experience.

Holiday Gift Guide | From The Metropolitan Museum’s Gift Shop

Posted in marketplace (goods & services) by Editor on December 1, 2012

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s gift shop includes an assortment of items inspired by the museum’s eighteenth-century holdings. I can vouch for only the crocus pot, but it’s fabulous. And through December 2, you can save 25% sitewide with code L182. -CH

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Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 2.25.22 PMFrench Neoclassical Button Necklace ($75)

In the collection of The Costume Institute at the Museum is a group of six French buttons made about 1785. These striking buttons are made of silver-mounted, star- shaped strass (a flint glass used to imitate gemstones) interspersed with rich cobalt blue enamel. Their geometric design is in keeping with the Neoclassical style in vogue during the reign of Louis XVI, while their eye-catching sparkle speaks of opulence. Our necklace adapts these stunning buttons in hematite overlay with black hand enameling and Swarovski™ crystals. Hematite overlay, with Swarovski™ crystals. Hand enameled. Lobster claw closure. Adjusts from 17”L to 19”L with extender chain.

Earrings are also available

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Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 2.31.22 PMCrocus Pot ($65 / on sale for $32.50)

Made in 1740 in England, the original delftware crocus pot was conceived to cultivate bulbs indoors to brighten gloomy winter days. Although the shape of the bowl is European, the inspiration for the decoration is Chinese—a true depiction of immaculate chinoiserie. Left in the white or decorated in shades of blue or polychrome enamels, delftware was both a useful and a decorative luxury ware for wealthy households. By the middle of the eighteenth century, crocus pots were being used to cultivate flowering bulbs indoors during the winter months. Our reproduction holds bulbs or cut flowers. Porcelain. 8” diameter.

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Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 2.11.53 PM18th-Century German Floral Ceramic Travel Cup ($20 / on sale for $10)

In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum is a large, white, baluster-shaped vase decorated with Kakiemon-style flowers and birds in polychrome and gilt, and an iron-red meander pattern on the neck. This splendid covered vase (Germany, ca. 1725–30), almost two feet high, was made at a German factory, which was the first European manufactory of hard-paste porcelain. Kakiemon is the name given to a distinctive class of Japanese porcelains, which were widely imitated by eighteenth-century European manufacturers. The colorful design on our sturdy ceramic travel cup is adapted from the vibrant floral decorations on the original vase. Ceramic cup. Silicone lid. Microwave and dishwasher safe. 8 oz. 6”H x 3 3/4” diameter.

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Screen shot 2012-11-30 at 2.21.31 PMPineapple Candleholders, Large ($75 / on sale for $37.50)

A charming addition to your holiday table and all year round, these candleholders are adapted from a pair of late eighteenth-century French ormolu finials in the Museum’s collection. Set of 2. 14K gold overlay. Candles not included. 4”H x 2”W.

A smaller set, of four, is also available.

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 5: Historic Holiday Rentals

Posted in marketplace (goods & services), on site by Editor on December 9, 2011

Back in September of 2009, I included a posting on the UK’s Landmark Trust, which rents some remarkable historic properties. Now at the end of another semester, as I’m facing piles of papers to grade (how could I possibly have gotten so far behind in just the past week?), daydreaming about quiet retreats is pretty tempting. Even grading those final exams in these wonderful locales wouldn’t seem quite so bad. What a lovely present indeed! The descriptions come from the Trust’s website (with the italics as my own additions) -CH

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Clytha Castle — Near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales (1790s)

Roasted chestnuts, anyone? Maybe just the place after a visit to the newly restored Strawberry Hill. 

This most affecting folly, which we lease from the National Trust, stands on the summit of a small hill, at the edge of a grove of old chestnuts. It was designed by a little-known architect and garden designer, John Davenport, perhaps with help from his client. Besides being an eye-catcher, the castle was used for grand picnics and as a retreat; the square tower contains fine rooms on both floors. When we arrived it had been empty for twenty-five years and before that had housed a gamekeeper. After more than thirty years as a Landmark, we carried out a major refurbishment in 2007 and reorganised the accommodation, making the circular room in the south turret a kitchen-dining room looking out into the clearing in the woods. . .

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The Egyptian House — Chapel Street, Penzance, Cornwall (1830s)

Yes, I know, it’s a nineteenth-century house, but just the place for serious reflection on the Empire Style and Egyptomania. It was presumably inspired by the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London (1812), which housed William Bullock’s collection, including items brought back by Captain Cook.

This unusual house is a rare and noble survivor of a style that enjoyed a vogue after Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt in 1798. It dates from about 1835 and the front elevation is similar to that of the former Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, designed by P. F. Robinson. Robinson or Foulston of Plymouth are the most likely candidates for its design, though there is no evidence to support the claim of either.

It was built for John Lanvin as a museum and geological repository. When we acquired it in 1968, its colossal façade, with lotus-bud capitals and enrichments of Coade stone, concealed two small granite houses above shops, solid and with a pleasant rear elevation, but very decrepit inside. During our work to the front, we reconstructed them as three compact apartments, the highest of which has a view through a small window of Mounts Bay and St Michael’s Mount over the chimney pots of the town.

Why was there a geological shop here? Although picked over by Victorians (doubtless including Mr Lanvin) the beaches at Penzance still hold every kind of pebble, from quartz to chalcedony. You will find yourself at the bustling heart of Penzance, a handsome town accessible by train as well as road, where the pulse of the late nineteenth-century colony of artists known as the Newlyn School still beats strongly. Beyond it lies that hard old peninsular in which, at places like Chysauster and the Botallack mine, can be found moving evidence of human labour over an immense span of time.

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The Chateau — Gate Burton, Lincolnshire (ca. 1750)

Built as a weekend retreat from the city of Lincoln, it would seem ideally suited for getting away from it all.

This is the earliest recorded building by John Platt of Rotherham, designed in 1747 when he was 19 and almost his only work outside Yorkshire, where he practised and prospered for the next 50 years.

It stands on a grassy knoll above a big bend of the River Trent, on the edge of Gate Burton park. Built as a Gainsborough lawyer’s weekend retreat, and later used for picnics and other mild kinds of excursion, it had since been altered and then neglected. Its present owner gave us a long lease of it.

We have restored the Château to its original elaborate and slightly French appearance, an ornament in the landscape, which shows up well from the road some distance away. John Platt must have been a talented young man, because it is difficult to realise until one is inside just how small the scale of the building is; apart from the principal room upstairs, which has a high coved ceiling, there is little space in which to swing a cat. But there are fine views across the park and up a shining reach of the River Trent, along which big slow barges, piling the water in front of them, press on towards an enormous power station, whose cooling towers steam majestically in the distance.

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Le Moulin de la Tuilerie — Gif-sur-Yvette, Essonne (near Paris)

An eighteenth-century converted mill house that came to be home for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, it’s perfect for anyone enamored of the story. I imagine we’re all going to hear lots more about the couple in the coming weeks with the wide release of Madonna’s new film, W.E.

The three buildings on the lovely site known as Le Moulin de Tuilerie in the town of Gif-sur-Yvette are our first French Landmarks. This was the former country weekend residence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Edward VIII abdicated from the British throne in 1936 to marry the woman he loved, a twice divorced American, Wallis Simpson.  In exile after the war, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor settled in Paris and Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was the only house they ever owned.

The Windsors were leading lights of international café society, and entertained the glitterati of the 1950s and 60s here, including Maria Callas, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton, and Cecil Beaton. Edward especially was captivated by the site and commissioned English garden designer, Russell Page, to design the gardens, which he tended himself and whose layout remains today. The buildings are set around a courtyard behind huge oak gates, and the grounds open miraculously to views of the valley beyond. Each Landmark has a private terrace, and all who stay can wander the extensive grounds, parterre merging into ancient rocky woodland full of birdsong, where the Windsors buried their beloved pugs.

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie is on the edge of the town of Gif-sur-Yvette, approximately 35km south-west of Paris – a perfect staging post for journeying on to the rest of France. Just as for Edward and Wallis, still today this is a place for contrasts: a wonderful setting to play host, or enjoy deep tranquillity; an easy day trip by direct train to the bustle and culture of central Paris or the delights of Versailles, and yet a place where the city finally yields to deep countryside.

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 3: Drink

Posted in marketplace (goods & services) by ashleyhannebrink on December 7, 2011

By Ashley Hannebrink

As we continue the holiday series, eighteenth-century inspired drink would provide a fitting accompaniment to Monday’s fantastic musical selection and yesterday’s feast. Cheers!

Berry Bros. & Rudd, 3 St James Street, London
Click on the image for a virtual tour at the company website

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1. A Bottle from Eighteenth-Century Tastemaker Berry Bros. & Rudd — It’s not quite going back in time, but a visit to London’s Berry Bros. & Rudd, the wine and spirit merchant relied on by King George III, might feel like it. Established in 1698 and still supplying the British Royal Family, the family-owned business prides itself on offering clients attentive service in addition to outstanding wines.

Experts at the St James shop suggest a Madeira or Port for the eighteenth-century enthusiast. The precursors to these fortified wines, such as Sack and Malaga, were particularly popular during the Georgian period as English and Scottish families flocked to destinations including Portugal and Madeira for business purposes. Importantly, these wines were forgiving in terms of preservation (through time and adverse conditions). At the shop’s blog, Simon Field describes “A Madeiran Adventure” (lots of information), and Simon Berry recommends a Malmsey 10-year-old Madeira, Broadbent Selection for the Christmas dinner:

Aged in oak casks for at least 10 years. A superb, full-bodied, wonderfully rich Madeira with a sweet, sumptous chocolate-like flavours and a concentrated bouquet. Best enjoyed with desserts, or on its own after a meal (£32.95).

And if a bottle (or two) won’t suffice, you might consider a wine luncheon in the
Napoleon Cellar.

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2. A Sip Down Gin Lane — For something a bit stronger, one might return to that infamous eighteenth-century tipple, gin.

An interesting option comes from Sipsmith (£27.49 for its dry gin). This London artisanal distillery crafts its spirits using the first copper still to launch in London since 1820, a feat that required negotiating regulations that themselves date to the eighteenth century, when (at least according to an ES Magazine article on the company from April 2011) “one in four London houses had its own distilling equipment.” While the Gin Act was designed to protect the public from small-scale operations selling adulterated versions of the beverage, today Sipsmith’s special legal dispensation allows for pure enjoyment. The BBC ran a story on the company when it opened in 2009 (available here via YouTube). And maybe best of all? the copper still is named Prudence.

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3. For an Unusual Cup, Try a Leather Mug from Williamsburg — The shop at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation offers several options: black or brown, pint or quart, small bottles, even a bucket that could be used for ice.

If it’s just too strange to drink from these containers, Courtney Barnes cleverly suggests they could be used to hold flowers, artists’ pencils, make-up brushes, or the like. From the Williamsburg Marketplace:

Leather mugs called jacks were in common use in England and her colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. They were “jacked” or coated in pitch to make them watertight. Light and durable, these mugs varied in sizes and shapes from pint or smaller to gallons. Some had a spout for pouring. Our one-pint mug is handcrafted of safe, vegetable-tanned leather lined with “brewer’s pitch.” Sealed with wax on the outside and pitch on the inside our jackware is safe for drinking cold beverages such as wine and ale. It’s ideal for historical reenactments and also makes a distinctive gift. Clean by rinsing with warm water (no soap) and drying with a soft cloth. Not for use with hot beverages or pure grain alcohol. Do not put in dishwasher or microwave.

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4. The Perfect Book for a Nightcap — Sarah Hand Meacham, Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 208 pages, ISBN: 9780801893124, $50.

From the publisher:

In this original examination of alcohol production in early America, Sarah Hand Meacham uncovers the crucial role women played in cidering and distilling in the colonial Chesapeake. Her fascinating story is one defined by gender, class, technology, and changing patterns of production. Alcohol was essential to colonial life; the region’s water was foul, milk was generally unavailable, and tea and coffee were far too expensive for all but the very wealthy. Colonists used alcohol to drink, in cooking, as a cleaning agent, in beauty products, and as medicine. Meacham finds that the distillation and brewing of alcohol for these purposes traditionally fell to women. Advice and recipes in such guidebooks as The Accomplisht Ladys Delight demonstrate that women were the main producers of alcohol until the middle of the 18th century. Men, mostly small planters, then supplanted women, using new and cheaper technologies to make the region’s cider, ale, and whiskey.

Meacham compares alcohol production in the Chesapeake with that in New England, the middle colonies, and Europe, finding the Chesapeake to be far more isolated than even the other American colonies. She explains how home brewers used new technologies, such as small alembic stills and inexpensive cider pressing machines, in their alcoholic enterprises. She links the importation of coffee and tea in America to the temperance movement, showing how the wealthy became concerned with alcohol consumption only after they found something less inebriating to drink. Taking a few pages from contemporary guidebooks, Every Home a Distillery includes samples of historic recipes and instructions on how to make alcoholic beverages. American historians will find this study both enlightening and surprising.

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 2: Food

Posted in books, marketplace (goods & services) by Editor on December 6, 2011

By Courtney Barnes and Craig Hanson

Culinary gifts — whether primarily about cooking or eating — regularly appear on holiday wish lists, but how much more fun it could be to give a taste of the eighteenth century.

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1. A Two-Day Historic Food Course with Ivan Day on Georgian Cookery — With forty years of experience cooking period food, Day is well-known for recreating historic tables, particularly in museum contexts. He’s also worked in television and radio and written books and articles on the history of English food. To judge from the website, I think it would be an incredibly fun experience — even better with four or five friends (Day’s blog, Food History Jottings, is also pretty wonderful). From the Historic Food website:

Ivan Day's Historic Food kitchen in Cumbria

We are located at Wreay Farm, a small seventeenth-century farmhouse in Cumbria, on the edge of the Lake District National Park. The farmhouse kitchen (known locally as a firehouse) is equipped with a wide range of antique kitchen utensils and a roasting range complete with clockwork jacks. It has frequently been used as a television kitchen (recently in the US Food Network’s Food Fit for a King and for BBC2 Open University’s Open Minds). We also have a confectionery room and a small bakehouse with wood-fired oven. We limit our group size to six participants per course, which means you get plenty of individual attention. . .

And if this isn’t enough to tempt you, there’s a lovely account of Day’s period sugarworks course at Fiona Leahy Designs (from May 2010).

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2. A Visual Feast at Houston’s Rienzi House — We noted the exhibition back in August here at Enfilade, but a visit to English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century (organized by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and installed, incidentally, by Day) would be a lovely way to spend an afternoon during the holidays. From the MFAH website:

The 18th-century English dinner table was a feast for the eyes. In order to impress their guests and assure them that they were dining amid fashionable people of consequence, hosts served sumptuous dishes, adorned with towering sugar constructions and amusing trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) jellies of playing cards or bacon and eggs, all on exquisite silver and porcelain.

Rienzi re-creates this elaborate dining experience in English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century. The first special exhibition ever held at Rienzi, the MFAH house museum for European decorative arts, English Taste treats you to a dining-room extravaganza typical of a 1760s English country house. Lifelike fish, fowl, and flummeries—complete with lavish, Georgian silver fittings and place settings—grace the table, created with guidance from the influential period cookbook The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald, the “Martha Stewart of the 18th century.”

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3. A Taste of Life at Mount Vernon — Stephen McLeod, ed., Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011), 224 pages, 9780807835265 $35. From the publisher:

Combining vivid photography with engaging essays, Dining with the Washingtons explores the menus, diet, and styles of entertaining that characterized the beloved home of the nation’s principal founding father. Compelling accounts, historic artwork, and images of gardens, table settings, prepared food, and objects from the Mount Vernon collection blend to shed fresh light on the daily lives of George and Martha Washington, on their ceaseless stream of household guests and those who served them, and on the ways food and drink reflected the culture of eighteenth-century America. . .

Janet Blyberg provides a fine sampling of the book at her blog, JCB.

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4. A Guide to Kitchens in Eighteenth-Century France — If the food gets you wondering about the cooks who produced it, this new book might be just the thing for a cold winter day, ideally curled up next to a crackling fire. From the Johns Hopkins UP:

Sean Takats, The Expert Cook in Enlightenment France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 216 pages, 9781421402833, $60.

In the eighteenth-century French household, the servant cook held a special place of importance, providing daily meals and managing the kitchen and its finances. In this scrupulously researched and witty history, Sean Takats examines the lives of these cooks as they sought to improve their position in society and reinvent themselves as expert, skilled professionals. Much has been written about the cuisine of the period, but Takats takes readers down into the kitchen and introduces them to the men and women behind the food. It is only in that way, Takats argues, that we can fully recover the scientific and cultural significance of the meals they created, and, more important, the contributions of ordinary workers to eighteenth-century intellectual life. He shows how cooks, along with decorators, architects, and fashion merchants, drove France’s consumer revolution, and how cooks’ knowledge about a healthy diet and the medicinal properties of food advanced their professional status by capitalizing on the Enlightenment’s new concern for bodily and material happiness. The Expert Cook in Enlightenment France explores a unique intersection of cultural history, labor history, and the history of science and medicine. Relying on an unprecedented range of sources, from printed cookbooks and medical texts to building plans and commercial advertisements, Takats reconstructs the evolving role of the cook in Enlightenment France.

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5. Dinner at Husk or McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina — Over the past year, Sean Brock has managed to astound quarters of America’s food establishment that don’t necessarily pay much attention to the South. Writing in The New York Times in February, for instance, Sam Sifton judged the experience “well worth . . . the flight from New York.” In September, Bon Appétit named Husk the year’s Best New Restaurant in America, and Brock has been featured in a dizzying array of publications from Esquire to The New Yorker. In the latter, Burkhard Bilger details what’s driving Brock’s success — an intense commitment to traditional Southern ingredients that have all but disappeared from the American table. There’s nothing purely eighteenth-century going on here, but there is a profound if simple point to be made: without ingredients that were used two or three centuries ago, it’s ultimately impossible to recreate what people ate. We can only hope this is more than just a passing trend and that other regions with rich culinary histories take up the challenge.

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1: Music

Posted in marketplace (goods & services), reviews by Editor on December 5, 2011

Wondering what to get the dix-huitièmiste in your life for the holidays? This year at Enfilade, we’re here to help with our first (annual?) gift guide. Before the week is over, we’ll cover food, drink, travel, and some lovely finds from museum gift shops. From the accessible to the purely aspirational, you’ll at least get a wide variety of ideas. And the postings provide a fine chance to consider some of the things the past year has brought to the marketplace. Michael Yonan brilliantly kicks off the series with his top music picks. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments sections, and enjoy! -CH

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By Michael Yonan

The classical music recording industry, we are told, is dying, but you’d never know that when looking at new releases of eighteenth-century music. There were so many new recordings issued this year that even an avid music lover couldn’t possibly keep up with them. In the realm of opera alone, 2011 saw new releases of Handel’s Agrippina, Ariodante, and Alessandro Severo; Vivaldi’s Ottone in Villa, Il Farnace, and Teuzzone; Telemann’s Germanicus, and even José de Nebra’s Spanish-language Iphigenia en Tracia, first performed in Madrid in 1747.  These appeared alongside literally dozens of new instrumental music recordings. The following is, therefore, a highly personal list that reflects my fancies and predilections, but all are also critically acclaimed recordings and easy to acquire.

1. François-André-Danican Philidor, Sancho Pança (Naxos) This is an opéra comique first performed at Fontainebleau in 1762, realized by Opera Lafayette, a period-instruments group based in Washington, D.C. The story is based on Cervantes’s novel, but only loosely: here Sancho Panza is the governor of an imaginary island and suffers from delusions of grandeur not unlike those of his onetime master.

2. Gluck, Ezio (Virgin Classics) The 1750 version of Gluck’s opera, first performed in Prague in 1750. An international cast and liner notes by ASECS regular Bruce Alan Brown!

3. Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantatas BWV 82, “Ich habe genug,” and BWV 169, “Gott soll allein mein Herze haben,” Andreas Scholl, countertenor, and the
Kammerorchester Basel (Decca)
Could this be the most
beautiful countertenor voice in the world? I think so.

4. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Sei concerti per il cembalo concertato, Wq43 (Harmonia Mundi) With Andreas Staier, harpsichord, and Petra Müllejans conducting the superb Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.

5. Handel, Amor Oriental: Händel alla Turca (Dhm) For something completely different, an interesting attempt to program works by Handel with performances by a traditional Turkish sufti singer.

6. Handel, Streams of Pleasure, Karina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, with Il Complesso Barocco conducted by Alan Curtis (Naïve Classique) My top recommendation. Two extremely gifted French Canadian singers
with beautiful voices—Gauvin is a coloratura soprano, Lemieux a
true contralto—performing arias and duets from Handel’s English-
language oratorios.

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Michael Yonan is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His book, Empress Maria Theresa and the Politics of Habsburg Imperial Art, appeared earlier this year from Penn State University Press (and would itself make for a lovely gift!).

Looking Smart, Packing Smart

Posted in marketplace (goods & services) by Editor on July 9, 2011

For those of you interested in issues of fashion and what a well-dressed academic looks like these days, you might click on over to Academichic, a blog edited by a “consortium of feminist academics.” I was apparently long overdue for a visit — recent pregnancy posts from E. and S. nicely round out the usual challenges and opportunities for looking smart and professional within a reasonable budget.

There are also details for entering your name for a Tom Bihn carry-on giveaway; the contest ends at midnight Central Time, Sunday, 10 July 2011. To judge from E.’s recent review, I’m envious of the lucky winner — the bag does look amazing. -CH.

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. . . For short trips — particularly short trips when you need to hit the ground running off to a museum, archive, or auditorium — this bag is a great blend of briefcase and suitcase, small enough to fit easily in a locker but spacious enough to accomodate more than enough clothes and whatnot for a few days. Take, for example, my recent research trip to New York City. I needed to go directly from the airport to a museum archive. This meant bringing my luggage with me on a bus, train, and a brief walk to a building with not-generously sized lockers. Besides clothes and toiletries, I also needed to bring my laptop, some reading material, note-taking material, and folders to house my piles (we hope!) of research findings. . . .

Are these the most aesthetically stylish bags on the market? No. But it’s incredibly well-made, sturdy, smart, and worth the initial output of cash. And I like that in a bag. Oh, and, for you international travelers, the Tri-Star meets carry-on requirements for Europe and Australia as well, since it’s smaller than the Aeronaut. . . .

The full review, along with inspiring packing photos, is available here»

An Antiquare’s Influence

Posted in marketplace (goods & services) by Editor on August 19, 2009

Above: Chaim Soutine, Portrait of Madeleine Castaing, 1929 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art). Bottom Left: Photo of Madeleine Castaing by Christina Vervitsioti-Missoffe, ca. 1920. Top Left: The salon of Castaing's country house, Maison de Lèves, near Chartres; photograph by René Stoeltie (via An Aesthete's Lament)

Leves_by_Rene_Stoeltie,_copyright_2007pfrench7_1384411cYesterday’s interior photographs of the Swedish Gunnebo House were supplied by Christopher Flach. In 2007, Flach made a half-hour documentary about the legendary French aesthete, Madeleine Castaing (1894-1992). Though associated with leading artists of the early twentieth century – including Modigliano and Soutine (the latter’s portrait of Castaing now hangs in the Met) – this grande dame of design was enthralled by the possibilities of classicism – in most cases nineteenth-century revival pieces of one sort or another. Emily Evans Eerdmans, author of Regency Redux, describes the Castaing look as a “unique blend of Neoclassicism, Proustian Romanticism, and pure wit.” One might see Castaing (the wife of the art critic, Marcellin Castaing) as a twentieth-century analog of the Goncourt brothers, though admittedly, the discrepancies are as interesting as the points of congruity.


Interior of the Castaing shop's; photograph by René Stoeltie (via an Aesthete's Lament)

9Castaing’s greatest influence was channeled through the antique shop she ran in Saint-Germain-des-Prés at the corner of rue Jacob and rue Bonaparte (it’s now home to the patisserie, Ladurée). Various accounts have appeared over the past few years (including this one from David Feld), but for dixhuitièmistes, its importance stemmed from the way it animated a twentieth-century vision of previous eras of design (however idiosyncratic the interpretation may have been). The shop, turns up, for instance as an early source for the aesthetic proclivities of David Mlinaric, who went on to forge much of what now constitutes period interiors, particularly in England (he’s worked, for instance, at the V&A, the National Gallery, and Spencer House). In the recent Frances Lincoln book, Mlinaric on Decorating, Mirabel Cecil describes Castaing’s shop as an “exercise in looking – and remembering”
(pp. 9-10).

09_30_sothebys_castaingFollowing Castaing’s death at age 98, her furniture was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2004. In addition to sources already provided, the following articles and postings may be useful: The Style Saloniste on ‘Castaing blue/green’ (related, of course, to the colors of Wedgwood and Robert Adam), Jan del Monte on the renewed interest in Castaing (including an exhibition in Paris of her furniture and a biography by Jean-Noël Liaut), a summary with photos from Topsy Turvy, more photos at An Aesthete’s Lament, and finally, this feature from The New York Times Magazine (17 October 2008). Flach’s documentary is available for purchase through his website.

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Speaking of Eighteenth-Century Rome . . .

Posted in marketplace (goods & services), resources, teaching resources by Editor on August 7, 2009

From the Interactive Nolli Map Website, University of Oregon

Under the direction of Jim Tice and Erik Steiner, the University of Oregon has constructed a stunning interactive version of Giambattista Nolli’s Map of Rome from 1748. The digital version, available online for free, is user-friendly, searchable, and comes with several essays that introduce Roman geography, social history, and eighteenth-century cartography. There’s also a fine bibliography. The map can be overlaid with a variety of layers: Gardens, the Tiber River, Rioni, Fountains, City Gates, Walls of Rome, Pathways, Map Icons, and Satellite Images. In addition to exploring (and now modelling) standards that we should expect of scholarly digital projects, the Nolli Map could offer immediately practical uses for teaching assignments. And if you find that the virtual map just makes you want a paper version all the more, the project organizers have teamed up with Raven Maps to produce a new edition available for $95 (in 2005, around the time of the launch of the Nolli wesbsite, one of the original maps sold at Christie’s for £7800, or just over $13,000). The University of Oregon website makes the Raven edition sound irresistible:

At approximately two-thirds the original size, it measures 45 inches by 52.6 inches (114cm x 133cm). It is printed at a scale of 1:4,500, where 1 inch equals 375 feet. Produced to the highest standards in mind, the edition is printed with stochastic screening on 100 lb Finch Fine paper. Stochastic screening is recognized for its superior representation of fine lines and tonal values, and is commonly used for printing high quality black and white photography. The process (in which printed dots are spread randomly throughout the image area instead of in a grid pattern) yields a warmer, less mechanical result perfect for a map of this vintage. A process black ink was used for the printed area and an antique tint lends the map an elegant look and feel.

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‘Love Art’ app from the National Gallery

Posted in exhibitions, marketplace (goods & services) by Editor on August 2, 2009

"Love Art" $2.99 from the iTunes Store

June 2009 Press Release from the National Gallery, London:

The National Gallery is the first ever gallery to make its paintings accessible through a downloadable iPhone application, making it possible to take a mini tour of the Gallery anywhere in the world.

The Gallery, in partnership with Antenna Audio and Apple Inc., has designed a new application for iPhones and iTouch devices that enables people to explore a sample of the collection while they’re on the move. Designed to appeal to art enthusiasts and fans of the Gallery, this application is the first of its kind to be released by a major gallery.

This Pentimento application, called “Love Art,” features 250 paintings from the collection along with around 200 minutes of audio and video content, including interviews with National Gallery Director Dr Nicholas Penny, dramatist Robin Brooks, artist Maggie Hambling and Girl with a Pearl Earring author Tracy Chevalier.

Making use of special iPhone features such as its large touch-screen, zoom, Rolodex and scrollable menus, “Love Art” offers a playful exploration of the collection, together with informative commentaries. The paintings are showcased to the best advantage using high-resolution images on the iPhone’s excellent-quality screen. Due to a tactile interface the experience gained through this application is not only highly enjoyable, but also lets you zoom in to see details that are often missed. (more…)

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