Enfilade

New Book | Art and War in the Pacific World

Posted in books by Editor on June 19, 2018

From the University of California Press:

J.M. Mancini, Art and War in the Pacific World: Making, Breaking, and Taking from Anson’s Voyage to the Philippine-American War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018), 344 pages, ISBN: 9780520294516, $65 / £50.

The Pacific world has long been recognized as a hub for the global trade in art objects, but the history of art and architecture has seldom reckoned with another profound aspect of the region’s history: its exposure to global conflict during the British and US imperial incursions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Art and War in the Pacific World provides a new view of the Pacific world and of global artistic interaction by exploring how the making, alteration, looting, and destruction of images, objects, buildings, and landscapes intersected with the exercise of force. Focusing on the period from Commodore George Anson’s voyage to the Philippine-American War, J. M. Mancini’s exceptional study deftly weaves together disparate strands of history to create a novel paradigm for cultural analysis.

J. M. Mancini is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History, Maynooth University, Ireland. Her publications include Pre-Modernism: Art-World Change and American Culture from the Civil War to the Armory Show and Architecture and Armed Conflict, edited with Keith Bresnahan.

Exhibition | The Remaking of Scotland

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 18, 2018

Press release (12 June 2018) from the National Galleries of Scotland:

The Remaking of Scotland: Nation, Migration, Globalisation 1760–1860
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, 16 June 2018 — 27 June 2021

A dynamic new exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) explores how Scotland’s place in the world was dramatically transformed after the mid-eighteenth century, as the country emerged as a leader of European cultural life and a major force in Britain’s industrial and imperial expansion. The Remaking of Scotland: Nation, Migration, Globalisation 1760–1860 traces this remarkable transformation through the many extraordinary personalities who contributed to this turning point in Scottish history, bringing together a range of fascinating paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the National Galleries of Scotland’s outstanding collection.

George Willison, Mohamed Ali Khan Walejah, Nawab of the Carnatic, 1777, oil on canvas, 236 × 146 cm (National Galleries of Scotland, Bequeathed by Douglas Willison Clark 1994, PG 2959).

As well as tracing the changes that took place within Scotland in the areas of science, technology, and literature, it will also look beyond Scotland’s borders to highlight the many Scots who ventured further afield—as soldiers, sailors, administrators, artists, missionaries, and adventurers. Their destinations ranged across the world, and the exhibition showcases work featuring Scots with close relationships to India, the Americas and Arctic, as well as the Caribbean.

Among the portraits on display is a captivating new acquisition—a portrait of the lawyer Sir Thomas Strange (1756–1841) by the fashionable London painter John Hoppner. Strange was the son of a Scottish engraver and spent his entire career abroad, first in Nova Scotia, Canada and then in India. While in Nova Scotia he used his position as Chief Justice to protect runaway slaves from their masters. In India, he helped create the fusion between British Common Law and Hindu traditions that would be the foundation of the modern Indian legal system. Hoppner’s characterful portrait gives a vivid sense of Strange’s intelligence and fair-mindedness. Strange’s portrait will be shown with a number of other paintings highlighting the relationships between Scotland and India at this time, including Scottish artist George Willison’s dramatic portrait of his Indian patron, Ali Khan Waledjah, Nawab of Arcot (1717–1795).

Other highlights of the display include Alexander Nasmyth’s portrayal of John Sakeouse (1792–1819), the first arctic Inuit to travel to Scotland. Sakeouse attained instant celebrity from the moment he arrived in Leith in 1816 as a stowaway on a whaling ship and was particularly famous for his remarkable canoeing and harpooning skills, which he demonstrated at the docks. Nasmyth painted the portrait after spotting Sakeouse on the street and went on to give him drawing lessons. Sakeouse became an indispensable member of Admiral John Ross’s arctic expedition of 1817–18, acting as a translator and artist. Fittingly, Sakeouse will be shown alongside a portrait of Ross, one of the great explorers of his time and one of the first Scots of the period to be represented in the collections of the SNPG.

John Singleton Copley, Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton, ca. 1780, oil on canvas, 226 × 149 cm (National Galleries of Scotland, PG 1516; photograph by Antonia Reeve).

In addition to documenting the material and cultural benefits that came from this period of unprecedented achievement, the display will also consider some abhorrent contemporary issues. A particularly important theme is Scotland’s extensive involvement in the plantation economy of the Caribbean and its dependence on slave labour. Many Scots went to the Caribbean in the hope of making their fortunes, becoming plantation and slave owners on a large scale. Meanwhile, Scottish merchants in the great ports of Glasgow and Leith maintained a vast West Indies trade, importing slave-produced sugar, rum, and tobacco. Some became hugely wealthy, but they were only the most prosperous of the thousands of Scots who enjoyed secure incomes from plantation investments. Others, however, were inspired by religious and moral convictions to oppose the appalling human cost of the slave trade. In the face of fierce resistance, abolitionists, including the prominent Scottish liberal lawyer and politician, Lord Brougham (1778–1868)—also featured in the display—finally brought slavery to an end in 1838.

Warfare, too, was a constant feature of life in this period, as Britain’s imperial interests involved the many Scottish soldiers and sailors in the British armed forces in bloody land and sea battles. Two spectacular full-length portraits of soldiers in full Highland Dress, John Singleton Copley’s Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton (who served in the French and Indian War of 1754–63) and Sir Joshua Reynolds’s John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (made Governor of New York in 1770 and then of Virginia in 1771), show how the cost of war to life and health was made acceptable by the glory of victory.

Taken together, these diverse works give a vivid portrait of the richly complex, and sometimes controversial, legacies of this remarkable period, both at home in Scotland and across the wider world.

Call for Papers | Exotic Switzerland?

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on June 18, 2018

From the session Call for Papers:

Exotic Switzerland? Circulating Art, History of Collecting, and Global Material Culture, 1600–1800
Fourth Swiss Congress of Art History, Mendrisio, 6–8 June 2019

Proposals due by 30 June 2018

Switzerland is often perceived as a secluded country with neither maritime borders nor official colonies in its past; yet its inhabitants have a long history of connecting with the outside world, be it for scientific research, political, artistic, or economic reasons. The ways and means European artists discovered, transformed, and integrated foreign objects and imagery into their works has been researched abundantly for the 19th century—for instance in the context of Orientalism and Japonisme—but still needs to be explored for the early modern period in general and for Switzerland in particular.

In this panel, we would like to explore how the travelling of objects and persons shaped the art world and material culture of Switzerland throughout the Baroque and the Enlightenment. Of interest is the connection between the decorative and the fine arts and their respective market situations. How did, for instance, the makers of fine and decorative arts, like porcelain, lacquer or textiles, as well as scientific and technical objects, alter its iconography, style, and materiality stimulated through global exchange? We would like to analyze to what extent the circulation of goods, artefacts, or art works as well as crafts and technologies transformed Swiss material culture in the era of an early globalization.

Furthermore, the political dimension of exchanges across continents shall be examined. Since the 1990s a growing number of scholars have focused on the representation of other parts of the world in Europe and related theoretical questions, leading to concepts of ‘hybridization’, ‘encounter’, ‘translation’ as well as ‘contact zone’ for instances. The word ‘exotic’ has also been used extensively in this context, particularly in the field of decorative arts—often without taking into account its etymology, political connotations, and problematic undertones. Therefore, this panel is also an opportunity to discuss the politics of classification and terminology related to cross-cultural exchanges.

Section Organizers
Prof. Dr. Noémie Etienne, Universität Bern, Institut für Kunstgeschichte, noemie.etienne@ikg.unibe.ch
Dr. Chonja Lee, Universität Bern, Institut für Kunstgeschichte, chonja.lee@ikg.unibe.ch

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The Fourth Swiss Congress of Art History will be held in Mendrisio from 6 to 8 June 2019. Organized jointly by the Swiss Association of Art Historians SAAH and the Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture ISA (Accademia di architettura, Università della Svizzera italiana), it is aimed at art historians from all fields and institutions. Scholars are invited to submit proposals for 20-minute papers within one of the nine panels. Acceptance decisions will be made by the directors of individual panels. We welcome contributions in Italian, German, French, and English in the hope to assemble multilingual panels that would reflect the institutional diversity of the field and foster the young generation of academics.

Please send an abstract (1 page, max. 3000 characters) and a short curriculum vitae including institutional affiliation and contact details to the relevant panel directors by 30 June 2018. Please also CC the office of the SAAH at vkksgeschaeftsstelle@gmail.com.

The complete Call for Papers is available as a PDF file here»

Symposium | China in Austria

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on June 18, 2018

From H-ArtHist:

China in Austria: Reception and Adaptation of East Asian Art in Central Europe
Department of Art History, University of Vienna, 29 June 2018

The workshop China in Austria aims to discuss the reception of and engagement with East Asian art in Central Europe. The workshop is part of a long-term project conducted by staff and students of Asian Art History at the Department of Art History at the University of Vienna. The project aims to evaluate the role of East Asian art in the material culture and society of Austria and its environs. This event is organised through the support of the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies of the University of Vienna. Free admission with registration (required). Please contact alexandra.wedekind@univie.ac.at.

P R O G R A M M E

9:00  Registration

9:15  Morning Session
• Lukas Nickel (Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Universität Wien), China in Austria
• Stacey Pierson (School of Oriental and African Studies, London), Chinoiserie or Imitation? Du Paquier, Porcelain, and Responses to China through Design in Early 18th-Century Vienna
• Johannes Wieninger (Museum für Angewandte Kunst Wien), Use, Decoration, and Inspiration: East-Asian Porcelain and the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory
• Elfriede Iby (Schloss Schönbrunn, Wien), The East Asian Cabinets of Schönbrunn Palace and the Problem of Missing Records and Sources

12:45  Lunch break

14:30  Afternoon Session
• Lucie Olivová (Masarykova Univerzita, Brno), Chinese Cabinets with Czech-Made Murals
• Greg M. Thomas (Hong Kong University), The Queen’s Décor: Chinoiserie Lacquer from Vienna to Fontainebleau
• Bernhard Fuehrer (School of Oriental and African Studies, London), Glimpses into Chinese Literature and Language Studies in Austria: August Pfizmaier (1808–1887) and Leopold Woitsch (1868–1939) in Light of the Holdings of the National Library
• Alexandra Wedekind (Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Universität Wien), The Gotha-Vienna-Connection of 1869: Albums Presented by the Tenno to European Rulers

18:00  Discussion led by Lothar Ledderose (Universität Heidelberg)

After Restoration Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne Back on View in DC

Posted in museums by Editor on June 17, 2018

Press release (25 May 2018) from the National Gallery in Washington:

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Bacchus and Ariadne, ca. 1743/1745, oil on canvas (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, Timken Collection).

Following a four-year-long conservation treatment, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne (ca. 1743/1745) returns to public view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, on 14 June 2018. The comprehensive restoration has revealed elements by the Venetian master hidden from view since the work was removed from its original location at the end of the 18th century. The dramatic results provide viewers with a new sense of the immense painting’s appearance at the time of its creation.

“The conservation of this remarkable work reveals significant discoveries about Tiepolo’s process and clues to the painting’s original home,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “This project also represents one of the many instances of rich collaboration between the Gallery’s team of conservators, scientists, and curators, all leaders in their field.”

Bacchus and Ariadne is believed to have been created to decorate the staircase of an unknown Venetian palace, only identified in a (now-lost) letter from 1764 by Tiepolo as the palace of “V.E.” The painting was probably one of four works—only three of which are known to survive—that each depicted a natural element. Bacchus and Ariadne represents earth, The Triumph of Amphitrite (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) represents water, and Juno and Luna (Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) represents air. The location of the fourth painting—which likely depicted Vulcan, the god of fire, and his wife, Venus—is unknown. A smaller example by Tiepolo of the same subject at the Philadelphia Museum of Art does, however, give a sense of what the painting may have looked like. All three of the extant paintings are connected by similar architectural motifs that would have tied them to their original locations, such as stone volutes at the top corners and long-necked, griffin-like forms in the bottom left and right corners. These architectural elements were likely painted over when the works were removed from their original setting, which according to curatorial records was done by 1798.

Treatment Details

The project’s painting conservator, Sarah Gowen Murray, worked closely with colleagues in painting conservation, scientific research, and preventive conservation to treat the painting and conduct analysis of the work. Overpaint removal uncovered tall vertical leaves on the left and right sides of the composition. Infrared imaging—conducted by John Delaney, senior imaging scientist—and analysis of cross-section samples of those areas—examined and interpreted by Barbara Berrie, head of the scientific research department—indicated that the leaves were originally bound together by gold ribbons. A precedent for the ribbons was established in another work by Tiepolo, Castigo dei Serpenti (The Scourge of the Snakes) (1732–1735) at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. These findings, archived documentation images, and other works by the artist were then consulted to reconstruct the missing elements with inpainting.

Other discoveries made during the treatment include indications of significant compositional changes made by Tiepolo, suggesting that Bacchus and Ariadne may have been the first painting of the series. X-radiographs exposed curved forms at the lower-right corner extending beneath the griffin and the jaguar—perhaps initial attempts by the artist to incorporate the composition into the work’s surrounding architecture.

Bacchus and Ariadne

Tiepolo’s painting magnificently depicts the moment before Bacchus, the god of wine, crowns Ariadne after falling in love with her. According to the myth, Bacchus discovered Ariadne on the shore of the island of Naxos where she was left behind by her lover, Theseus. Following this scene, Ariadne ascended to Mount Olympus, gaining immortality. Tiepolo’s rendering of the myth shows Bacchus sitting unsteadily atop a barrel with the glittering crown in hand. Bacchus is surrounded by revelers holding jugs of wine and grapevines, representing the fecundity of earth, while one of the jaguars that led his chariot rests beneath him. The wheat Ariadne wears in her hair and reeds held in her hand further symbolize the earth.

Following its removal from its original setting, Bacchus and Ariadne remained in private collections in Italy and Vienna before being sold in the late 1920s to William Robert Timken and Lillian Guyer Timken. The painting came to the Gallery in 1960 as part of the Timken Collection. Oliver Tostmann, now curator of European paintings at Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, contributed significantly to the understanding of Baccchus and Ariadne and its counterparts when he was a Joseph McCrindle Fellow and then Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the National Gallery from 2007 to 2011.

New Exhibitions at Monticello Include Life of Sally Hemings

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on June 17, 2018

Sarah Stockman reports on the Sally Hemings exhibition for The New York Times (16 June 2018), and the Monticello website now provides extensive information on Hemings. From the press release (7 June 2018) from Monticello:

On June 16, in conjunction with national Juneteenth events, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will welcome a gathering of descendants of enslaved families, commemorate 25 years of its Getting Word Oral History Project, and unveil new exhibits and restored spaces, including a groundbreaking exhibit on Sally Hemings.

The opening marks the conclusion of a five-year restoration initiative, known as The Mountaintop Project. Initiated by a transformational gift from David M. Rubenstein in 2013, the project has made possible a total of nearly 30 new restored or recreated spaces and exhibits. Iconic rooms, on every level of the house, received updated interpretation or were restored for the first time. On Mulberry Row, buildings were physically and virtually restored or reconstructed. Together, these spaces illuminate the stories of individuals and families, and reveal how the lives of the free and enslaved were interwoven.

“In Jefferson’s words, we ‘follow truth wherever it may lead,’” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “This transformation of Monticello—made possible by decades of research, hundreds of descendants, and thousands of donors—brings forward a more honest, relevant, and inclusive view of our history.”

On June 16, six new exhibits and restored spaces will open for the first time, including:
The Life of Sally Hemings — an immersive digital exhibit, anchored in the South Wing where she once lived, that relies on the words of her son, Madison, to explore her life and legacy;
The Getting Word Oral History Project — an exhibit on the enslaved families of Monticello and their descendants;
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson — an exhibit which provides fresh insights into the life of Jefferson’s wife, located in the first building erected at Monticello;
The Granger-Hemings Kitchen — an exhibit on Monticello’s first kitchen and new archaeological discoveries that reveal the stories of enslaved cooks, Ursula Granger, James Hemings, and Peter Hemings;
The Dairy — a restored, period room where enslaved workers made cream, butter and soft cheese for the household; and
The Textile Workshop — a restored ca. 1775 structure featuring an exhibit about Mulberry Row and a room depicting the factory where enslaved women and children turned cotton, hemp, and wool into cloth for enslaved people and enterprise.

For years, visitors have learned about Sally Hemings on tours of Monticello. Now, for the first time, her story will have a dedicated physical space on the mountaintop.

“It represents a different chapter in public history at Monticello,” said Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and professor of history at Harvard University. “It will have a ripple effect on the way people think about slavery on the mountain overall and that’s actually very exciting.”

To commemorate the occasion and celebrate 25 years of the Getting Word Oral History Project, Monticello is hosting a free public event and a gathering for descendants of enslaved families. The gathering is expected to be the largest reunion of descendants of enslaved families in modern history.

The Look Closer opening event will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham, violinist Karen Briggs, patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, national policy analyst Melody Barnes, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see a rare version of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln and generously loaned by David M. Rubenstein. It will be on view in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center from June 11 through July 11, 2018.

London Art Week, Summer 2018 / Launch of Tomasso XXV

Posted in Art Market, books, museums by Editor on June 17, 2018

From London Art Week:

London Art Week, Summer 2018
28 June — 6 July 2018

London Art Week is a twice-yearly event, offering the best of pre-contemporary art in London’s traditional fine art district. From Ancient sculptures to Old Master drawings and post-Impressionist paintings, London Art Week offers visitors the chance to see, and buy, extraordinary works. For seasoned collectors as well as those simply curious to learn more about art, London Art Week dealers are always on hand and delighted to share their knowledge and expertise. Talks and events are scheduled throughout the week, delivered by some of the UK’s most distinguished art historians and curators. There is no tent: visitors have the luxury of discovering masterpieces within our beautiful gallery spaces, all situated within walking distance.

From the press release for Tomasso Brothers Fine Art:

Catalogue Launch of Tomasso XXV: A Celebration of Notable Sales
Tomasso Brothers, London, 28 June — 6 July 2018

For the summer edition of London Art Week 2018, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is proud to present a new publication, Tomasso XXV, a celebratory catalogue marking the many notable sales made in 25 years of activity. London Art Week runs from 29 June to 6 July 2018, and copies will be available at Marquis House, 67 Jermyn Street, St. James’s, the London gallery of Tomasso Brothers.

The catalogue features more than 50 works ranging from bronze sculptures to oil paintings, and dating from antiquity to the late Neoclassical periods, demonstrating the breadth and quality of works sold by Tomasso Brothers to museums and private collectors the world over. Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is recognised internationally for specializing in important European sculpture, thus works in wood, terracotta, marble, and bronze feature prominently; however, Dino and Raffaello Tomasso are also passionate about fields such as Old Master paintings and objets d’art, represented here by fabulous examples.

The historic sales illustrated in the catalogue range from distinctive sketches, such as Joseph Nollekens’s (1737–1823) terracotta rendering of a pensiero of Eve Bewailing the Death of Abel, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to rare bronzes, such as the Pacing Bull from a ‘Rape of Europa’ group, executed in Padua around 1520–25, re-united with its original figure of Europa thanks to Tomasso Brothers, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; and from the powerful, such as the triumphant Julius Caesar carved in limewood by Giambologna (1529–1608), a statuette now known to be not only the earliest recorded work by the master but also the only surviving sculpture that he executed in wood (today in a private collection, Antwerp), to the intimate, such as Nymph Entering a Bath by Richard James Wyatt (1795–1850) one of the foremost British heirs of Canova, which sold last year from Tomasso Brothers’ Canova and his Legacy exhibition to the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

Other highlights in the catalogue are a pair of portraits by the master of miniatures Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) depicting Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720–1788) and Prince Henry Benedict Stuart (1725–1807) which, subsequent to their presentation and sale (to a private collection, Germany) by Tomasso Brothers at TEFAF 2015, were shown in the Liotard exhibition at London’s Royal Academy, 2015/2016; a white marble Farnese type bust of Emperor Caracalla by Joseph Claus (1718–1788), a milestone in the development of early Neoclassicism in Rome and a signature work by one of the most accomplished German sculptors of the eighteenth century, now with the Saint Louis Art Museum; and a high-relief, boxwood panel by Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721), a magnificent demonstration of sculptural bravura on a reduced scale and one of the earliest known works by Gibbons, who is widely considered to be Britain’s greatest woodcarver. As attested by the presence of the coat of arms of the Barwick family from Yorkshire, which is visible on a harp in the foreground, the panel, likely carved in York (where Gibbons trained under John Etty after arriving from Rotterdam around 1667) now resides at Fairfax House Museum, York, United Kingdom.

The catalogue also illustrates some major rediscoveries by Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, including The Triumph of Autumn by Jacob Hoefnagel (1573–1632/35), an exquisite oil on copper, signed and dated 1605, painted in Rome for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612), and The Death of Saint Peter Martyr by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (c.1480–c.1548), a protagonist of Venetian Renaissance painting, renowned for the hushed brilliance of his palette and uniquely atmospheric quality of his compositions, now in the Art Institute of Chicago.

New Publication | The RA Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018

Posted in books, resources by Editor on June 16, 2018

Readers will likely have already heard about this amazing publication from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, but I’m glad to join the chorus of fans! (Disclosure: I provided entries for 1823 and 1846). If you have trouble navigating with Firefox, try another browser (it works beautifully on an iPhone). The brief essays are wide-ranging and full of surprises. In addition, it’s difficult to overestimate the value of freely available digital, searchable versions of the catalogues for all 250 years. There must also be wonderful teaching possibilities! CH

From the Mellon Centre:

Hallett, Mark, Sarah Victoria Turner, Jessica Feather, Baillie Card, Tom Scutt, and Maisoon Rehani, eds., The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018 (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2018), https://www.chronicle250.com.

A major new, free to access digital publication reveals the hidden stories from the entwined histories of British art and the Royal Academy, marking the 250th anniversary of the world’s longest-running annual display of contemporary art.

Since 1769, more than 40,000 contemporary artists have shown more than 300,000 works at the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition. In time for this year’s show (opening on 12 June), the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art has released The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1769–2018. This open access digital publication brings together artwork, stories, and data spanning 250 years of the exhibition’s history.

Lively year-by-year essays examining key artists, artworks, and events from each exhibition are accompanied by a complete set of digitised and searchable catalogues chronicling the history of the annual event from 1769 to the present day. It contains 250 contributions from over 90 experts—including artists, critics, curators, and art historians—and is intended to be a permanent research resource for anyone interested the history of British art.

The online publication complements the exhibition The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Summer Exhibition, on view at the Royal Academy from 12 June until August 19.

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.

New Book | China: A History in Objects

Posted in books by Editor on June 15, 2018

From Thames & Hudson:

Jessica Harrison-Hall, China: A History in Objects (London: Thames & Hudson, 2018), 352 pages, ISBN: 978-0500519707, $40.

This illustrated introduction to the history of China offers a fresh understanding of China’s progress from the Neolithic age to the present. Told in six chapters arranged chronologically, through art, artifacts, people, and places, and richly illustrated with expertly selected objects and artworks, it firmly connects today’s China with its internationally engaged past. From the earliest archaeological relics and rituals, through the development of writing and state, to the advent of empire, the author charts China’s transformation from ancient civilization into the world’s most populous nation and influential economy, offering historical insights and cultural treasures along the way. This accessible book presents an eclectic mix of materials including Chinese theater, the decorative arts, costume, jewelry, and furniture-making, running through to the most recent diffusion of Chinese culture.

Jessica Harrison-Hall is Head of the China Section, Curator of Later China, Vietnam, and the Sir Percival David Collection of Chinese Ceramics at the British Museum, London.