Jonny Yarker Joins Lowell Libson

Posted in Art Market by Editor on January 17, 2018

Press release (January 2017) from Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd:

Lowell Libson Ltd is delighted to announce that from January 2018 it will be trading as Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd. Lowell Libson is one of the great names in the world of London dealing: for the last seventeen years his gallery has been synonymous with British paintings, drawings, and sculpture of the highest quality. It is unusual for a gallery owner, with over forty years’ experience and his name above the door to embrace such a radical transformation, and it signals an important change for the future.

“Jonny joined the business five years ago and during that time we have worked very happily and successfully together. Jonny has made a huge impact on the gallery, and he has played an extremely significant role in developing the business with me; now is the right time to recognize this working partnership in a tangible way,” Lowell Libson commented. “I am very excited about the future, Jonny is a talented dealer, a leading scholar and a good friend and I look forward to our new venture together.”

Jonny Yarker had recently finished his PhD when Lowell approached him to come and work at the gallery. “I admired Lowell long before I met him. He had this amazing reputation for supporting scholarship and exhibitions of British art; I remember when I was a student seeing his name everywhere,” says Yarker, “Little did I think I would end up working with him.” Libson has a reputation for supporting innovative scholarship in British art and the gallery has sponsored major exhibitions at the Royal Academy, British Museum, Courtauld, Ashmolean, and Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

With Jonny on board, the company’s outlook became more routed in research and their projects were able to become more ambitious. For example, in 2014 they mounted the largest selling exhibition of drawings by Gainsborough for a century. Lowell and Jonny have also recently made a number of notable discoveries including newly identified works by Samuel Palmer, John Constable, Johan Zoffany as well uncovering a previously unknown cache of drawings by Sir Peter Lely.

Each brings complimentary talents to the business (as Libson says, “It’s not particularly constructive working with a clone of oneself”). They see their great strength as a willingness to embrace change and think laterally. “We operate in an apparently narrow field, but Lowell has an amazing ability to reinvent what we do, at the same time preserving a continuity of taste,” Yarker observes.

In March, the gallery will be exhibiting at the Salon du dessin in Paris for the first time and in July they will mount a major exhibition of drawings made in Britain before 1730. Libson has been collecting for the exhibition for over a decade but observes: “Jonny has really made the project his own, he has brought an academic rigour and flair to my initial idea; it is going to be a truly groundbreaking exhibition, I can’t wait!”

This is the essence of what Libson and Yarker do: bring high levels of scholarship and their own personal taste to British art. It is a formula that has won them an international group of clients, both institutional and private.

Exhibition | Thomas Gainsborough: Modern Landscape

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 16, 2018

Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, ca. 1750
(London: National Gallery)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

On view this spring at the Hamburger Kunsthalle:

Thomas Gainsborough: The Modern Landscape / Die moderne Landschaft
Hamburger Kunsthalle, 2 March — 27 May 2018

Curated by Katharina Hoins and Christoph Martin Vogtherr

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) was a pioneering artist in the development towards ›modern‹ landscape painting of around 1800. He was mainly perceived as a painter of brilliant society portraits by his contemporaries, although he personally far preferred his landscapes. They reflect the dramatic technological and artistic developments of his time and the growing contradictions in British society. Landscape painting served Gainsborough as a laboratory to transform impressions into innovation. He experimented with colours and techniques, painted on glass and combined natural materials into landscape models. Establishing England as a centre of European landscape painting, he created images of timeless power. Iconic works like Mr and Mrs Andrews will feature in the exhibition. Gainsborough: Modern Landscape is the first exhibition by a German museum devoted to Gainsborough. For a German and an international public it promises the (re-)discovery of an exceptional painter.

M. Bills, B. Gockel, M. Hallett, K. Hoins, R. Jones, J. Karg, S. Pisot, and C. Vogtherr, Thomas Gainsborough: The Modern Landscape (Munich: Hirmer, 2018), 224 pages, ISBN: 978  37774  29977, $65.

Gainsborough himself favoured landscape painting, a field to which he made important contributions, over his well-known portraits. His works are fascinating for their painterly subtlety and technical variation. This volume brings together German and British traditions of viewing, interpreting, and studying Gainsborough. It looks at the connections to the Dutch landscapes, explains Gainsborough’s unusual and experimental techniques from an art technological point of view, and situates his landscapes in the context of the social tensions of early industrialisation.

Williamsburg Acquires Rare Danish Abolitionist Medal

Posted in museums by Editor on January 15, 2018

Abolition of the Slave Trade Medal, dies by Pietro Leonardo Gianelli, Denmark, bronze, 1792 (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase, Lasser Numismatics Fund and Partial Gift, John Kraljevich).

Abolition of the Slave Trade Medal, dies by Pietro Leonardo Gianelli, Denmark, bronze, 1792 (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase, Lasser Numismatics Fund and Partial Gift, John Kraljevich).

Press release (10 January 2018). . .

One of the most important medallic items related to the Atlantic slave trade and one of Denmark’s most iconic medals is now part of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s collections. Designed by the Danish artist Nicolai Abildgaard and struck in bronze in 1792 from dies by the Italian medalist Pietro Leonardo Gianelli, the extremely rare piece commemorates that year’s royal edict ending trade in enslaved persons on Danish ships. Only a small handful of these medals produced in a variety of metals are known to exist: white metal examples are in Danish museums and others, held in private collections, were struck in bronze and silver.

“The items of Colonial Williamsburg’s collections capture tangibly our complex, shared history,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, Colonial Williamsburg president and CEO. “In this rare 1792 medal we see an Atlantic power affirming the humanity of a people exploited as property, as well as a foretelling of abolition in America. We welcome our guests 365 days a year—and especially in February during Black History Month—to experience the diverse stories of our nation’s founding.”

In Denmark in 1792, as the move towards banning slavery was taking hold throughout Europe and two years before Congress prohibited the slave trade between the United States and foreign countries, Crown Prince Frederik VI, acting as regent for his mentally unstable father, Christian VII, issued what is considered to be the Prince’s most important proclamation: the Edict of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. This decree made Denmark the first European nation to outlaw trade in enslaved persons on ships flying its flag, though the measure did not fully take effect until 1802. This medal, made at the beginning of the abolitionist movement on the European continent, marks a dramatic shift in the way Denmark sought to treat the enslaved African population in the nation’s Caribbean colonies, the Danish West Indies. The male head depicted in profile on the face of the medal is likely the oldest Danish naturalistic portrait of an African. The Latin phrase ‘Me Miserum’ (‘Woe is me’ or ‘Poor me’) is imprinted as a border around the profile. The reverse image shows the mythological winged goddess Nemesis, who was thought to be the avenging goddess of divine indignation against and retribution for evil deeds and undeserved good fortune. She is depicted seated and facing forward on a platform decorated with a shield that bears her name while holding an apple branch in one hand and touching her wing with the other. The Latin legends indicate the medal was produced under the Danish King’s law and includes the date of the edict, March 16, 1792.

“Objects in the Colonial Williamsburg collection are remarkable not only for their aesthetic qualities, but for the history they illustrate,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s vice president for collections, conservation, and museums and its Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator. “This medal sheds light on some of the first steps toward the end of slavery, a painful chapter in the Atlantic world’s history.”

“This masterfully executed work of medallic art is a benchmark piece for two reasons,” said Erik Goldstein, Colonial Williamsburg’s senior curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. “Not only does it beautifully and sensitively display the portrait of an African man, it also marks the beginnings of the abolitionist movement in Europe.”

The medal was acquired through the Lasser Numismatics Fund and a partial gift by John Kraljevich. It is scheduled for public display in 2020 following completion of the entirely donor-funded $41.7 million expansion of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Both institutions, the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, remain open throughout construction.

Conference | Circulating Crafts

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on January 15, 2018

I’m always interested to see how one might extend the significance of a CAA panel beyond the conference itself. Here’s an interesting attempt with programming in Paris and LA. Last month I noted the first CAA panel, but I didn’t connect it to these other events. CAH

From the programme:

Circulating Crafts: Art, Agency, and the Making of Identities, 1600–2000
Paris, 24 January 2018 / Los Angeles, 21 February 2018

Organized by Yaëlle Biro and Noémie Étienne

Circulation and imitation of cultural products are key factors in shaping the material world—as well as identities. Many objects or techniques that came to be seen as local, authentic and typical are in fact entangled in complex transnational narratives tied to a history of appropriation, imperialism, and the commercial phenomenon of supply and demand.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, artists and craftspeople in Europe appropriated foreign techniques such as porcelain, textiles, or lacquers that eventually shaped local European identities. During the 19th century, Western consumers looked for genuine goods produced outside of industry, and the demand of Bourgeois tourism created a new market of authentic souvenirs and forgeries alike. Furthermore, the 20th century saw the (re)-emergence of local ‘Schools’ of art and crafts as responses to political changes, anthropological research, and/or tourist demand. This multi-part conference will explore how technical knowledge, immaterial desires, and political agendas impacted the production and consumption of visual and material culture in different times and places. A new scrutiny of this back and forth between demanders and suppliers will allow us to map anew a multi-directional market for cultural goods in which the source countries could be positioned at the center.

Contacts: yaelle.biro@metmuseum.org and noemie.etienne@ikg.unibe.ch

2 4  J A N U A R Y  2 0 1 8

Part 1 | Workshop: Circulating Crafts
La Colonie, 178 boulevard Lafayette, 75010 Paris

9.00  Welcome and Introduction by Yaëlle Biro and Noémie Étienne

9.15  Session A
• Ariane Fennetaux (Université Paris Diderot), From Coromandel with Love: The Glocalisation of Indian Cottons in the 17th and 18th Centuries
• Chonja Lee (Bern University), Made in Switzerland: How Swiss Indiennes Became Autochtone and Dressed the World at the Same Time
• Aziza Gril-Mariotte (Université de Haute-Alsace), Modèles, emprunts et circulation des formes occidentales dans les toiles peintes au XVIIIe siècle

11.15  Coffee break

11.30  Session B
• James Green (University of East Anglia), Appropriating Kongo Colors: Red, White and Black in 19th-Century English Trade Cloth
• Manuel Charpy, CNRS, Lille), Changing Sides? Consumption and Political Uses of Western Clothing in Congo, 1830–1960

13.00  Lunch break

14.00  Session C
• Thomas Grillot (CNRS, Paris), Marketing Family Heirlooms: Three Generations of American Indian Artists in the Northern Plains
• Rémi Labrusse (Université Paris-Nanterre), Hybridité et identité en Algérie à la veille de l’invasion française: le cas du palais du Bey de Constantine

15.20  Coffee break

15.35  Session D
• Julien Volper (Tervuren Museum), Du Bénin à l’Inde en passant par le Congo: Origines, in uences et voyages d’objets africains du XIXe et du XXe siècles
• Jonathan Fine (Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin), Crafting Culture: The Co-Production of ‘Bamum’ Art in the 1920s
• Gaëlle Beaujean (Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac), Sirène, vierge, charmeuse de serpent et Atlantique

17.35  Discussion

2 1  F E B R U A R Y  2 0 1 8

Part 2 | Conference Panels: Art, Agency, and the Making of Identities, 1600–2000
College Art Association, Convention Center, Los Angeles

2.00  Panel I
• Helen Glaister (SOAS, University of London / Victoria & Albert Museum, London), The Picturesque in Peking: European Decoration at the Qing Court
• Dorothy Armstrong (Royal College of Art / Victoria & Albert Museum, London), A Transnational Loop: Pakistan’s Repossession of the Oriental Carpet Imaginary and its Production
• Tingting Xu (University of Chicago), The Rivers Folded: Souvenir Accordion Panoramas in the Late 19th-Century Global Tourism
• Karen Milbourne (Smithsonian National Museum of African Art), Lozi Style: King Lewanika and the Marketing of Barotseland

4.00  Panel II
• Ashley Miller (UC Berkeley), ‘What is Colonial Art and Can It Be Modern?’: Moroccan Modernisms at the Art Deco Exposition in Paris, 1925
• Victoria Rovine (University of North Carolina), A Wider Loom: Textiles and Colonial Politics of Authenticity in the Soudan Français
• Gail Levin (The City University of New York), Frida Kahlo’s Invention of Jewish Identity
• Niko Vicario (Amherst College), From Duco to Comex: The Politics of Synthetic Paint in the Americas

Illustration: French textile design for the West African slave trade market, Nantes, 18th century., “L’album des indiennes de traite de Favre, Petitpierre et Cie” (Henry-René d’Allemagne, La Toile imprimée et les indiennes de traite, Paris, Gründ, 1942, plate 69).

Symposium | Taking Exception: Women, Gender, Representation

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on January 14, 2018

From the symposium announcement:

The 2018 Bettie Allison Rand Symposium in Art History
Taking Exception: Women, Gender, Representation in the Eighteenth Century
A Symposium in Honor of Mary D. Sheriff
Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1–3 February 2018

The 2018 Bettie Allison Rand Symposium will take place in tandem the Ackland Art Museum exhibition, Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from the Horvitz Collection (open in Chapel Hill from 26 January until 8 April 2018). The exhibition is curated by Melissa Hyde, Professor of Art History, University of Florida Research Foundation Professor, University of Florida, and the late Mary D. Sheriff, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Art History, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is organized by Alvin L. Clark, Jr, Curator, The Horvitz Collection and The J.E. Horvitz Research Curator, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg.

Through a generous gift to the UNC Arts and Sciences Foundation, William G. Rand established this lecture series in memory of his late wife, Bettie Allison Rand. This funding allows the Department of Art to bring one or more eminent art historians to UNC-CH every other year for residencies of various lengths. While they are in Chapel Hill, these scholars present a series of lectures and interact with undergraduate and graduate art history and studio art students. More information about the series can be found here.

Speakers will include
• Vivian Cameron, Independent Scholar
• Susanna Caviglia, Assistant Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University
• Melissa Hyde, Professor of Art & Art History, University of Florida
• Anne Lafont, Director of Studies, L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes En Sciences Sociales
• Christopher Johns, Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Professor of History of Art, Vanderbilt University
• Dorothy Johnson, Roy J. Carver Professor of Art History, University of Iowa
• Kathleen Nicholson, Professor Emerita of the History of Art and Architecture, University of Oregon
• Suzanne Pucci, Professor of Modern & Classical Languages, Literatures, & Cultures, University of Kentucky
• Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Professor Emerita of the History of Art & Architecture, University of California Santa Barbara
• Susan Taylor Leduc, Independent Scholar
• Michael Yonan, Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology, University of Missouri

A memorial for Mary D. Sheriff will be held on Saturday, February 3rd at 1:00pm.

For more schedule details and to register to attend, visit the symposium website.

Contact: Tania C. String, tcstring@email.unc.edu

New Book | The Gardens of La Gara

Posted in books by Editor on January 14, 2018

Distributed by ACC Publishing and The University of Chicago Press:

Anette Freytag, ed., The Gardens of La Gara: An 18th-Century Estate in Geneva with Gardens Designed by Erik Dhont and a Labyrinth by Markus Raetz (Zurich: Scheidegger and Spiess, 2017), 272 pages, ISBN: 978 38588 18027, $99 / £85.

La Gara is an 18th-century country estate in Jussy, a village near Geneva, Switzerland. The buildings have been carefully restored by Swiss architect Verena Best, who also added inspired touches to the interior design. The renowned Belgian landscape designer Erik Dhont reinterpreted and subtly redesigned the gardens and surrounding grounds, completed by a palindrome-like labyrinth designed by Swiss artist Markus Raetz. This new book tells the story of the La Gara estate and illustrates its beauty. The essays investigate its preservation and restoration of buildings and gardens and the contemporary interventions. They highlight features such as the historic watering system for the gardens and the fishponds and look at the specific Genevan garden tradition and characteristics of the rural landscape around Jussy with its biodiversity. Moreover, they contextualise La Gara with the ‘ferme ornée’, a villa with agricultural and ornamental features following ancient Roman models. The beautiful volume is rounded out with newly commissioned photographs by renowned Swiss photographer Georg Aerni.

Anette Freytag is Professor of Landscape Design at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

New Book | Joseph Banks’ Florilegium

Posted in books by Editor on January 13, 2018

From Thames & Hudson:

David Mabberley, Mel Gooding, and Joe Studholme, Joseph Banks’ Florilegium: Botanical Treasures from Cook’s First Voyage (London: Thames & Hudson, 2017), 320 pages, ISBN: 978  050051  9363, £65, $85.

This is the first full-colour publication of some of the most extraordinary botanical prints of the 18th century. Banks’ Florilegium is not only a great scientific record, but also a major achievement of collaborative Enlightenment art and a work of botanical illustration of outstanding beauty.

Joseph Banks accompanied James Cook on his first voyage around the world between 1768 and 1771. A gifted and wealthy young naturalist, Banks collected exotic flora from Madeira, Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia and Java, bringing back over 1,300 species hitherto unknown to science. On his return, Banks commissioned over 700 superlative engravings as a scientific record. Known collectively as Banks’ Florilegium, they are some of the most precise and exquisite examples of botanical illustration ever made—yet they were never published in Banks’s lifetime.

The present selection has been made from a unique limited colour edition of the prints, with expert botanical commentaries provided by Professor David Mabberley. Mel Gooding describes the Endeavour voyage and the making of the Florilegium. An afterword by Joe Studholme outlines the history of the modern printing.

David Mabberley has served as Executive Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney. He is an Emeritus Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford, Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University, Sydney, and Professor Extraordinary at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands.
Mel Gooding is an art historian, writer and curator. He has taught at Edinburgh and Wimbledon Schools of Art, among others, and contributes regularly to the art press.
Joe Studholme co-founded Editions Alecto and undertook the printing of Banks’ Florilegium from the original copper plates between 1980 and 1990.


• The Making of Banks’ Florilegium I: The Voyage of Endeavour, Mel Gooding
• The Plates, David Mabberley
• The Making of Banks’ Florilegium II: The Florilegium, 1772–1990, Mel Gooding
• The Modern Printing of the Florilegium, Joe Studholme

Call for Papers | Museums, Collections, and Conflict, 1500–2010

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on January 13, 2018

From the Museums and Galleries History Group:

MGHG Biennial Conference | Museums, Collections, and Conflict, 1500–2010
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 13–14 July 2018

Proposals due by 1 March 2018

Museums have been profoundly shaped by war and armed conflict, and have also played a significant part in shaping understandings and memories about them. Yet there has been little sustained examination of the way museums in war and war in museums has played out. Since Gaynor Kavanagh’s foundational study Museums and the First World War in 1994 and with the publication this year of Catherine Pearson’s similarly ground-breaking Museums in the Second World War, it is clear that museums have played and can play an important role in helping society address such crisis situations. On the home front, for example, museums have helped society prepare for war and armed conflict. In leading commemoration in the aftermath of war and armed conflict, museums have helped society come to terms with what happened, understand why it happened, and remember sacrifices. Yet museums have equally served as arenas where issues such as commemoration have been contested and negotiated and where particular narratives legitimising war and conflict have been developed. This conference hopes to address a broad range of questions, including on collecting (in) war and armed conflict, on the deliberate targeting and destruction or safeguarding of museums and cultural property, and the broader range of institutions brought forth or which are strongly influenced by war and armed conflict.

Keynote speaker: Annie Coombes, Professor of Material and Visual Culture, Birkbeck, University of London

We seek papers which particularly address but are not restricted to the following questions over a period from the early modern to the end of the twentieth century:

• What have museums done during periods of conflict and what has happened to them? Have they been responsible for morale, have they been targets of attack, have they physically moved and how has their staffing been affected?
• How have museums and collections acted to commemorate conflict?
• In what ways have wars and other conflicts affected museums’ and collectors’ collecting activities, positively or negatively? How have wars and conflicts been collected, and by whom?
• How have museums represented war, civil war and other conflicts such as rebellions? Have museums promoted peace by interpreting war?
• How have museums OF conflict, of the armed forces and of weaponry/armouries developed historically?
We welcome proposals for papers which deal with the history of museums and collecting in a British, European, or wider context or which address the relationships between different geographical areas.

Paper proposals should be for papers of 20 minutes’ length. Proposals should be 250 words max and include the name, contact details and affiliation (if applicable) of the speaker. Panel proposals are strongly encouraged and should consist of a panel title, proposals for 3 papers, along with a rationale for the panel theme, and contact details and affiliations (if applicable) of all participants. Please indicate whether you will provide a chair for your session or not (it does not matter which). Poster proposals are also welcomed. Please contact Kate Hill (khill@lincoln.ac.uk) for more information. All proposals should be sent to contact@mghg.info by 1 March 2018. Please note that all speakers and poster presenters will be expected to pay the conference registration fee.

The Museums and Galleries History Group (MGHG) was founded in 2002 and inaugurated in 2003 with the symposium Museums and their Histories, held at the National Gallery in London. The MGHG provides a platform for debate and contact among all those who seek to understand museums and galleries from historical and theoretical perspectives. The interests represented are wide-ranging, interdisciplinary and international and the Group also acts as a forum for considerations of the place of museum history within academic discourse and its importance for current museum practice.

Call for Papers | British Art and the Global

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on January 13, 2018

From the Call for Papers:

British Art and the Global
University of California, Berkeley, 17–18 September 2018

Organized by Imogen Hart and David Peters Corbett

Proposals due by 15 April 2018

What is the role of art history in the Brexit era? In the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the history of Britain’s relationships with the rest of the world takes on renewed significance. This conference explores how art history today can shed light on the history of Britain’s interaction with other countries and cultures. Among other questions, the conference asks: How have institutions of display and education provided frameworks that have articulated and/or obscured global contexts for British art? How can the traditions of art history, including concepts of national schools, movements, modernisms, periods, originality and imitation, aesthetic judgment, and hierarchies of media be exploited and/or critiqued by scholars of British art and the global?

We invite papers that illuminate global contexts for the history of British art by considering works of art (including painting, sculpture, architecture, the decorative arts, photography, and other forms of visual and material culture) as sites and tools of international cooperation, conflict, and exchange. Potential papers may address the global history of British art in relation to topics that include, but are not limited to:
• International artistic collaborations and organizations
• Artistic movements and their international legacies
• International modernisms
• Aesthetic theory across national boundaries
• Contexts of display including museums, collections, and exhibitions
• Institutions of artistic training and education
• The international art market
• Reproduction and circulation
• Periodicals
• Art and empire
• Travel and tourism
• Immigration
• Art and war

Keynote speakers: Tim Barringer (Yale University), Dorothy Price (University of Bristol), and Mary Roberts (University of Sydney).

This two-day, international conference is sponsored by the Center for British Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The conference is co-organized by Imogen Hart (History of Art Department, UC Berkeley) and David Peters Corbett (Courtauld Institute of Art, London). Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words plus a brief biographical note to imogenhart@berkeley.edu by April 15, 2018. Limited funds may be available to assist with travel expenses for speakers who do not have institutional funding.

Exhibition | Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 12, 2018

Looking ahead to the fall, from the press release:

Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome
The Frick Collection, New York, 31 October 2018 — 20 January 2019
Galleria Borghese, Rome, 2019

Curated by by Alvar González-Palacios and Xavier Salomon

Luigi Valadier, Herma with Bacchus for the Palazzo Borghese, alabaster and glazed bronze with traces of gilding, 1773, 69 inches (Rome: Galleria Borghese; photo by Mauro Magliani).

Of the many artists who flourished in Rome during the eighteenth century, the silversmith Luigi Valadier (1726–1785) was among those particularly admired by popes, royalty, and aristocrats. Luigi was born in Rome in 1726, about six years after his parents emigrated from France. His father, Andrea, established a silversmith workshop that quickly captured the attention of the wealthiest Roman aristocrats. Heir to his father’s business, Luigi had an unsurpassed technical expertise, which, combined with his avant-garde aesthetic, resulted in extraordinary works in silver and bronze. Well aware of the evolution of artistic taste throughout Europe, he had an impressive ability to reframe examples of ancient Roman art and architecture within the context of contemporary Rome. Sculptures in private collections, cameos, architectural details, and ruins of ancient monuments served as his inspiration for candelabra, tableware, altars, and centerpieces in both silver and bronze. Luigi’s fame and influence spread beyond the borders of Italy, and he received commissions from patrons in France, England, and Spain. He was, however, burdened by debts for commissions undertaken but never paid for, and, in 1785, he committed suicide, drowning himself in the Tiber. Following this tragic event, his workshop passed to his son Giuseppe.

Illustrating the uncommon versatility of Luigi Valadier, who produced everything from large altar pieces to intricate works of jewelry, the Frick’s fall 2018/winter 2019 exhibition will include more than sixty works carefully selected from the vast production of the Valadier workshop. Preparatory drawings of both sacred and profane subjects will be displayed alongside finished works. . One of the highlights of the exhibition will be a full centerpiece, or deser (from the Italianization of the French word dessert), created around 1778 for the Bali de Breteuil, Ambassador of the Order of Malta to Rome. Atop a gilt-bronze base inlaid with precious stones, Valadier has re-created temples, triumphal arches, columns, and other miniature representations of ancient Roman monuments. The multiple elements of the Breteuil deser are today separated between two museums in Madrid (the Museo Arqueológico Nacional and the Palacio Real), but will be reunited for this special exhibition at the Frick. It will therefore be possible to admire this masterwork in its entirety, as nobles and cardinals did in 1778, when it was displayed for a few days in Valadier’s workshop in a candle-lit room specially decorated for the occasion.

The exhibition will also feature finely worked silver plates, tureens, salt cellars, and other pieces of tableware. The juxtaposition of these individual works with the complete centerpiece will illustrate the evolution of the Valadier workshop. While the earliest pieces presented are distinctly in the Baroque style, Valadier’s work becomes more refined in the Rococo style, before becoming neoclassical by the late-eighteenth century. The monochrome silver objects will be contrasted with polychrome works in gilt-bronze, marble, and precious stones, such as the Egyptian clock, a table from Villa Borghese, and extraordinary mounts for two antique cameos once in the Vatican collections and now at the Musée du Louvre.

One section of the exhibition will be devoted to reproductions in bronze of famous antique sculptures in Roman collections, such as the Apollo Belvedere and the Ares Ludovisi.

Luigi Valadier: Splendor in Eighteenth-Century Rome is co-curated by Professor Alvar González-Palacios, considered the world’s authority on Valadier, and Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator of The Frick Collection. It is part of a series of monographic exhibitions that focus on remarkable decorative arts artists and follows the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court, organized by the Frick, where it was on view in fall 2016 before traveling to the Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris, in spring 2017.

Accompanying the exhibition will be the first complete monograph on Luigi Valadier. Written by González-Palacios, the book will shed new light on the provenance and dating of some works. It also identifies the exact roles performed inside the workshop by Andrea, Luigi, and Giuseppe Valadier, tracing the genesis of inventions and the authorship of models. The monograph also details the Valadier family’s collaborations with other workshops and artists. Typically, works in various materials such as bronze, marble, and precious stones were realized not by one person but by many artisans working together. The decoration of both sacred and private buildings likewise involved outside artisans and architects. This will be the only comprehensive publication on Valadier in English and, lavishly illustrated, it will feature much-needed new photography.

Together, the monograph and exhibition at the Frick will reconstruct the artistic endeavors of one of the most important silversmith families, shedding new light on the cultural life of Rome and, more broadly, Europe, during the eighteenth century. Following the presentation of this show in New York, a related exhibition will be on view later in 2019 at the Galleria Borghese, Rome.