AWA’s Conservation of Ferroni’s Pair of Hospital Paintings

Posted in the 18th century in the news, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on January 4, 2021

An aerial view of conservators in their studio with Saint John of God Heals Plague Victims (1756) by Violante Ferroni; its pendant Saint John of God Feeds the Poor is also being conserved. Photo by Francesco Cacchiani / Advancing Women Artists.

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On Saturday, Sylvia Poggioli reported for NPR on the work of AWA (Advancing Women Artists), including the conservation now in progress of Violante Ferroni’s two large oval canvases, painted for Florence’s San Giovanni di Dio, a former hospital founded in the fourteenth century: “‘Where Are The Women?’: Uncovering The Lost Works of Female Renaissance Artists,” NPR Weekend Edition (2 January 2021). Last month, Alexandra Kiely wrote on Ferroni’s pictures for Daily Art Magazine: “Healing Violante Ferroni’s Paintings at San Giovanni di Dio Hospital.” And the latest issue of the AWA newsletter includes an interview with conservator Elizabeth Wicks, who in the May issue shared these thoughts:

Elizabeth Wicks, “‘The Art of Healing’ Becomes Literal” Inside AWA (May 2020): 54–59.

In October 2019, we began conservation work on the first painting of our project ‘The Art of Healing’, Violante Ferroni’s large oval canvas painted in 1756 and entitled St. John of God Heals Victims of the Plague. . . When we learned that the monumental atrium of the former hospital where the painting is situated had been used as a place of triage for plague victims, it seemed like a calamity from a faraway era, disconnected from our more fortunate present-day lives. Now that we are fighting a global war against a virus, defined as a ‘modern-day plague’, my connection to the figures in the painting has become a deeply emotional one. I have never been surer about the power of art to connect and heal us all (54).

A conversation with AWA director Linda Falcone and Elisabeth Wicks is available on YouTube: “Restoration Conversations: Art Rescue in Progress” The Florentine (13 November 2020).

Conservator Elisabeth Wicks at work in her studio in Florence. Photo by Francesco Cacchiani / AWA 

Xavier Salomon on Clodion’s Dance of Time

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning, teaching resources by Editor on January 1, 2021

The Dance of Time, Three Nymphs Supporting a Clock, movement by Jean-Baptiste Lepaute, sculpture by Claude Michel Clodion, 1788, terracotta, gilt brass, and glass, H.: 41 inches (New York: The Frick Collection, bequest of Winthrop Kellogg Edey) Photo: Michael Bodycomb.

A very Happy New Year to all of you! I should have posted news of this brief talk earlier, but it will be available on YouTube whenever you might have the time and inclination to watch. I also point out the series more generally for those of you always looking for teaching resources. Past installments (typically 20 minutes) address paintings by Gainsborough, Stubbs, Romney, Tiepolo, Boucher, and Chardin, along with extraordinary decorative arts objects (and plenty of works beyond the eighteenth century). CH

Xavier Salomon on Clodion’s Dance of Time
YouTube, 1 January 2021, 5pm (EST)

This week’s episode of Cocktails with a Curator toasts the new year with Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon as he examines a masterpiece of both sculpture and clockmaking: The Dance of Time, by Clodion (Claude Michel) and Jean-Baptiste Lepaute. In this 18th-century timepiece, three terracotta nymphs or Hours dance in a circle around an exquisite mechanism enclosed in a glass globe. The Frick has one of the country’s most important collections of clocks, many of which came to the museum through a gift from Winthrop Kellogg Edey. Welcome 2021 by raising a Metropolitan cocktail—Happy New Year!

New Book | Marking Time

Posted in books by Editor on December 31, 2020

From Yale UP:

Edward Town and Angela McShane, eds., with essays by Glenn Adamson, Justin Brown, Edward Cooke, Gavi Levy Haskell, Nathan Flis, Angela McShane, and Keith Wrightson, Marking Time: Objects, People, and Their Lives, 1500–1800 (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2020), 512 pages, ISBN: 978-0300254105, $65.

The period from 1500 to 1800 brought extraordinary transformations to the society of Britain and the lives of those within its colonial reach. Many of these changes—on both a societal and individual level—centered on how time was sensed, measured, and understood. This engaging volume explores these various relationships with time through a remarkably diverse collection of objects, each of which is inscribed with a specific date. The dates mark significant events in the lives of these objects and the people who made and owned them. From posy rings to pastry jiggers, teapots to tape measures, these more than 450 objects—and the stories they tell—offer a vivid sense of the lived experience of time, while providing a rich survey of the material world of early modern Britain. Small, humble, but often surprisingly moving and poignant, the objects in this book show that the things we live with say a great deal about who we are and how we make our marks in time.

Edward Town is head of collections information and access and assistant curator of early modern art at the Yale Center for British Art. Angela McShane is head of research development, the Wellcome Collection, London.

New Book | Portraiture and Friendship in Enlightenment France

Posted in books by Editor on December 28, 2020

Distributed by the University of Virginia Press:

Jessica Fripp, Portraiture and Friendship in Enlightenment France (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2021), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1644532027 (ebook), $70 / ISBN: 978-1644532010 (cloth), $70.

Portraiture and Friendship in Enlightenment France examines how new and often contradictory ideas about friendship were enacted in the lives of artists in the eighteenth century. It demonstrates that portraits resulted from and generated new ideas about friendship by analyzing the creation, exchange, and display of portraits alongside discussions of friendship in philosophical and academic discourse, exhibition criticism, personal diaries, and correspondence. This study provides a deeper understanding of how artists took advantage of changing conceptions of social relationships and used portraiture to make visible new ideas about friendship that were driven by Enlightenment thought.

Jessica L. Fripp is Assistant Professor of Art History at Texas Christian University.


List of Illustrations

1  Friendship in the Academy
2  Celebrating Celebrity
3  Re-Evaluating Rivalry
4  Friendship Abroad


Exhibition | Beethoven Moves

Posted in anniversaries, books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 27, 2020

Installation view of the exhibition Beethoven Moves, with John Baldessari’s Beethoven’s Trumpet (with Ear) Opus #132, 2007, resin, fiberglass, bronze, aluminum, electronics. Photo by Mark Niedermann for Tom Postma Design.

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Press release, via Art Daily (26 December 2020) for the exhibition:

Beethoven Moves / Beethoven Bewegt
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 29 September 2020 — 24 January 2021

Curated by Andreas Kugler, Jasper Sharp, Stefan Weppelmann, and Andreas Zimmerman

The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, in cooperation with the Archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, presents Beethoven Moves, an unusual homage to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), the great representative of the First Viennese School. Beethoven’s popularity remains unbroken, even 250 years after his birth. Beyond the music, his humanistic messages have influenced the history of art and culture. His early deafness shaped his image as a tragic genius.

Beethoven’s universal and unique reception, the epochal significance of his music, and the perception of his deified persona create numerous points of entry. High and popular culture, commerce, and politics all form an inexhaustible reserve of inspiration and appropriation. The exhibition brings together paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, sketchbooks by William Turner, graphic works by Francisco de Goya, Anselm Kiefer and Jorinde Voigt, sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Rebecca Horn and John Baldessari, a video by Guido van der Werve, and a new work developed for the exhibition by Tino Sehgal—all of which are brought into dialogue with the music and persona of Beethoven. The exhibition thus provides a poetic reflection of the composer and his work, as masterpieces of fine art form connections with music and silence.

The elaborately staged exhibition does not present any artworks from the Kunsthistorisches Museum collection. However, it is shown in the Picture Gallery in the context of the art and culture of many centuries, hundreds of works that precede Beethoven’s lifetime and in some ways also lead up to it.

Beethoven is one of the great influential figures in the history of music and culture, not only in Vienna but also internationally. As the largest museum in Austria, the Kunsthistorisches Museum addresses the anniversary of his 250th birthday. Museums are treasure houses, part of the cultural consciousness and tourist magnets; but beyond that, they are also discursive spaces for reflection and confrontation, laboratories for fantasy and the connection of ideas. These aspects become particularly clear in this exhibition project curated by Andreas Kugler, Jasper Sharp, Stefan Weppelmann, and Andreas Zimmerman.

The sequence of rooms in the exhibition relates to Beethoven’s life only in a very general sense. Divided according to themes, they are conceived as a series of tableaux, each based on distinct compositional principles. Indeed, the interplay between the various architectural settings is rather like that between the movements of an orchestral work. And this diversity in the rooms is matched by the variety of the listening experiences on offer, the media of the artworks, and the approaches taken by the artists. Accordingly, visitors will not find any directions telling them how they should move through each room. For a true experience of Beethoven depends on paying heed to one’s inner voice—as when listening to music in general. As we strive to emotionally relive the relations between music, words, imagery, and movement, we should just let our body find its place within the surrounding space. Beethoven Moves is thus intended as an invitation to enter into a very personal encounter with the great composer.

In Room 1 Beethoven’s powerful music immediately captures the imagination of visitors to the exhibition: they hear two of the piano sonatas written by the composer, himself an accomplished concert pianist until he lost his hearing: the Waldstein Sonata (C major, op. 53) and his final Piano Sonata in C minor, op. 111. Beethoven’s original autographs of these compositions are also on show. All of Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas are present in this room, albeit in two very different artworks; in her thirty-two complex drawings, Jorinde Voigt analyzes Beethoven’s compositions, while Idris Khan’s monumental work compiles the scores of all his piano sonatas to create a menacing block-like structure. In the centre of the room, two more contrary sculptures have entered into an equivocal dialogue: Auguste Rodin’s human figure (The Bronze Age in plaster) and Rebecca Horn’s enigmatic grand piano (Concert for Anarchy). The composer’s character, too, was contradictory and highly complex, something that clearly functioned as a source of his creativity: his temperament allowed him to produce works that continue to move people from all parts of the world.

Room 2 is dedicated to silence and stillness, Beethoven’s increasing hearing loss and the associated pain, isolation and reflectiveness. However, we also learn about his admirable ability not to resign himself to his fate but through his art to triumph over his affliction. Los Caprichos, the engravings by Francisco de Goya (1746–1828)—another great artist who lost his hearing—are like pictorial equivalents of the inner fragmentation experienced by the ailing Beethoven. Strictly speaking, all that remains of Beethoven’s thoughts and his art are pages covered with scores and words. Other objects can only serve a superficial cult of remembrance, things like his ear trumpet or a piece of the parquet floor from the house in which he died in 1827. This plain surface, however, also resembles a stage, reminding us that Beethoven and his music have been used for the most varied ends.

To this day, his personality and oeuvre continue to be reinterpreted in politics and propaganda; some worship Beethoven as a revolutionary innovator while for others he is a genius in whose reflected glory nationalist mindsets of all kinds may bask. A work by Anselm Kiefer bears witness to the fact that cultural achievements are still prone to be injected with political content. The reception of Beethoven ranges from the banning of his music to the numerous quotations from his works in popular culture.

In Room 3 we look at Beethoven and his attitude towards nature, which for him was a source of inspiration and strength, offering an escape from his cramped lodgings and the freedom of long country walks regardless of the weather. He would often stop abruptly to jot down some musical idea in one of the sketchbooks he always carried in his pocket. In this room, the colour tones of Caspar David Friedrich and William Turner engage with Beethoven’s tonal colours. They all belong to a generation who witnessed the French Revolution, a radical new awakening whose promises and hopes were quickly scotched by the subsequent Restoration period.

Two symphonies can be heard in this room, both of which are linked in contrasting ways to Napoleon. Beethoven’s anger at Napoleon crowning himself Emperor of the French in 1804 led the composer to scratch out Bonaparte’s name from the title page of his Third Symphony (Eroica). His Seventh Symphony premiered in 1813, just a few weeks after the Battle of Leipzig in which the allied armies of Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Sweden had decisively defeated the emperor. Contemporaries often associated Napoleon with the mythical Prometheus, and Beethoven too was frequently linked with the titan who brought fire to mankind. Prometheus is very much present in a painting by Jan Cossiers, but Guido van der Werve’s video can be read as a complementary reflection of this figure prepared to take a high risk to liberate man: it is the artist himself who walks towards us across the ice, a huge icebreaker in his wake. Threatened with failure, his solitary and heroic actions nonetheless bring forth beauty.

Room 4 brings us full circle to individual, personal encounters with Beethoven. A new work by Tino Seghal, created especially for this exhibition, is permanently installed and on show in this room.

Andreas Kugler, ed., Beethoven Moves (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2020), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-3775747493 (Engish edition), $55.

New Book | Practical Form

Posted in books by Editor on December 26, 2020

From Yale UP:

Abigail Zitin, Practical Form: Abstraction, Technique, and Beauty in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), 248 pages, ISBN: 978-0300244564, $65.

In this original work, Abigail Zitin proposes a new history of the development of form as a concept in and for aesthetics. Her account substitutes women and artisans for the proverbial man of taste, asserting them as central figures in the rise of aesthetics as a field of philosophical inquiry in eighteenth-century Europe. She shows how the idea of formal abstraction so central to conceptions of beauty in this period emerges from the way practitioners think about craft and skill across the domestic, industrial, and so-called high arts. Zitin elegantly maps the complex connections among aesthetics, form, and formalism, drawing out the understated presence of practice in the writings of major eighteenth-century thinkers including Locke, Addison, Burke, and Kant. This new take on an old story ultimately challenges readers to reconsider form and why it matters.

Abigail Zitin is associate professor of English at Rutgers University.


Author’s Note

1  ‘A Rough Unsightly Sketch’: Empiricism and the Sense of Form
2  The Figure of Practice
The Analysis of Beauty, I: Practical Formalism
The Analysis of Beauty, II: The Feminist Formalism
5  Making Art in the Third Critique


Exhibition | Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 25, 2020

The Ascension of Christ, detail, late 18th–early 19th century, Mexico, oil on canvas with metal milagros (Dallas Museum of Art, The Cleofas and Celia de la Garza Collection, 1994.37.6).

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From the DMA:

Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico
Dallas Museum of Art, 21 February 2021 — 22 January 2022

Historically, as well as in the present day, depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and numerous saints and other figures have played a vital role in the ceremony and pageantry of Catholicism, acting as visual representations of beliefs and ideas, and serving as a focal point for devotion and prayer. Devoted: Art and Spirituality in Mexico and New Mexico features devotional works drawn from the DMA’s Latin American collection, exploring interrelated artistic traditions in the two regions. The exhibition spotlights the complexity and artistic qualities of these objects, which embody the active spiritual relationship between their creators, patrons, and communities.


Notre Dame’s Snite Museum Awarded Lilly Grant

Posted in museums by Editor on December 24, 2020

Press release (18 December 2020) from the Snite:

Anonymous, Nuestra Senõra de Guadalupe, 1729, Mexico, oil on canvas (South Bend: Snite Museum, 2002.01).

The University of Notre Dame has received a five-year, $2.4 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative to implement Inspiring Wonder: An Initiative on Religion, Spirituality, and Faith in the Visual Arts. Designed to invite diverse audiences into meaningful conversation, Inspiring Wonder will significantly advance the Snite Museum’s efforts to deepen its constituencies’ understanding of religion, spirituality, and faith in a deliberate and mission-driven way. Notre Dame is one of 18 organizations from across the United States receiving grants through the Lilly Endowment initiative. The group includes fine arts museums, historical societies and history museums, museums dedicated to serving children and families, and museums dedicated to particular locations and cultures.

“On behalf of the entire museum, I express our deepest gratitude to Lilly Endowment and their
Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative,” said Joseph Becherer, director of the Snite Museum. “Such generosity is a profound investment in the future of the museum and countless lives that will be touched through education and programming. More than just faith in the future good work of this museum and University, this grant is a commitment to regional and national audiences through a deepened appreciation of and enlightenment through art that we can uniquely provide.”

The primary project component is the Museum Education Fellowship in Religion and Spirituality in the Visual Arts. The endowed, two-year fellowship will allow for the creation of innovative programming around religion and spirituality, and will help train the next generation of museum professionals and bring their fresh perspectives about museum education into the Inspiring Wonder initiative. This grant-funded work at the Snite Museum includes the development of two major thematic exhibitions, course development, research mini-grants, academic symposia, and strategic acquisitions during the grant period.

Lilly Endowment awarded grants totaling more than $43 million through the initiative. These grants will enable the organizations to develop exhibitions and education programs that fairly and accurately portray the role of religion in the U.S. and around the world. The initiative is designed to foster public understanding about religion and lift up the contributions that people of all faiths and diverse religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.

“Museums and cultural institutions are trusted organizations and play an important role in teaching the American public about the world around them,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These organizations will use the grants to help visitors understand and appreciate the significant impact religion has had and continues to have on society in the United States and around the globe. Our hope is that these efforts will promote greater knowledge about and respect for people of diverse religious traditions.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative in 2019 and awarded planning grants to organizations to help them explore how programming in religion could further their institutional missions. These grants will assist organizations in implementing projects that draw on their extensive collections and enhance and complement their current activities.

“The Snite was founded on the principle that art is essential to understanding human experiences and beliefs. To that end, it is committed to providing its patrons with opportunities to engage in informed dialogue with scholars, artists, and each other—or simply to spend time in silent communion with art,” Becherer said. “These efforts soon will be enhanced by the construction of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art at Notre Dame, which is designed to be more community-facing and will have an active chapel at its heart. This is therefore an opportune moment for the museum to take a bold step forward in deepening its mission as a leader in engagement and education around art and religion, both on campus and in the broader region.”

New Book | Courtly Companions: Pugs and Other Dogs

Posted in books by Editor on December 23, 2020

From ACC Art Books:

Gun-Dagmar Helke and Hela Schandelmaier, Courtly Companions: Pugs and Other Dogs in Porcelain and Faience / Höfische Begleiter: Möpse und andere Hunde in Porzellan und Fayence (Stuttgart: Arnoldsche, 2020), 200 pages, ISBN: 978-3897906006, $85.

In the 18th century pugs found their way onto the laps of noblewomen and, with this, into the portraits of contemporary rulers. Small and forever panting, the pug could not be put to use as a watchdog or a herding dog, but it compensated for this with its charm. The dog ultimately found its way onto porcelain and faience. Johann Joachim Kändler, the most significant modeler of the Meissen porcelain manufactory, designed over 60 variants of the pug between 1740 and 1760—standing, lying, scratching, and performing tricks. Kändler portrayed the pug belonging to Count Heinrich von Brühl in a splendid one-off, but he also produced models for serial production.

This southern German collection comprises over 150 ceramic pugs as well as other dogs. Moreover, they do not just appear individually; they may also be part of a courtly scene or decorate wares in the gallant style—accessories such as flacons, (snuff) boxes, and walking-stick handles. Text in English and German.

New Galleries of American Art to Open in Philadelphia

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 22, 2020

Looking ahead to next year at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

New Galleries of American Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art, opening early 2021

A major re-installation devoted to the presentation of the museum’s extensive holdings of American Art spanning 1650 through 1840 will inaugurate the museum’s new 10,000 square foot suite of galleries for American Art, a distinctive feature of Frank Gehry’s Core Project of the Facilities Master Plan, which also includes new galleries for Contemporary Art, together adding more than 20,000 square feet of gallery space within the museum’s footprint.

Coffeepot, 1750–53, made by Philip Syng, Jr. (1703–1789) for Joseph Galloway (1731–1803), silver with wood handle, 12 inches high (Philadelphia Museum of Art, purchased with the John D. McIlhenny Fund, 1966).

The opening of these galleries in early 2021 will represent the first major expansion and reinterpretation of the museum’s renowned collection of American Art in over 40 years. Arranged chronologically and thematically, this new installation will showcase the rich diversity of cultures and creative traditions that contributed to the formation of early American artworks. New interpretations of this collection explore the artistic ties linking the Americas to Asia; the role of enslavement in the production and financing of art throughout the period; Philadelphia’s role as an influential cultural capital; and the stories and works of Black, women, and Indigenous artists, promoting the museum’s vision to bring the collection to life and advancing scholarship in the field.

The galleries begin by exploring how trade and colonization forcibly brought together Indigenous people, Europeans, and Africans, creating new cultures in the Americas. The first gallery contrasts the English Quaker culture of William Penn’s colony, as an outpost of the British empire, to the cultural traditions of the Lenape people in the Delaware Valley and the Spanish viceroyalty in Mexico. Another gallery explores how global connections were made and shaped by a network of trade that linked the Western hemisphere to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Further in, a gallery shows how some American artists developed a visual language based on the traditions of their European homelands. This gallery introduces painters John Singleton Copley, Charles Willson Peale, and Benjamin West, who demonstrated ambition, originality, and persistence in rising to international stature from provincial roots.

One gallery compares and contrasts the English and German cultures that thrived in both Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania environs. Special displays highlight groups of miniatures, fraktur, and textiles to evoke the diversity and richness of domestic life.

Charles Willson Peale, Portrait of Yarrow Mamout (Muhammad Yaro), 1819, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2011-87-1).

The museum’s collection of the work of the Peale family—the most comprehensive in the country—includes a remarkable series of family portraits and representative works by America’s earliest professional women painters. The story of the Peale Museum, the country’s first public collection of art and natural history, will be told in portrait and still-life paintings and in cut silhouettes made by Moses Williams, an artist enslaved by the Peales.

One gallery explores Philadelphia’s role as the capitol of the new nation from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia led the country not only politically, but also through contributions to the development of a new and distinctively American sense of artistic style. Described as the Athens of America, the city reinterpreted the ancient classical past in its architecture and arts, drawing upon the legacy of democratic Greece and republican Rome to create a compelling visual language representative of the aspirations of the new nation.

Presidential China from 1780 to 1980 is displayed in new and beautifully-lit casework. Made for and used by United States presidents from George Washington to Ronald Reagan, the museum’s collection illustrates changes in national symbolism, the role of the presidency, and different modes of dining across three centuries.

The re-installation also addresses transformational changes beginning in the 19th century sparked by territorial expansion (and subsequent Indigenous displacement) industrialization and immigration. Serving this spirit of national ambition, a robust style of late classicism shaped the decorative arts, while technological developments made affordable production possible on a large scale. Philadelphia, with the largest free Black community in the country, was home to many Black artists. The natural world, seen as emblematic of American promise, sparked a new landscape tradition in Philadelphia in work by Thomas Doughty and Thomas Cole, fathers of the Hudson River School. The last section explores how European cultural traditions took on new forms in the young United States, especially through works created by the Pennsylvania Germans from about 1800 through 1850. On view will also be Edward Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom, with its depiction of Penn’s treaty with the Indians, which revisits the mythology of Pennsylvania’s founding.

The reinstallation was planned by a cross-departmental curatorial team that has worked closely on the selection of works and contemporary understanding.

Curatorial Team
Kathleen A. Foster, Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art; Director, Center for American Art; David Barquist, Curator of American Decorative Arts; Alexandra Kirtley, The Montgomery-Garvan Curator of American Decorative Arts; Carol Soltis, Project Associate Curator; John Vick, Collections Project Manager; Rosalie Hooper, Collections Interpreter and Project Curatorial Assistant; with Jessica Todd Smith, Susan Gray Detweiler Curator of American Art and Manager of the Center for American Art; Elisabeth Agro, The Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts.