Current & Coming | By Barrymore Laurence Scherer

About books

September 8, 2014  |  History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000, ed. Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber (Bard Graduate Center and Yale University Press). 698 pp., color and b/w illus.

Books about design history abound, but this one may be the first to embrace both Western and Eastern design over the course of six centuries. The discussions address virtually every expected subject: furniture, textiles and costume, glass and ceramics, metalwork, and product design. But the book goes beyond these to include interior design, landscape and garden design, and even stage and film design.

 The work of twenty-seven contributors, the volume is cogently arranged in four chronological sections. Within each section separate chapters discuss the development of design in its major global regions: East Asia, India, the Islamic world, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Literally hundreds of objects are depicted and examined within their historical and social context. We also witness the interpla…» More

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Current & Coming | By Rose Birnbaum

Two military portraits: El Greco and Pulzone

August 25, 2014  |  Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending one of the Frick Collection's "Summer Nights," a series that offers free after-hours admission and a number of activities centered on a single exhibition--lectures and live music among them. This particular evening was focused on Men in Armor: El Greco and Pulzone Face to Face, an exhibition with just two paintings. Jeongho Park, the show's guest curator, was on hand to give a gallery talk and take questions from the crowd. Also on the program, Celil Refik Kaya, a young guitarist from Mannes College of Music, wooed guests with music evocative of sixteenth-century Spain.

El Greco's Vincenzo Anastagi (Fig. 1) and Scipione Pulzone's Jacopo Boncompagni (Fig. 2) were contemporary works, the former dating to circa 1575 and the latter from 1574. Indeed, it is likely that El Greco saw the Boncompagni portrait whilst gathering inspiration for his own commission. Although it is not known whether El Greco and Pulzone were rivals, the exhibiti…» More

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Current & Coming | By Carolin C. Young

Farther afield: Highclere Castle: The real Downton Abbey

August 20, 2014  |  

The staggering luxury of Downtown Abbey's turreted house and lush grounds have mesmerized audiences as much as any of the adventures of the Crawley family and their staff

The real Downton Abbey is Highclere Castle, located in Berkshire at a crossroads between Winchester and Oxford, Bristol and London. The property's thousand acres of parklands include the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, and the current house stands on foundations that for roughly eight hundred years held up the palace of the bishops of Winchester.

Since 1679 the property has belonged to the Herbert family. Henry Herbert (1741-1811), a grandson of the eighth Earl of Pembroke, inherited the estate from an uncle in 1769 and shortly afterwards commis­sioned Lancelot "Capability" Brown (1716-1783) to redesign the gardens, a project that included moving an extant folly and creat­ing new ones.

In 1793 Herbert was granted the hereditary title o…» More

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Current & Coming | By James Gardner

Smelling the flowers: A closer look at permanent collections

August 12, 2014  |  In this, the quietest season of the year for the New York art world, when most of the commercial galleries are shuttered and the museums have been abandoned to the tourists, it behooves the critic to slow down for a few weeks and smell the flowers. By that I mean returning to the permanent collections and observing the recent addition of several significant objects. I refer in specific to two seventeenth-century paintings that have just entered the collections of the Metropolitan Museum: Saint Francis in Ecstasy by the Genoese master Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and The Sacrifice of Polyxena by Charles Le Brun.

These are not exactly blockbuster acquisitions and have not even been done the honor of a press release. Rather, when no one was looking, they quietly appeared out of nowhere, assuming their places among the immortals of the collection. One will not love the Old Master tradition because of these two works: rather one will love these two works because they form part o…» More

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Current & Coming | By James Gardner

Current and coming: Books at the Morgan

July 30, 2014  |  Whatever my other sins might be, envy is not usually among them. And yet, I recently felt that unwelcome emotion as I leafed through a coffee table book devoted to, of all things, the private library of Carl Gustav Jung. To turn from those rows of solemn volumes to the calamitous misalliance of dust jackets and trade paperbacks that make up my library was to form no very flattering notion of the modern book business. What was so charming about Jung's collection was that, in addition to its sixteenth- and seventeenth-century volumes, it was made up chiefly of those austerely elegant German, French, and English editions that formed the bedrock of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century publishing.

As it happens, my own library may resemble Jung's a little more than do most of my contemporaries': for reasons of predilection and economy, I have been acquiring old books from the earliest moment when I had the money to do so. In younger years I haunted New York's great and ve…» More

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NYG 2013

by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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