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Browse Recent Book Reviews

Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu, eds.
Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. 408 pp.; 20 color ills.; 42 b/w ills. Paper $27.95 (9780822355410)
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March 26, 2015

The affective turn in the humanities and social sciences has only very recently started to have an impact on writing about photography. To date, the main books published on the topic are: Barbie Zelizer’s About to Die: How News Images Move the Public (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Suzie Linfield’s The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2010) (click here for review); Sharon Sliwinski’s Human Rights in Camera (Chicago: Chicago University...

Elizabeth Hill Boone and Gary Urton, eds.
Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Symposia and Colloquia. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oakes Research Library and Collection, 2012. 422 pp.; 55 color ills.; 136 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (9780884023685)
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March 19, 2015

Their Way of Writing is the material record of “Scripts, Signs, and Notational Systems in Pre-Columbian America,” a symposium held at Dumbarton Oaks in October 2008. Framing contributions by symposiarchs Gary Urton (chapter 1) and Elizabeth Hill Boone (chapter 15) contain thirteen case studies from both Mesoamerica (chapters 2–9) and the Andes (chapters 10–14). Accompanied by black-and-white and color illustrations—including several never-before-published images from the Andes—these contributions vary widely in their level of legibility to...

Marcia Pointon
London: Reaktion Books, 2013. 272 pp.; 45 color ills.; 55 b/w ills. Cloth $40.00 (9781780230412)
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March 19, 2015

Marcia Pointon’s scholarship over the past three decades on eighteenth-century British portraiture has shaped art-historical understanding of the genre in that period. Her most recent publication, Portrayal and the Search for Identity, compiles five essays that return to the topic while also examining materials across a wide chronological and geographic span. Defining portraiture as “a tool that makes possible the registering of identity in relation to the social” (11), Pointon’s essays strongly move to sever...

Esra Akcan
Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. 408 pp.; 143 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (9780822353089)
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March 12, 2015

Esra Akcan’s new book on architecture, housing, and the exchange of ideas between Germany and Turkey after the foundation in 1923 of the Turkish Republic is an important addition to the growing body of literature on modern architecture in the late Ottoman and early Turkish states. With the groundbreaking work of Zeynep Çelik followed by significant newer studies by Sibel Bozdoğan, among others, the analysis of Turkish architecture has taken a more prominent role in...

Jeanette Favrot Peterson
Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014. 348 pp.; 142 color ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780292737754)
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March 12, 2015

In 1751, New Spain’s most famous painter, Miguel Cabrera, was given unusual access to the enormously popular Virgin of Guadalupe icon. By this point, devotees near and far had little doubt that the image in the Tepeyac sanctuary was divinely made, miraculously imprinted on the cloak (tilma) of a humble Indian in the first decade after the conquest. After meticulous examination, scientific analysis, and devotional considerations, Cabrera acknowledged the holy tilma’s incorruptible brilliance—the image’s divine...

Mio Wakita
Berlin: Reimer, 2013. 206 pp.; 58 color ills.; 63 b/w ills. Paper € 49.00 (9783496014676)
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March 12, 2015

Kusakabe Kimbei was a purveyor of early Japanese souvenir photography, a genre often called Yokohama photography due to the key role that city played as a destination for Western travelers. There have been a number of articles and books on the subject published in the last decade, primarily addressing the Western photographers who dominated this market in the 1860s and 1870s, such as Felice Beato and Baron Raimund von Stillfried. However, by the late 1880s,...

Jennifer A. Greenhill
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. 256 pp.; 11 color ills.; 61 b/w ills. Cloth $49.95 (9780520272453)
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March 5, 2015

Jennifer A. Greenhill’s Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age offers most everything one could wish from a scholarly monograph: discerning judgment, telling anecdotes, historical insights grounded in close visual and intertextual analysis. In describing ways in which late nineteenth-century artists as different as Winslow Homer, Enoch Wood Perry, William Holbrook Beard, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and John Haberle managed to produce serious art while catering to a “growing public appetite for humor” (2),...

David R. Marshall, ed.
Melbourne Art Journal 13. Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2014. 264 pp.; 379 ills. Paper € 128.00 (9788891306661)
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February 26, 2015

Scholarly literature on the architectural monuments and urban infrastructure of early modern Rome abounds. What distinguishes this collection of essays is its focus on overlooked sites, e.g., the fish market rather than the Trevi Fountain, the ill-formed piazza in front of the Palazzo Zuccari rather than the Piazza del Popolo. The objective, as editor David R. Marshall puts it simply, is to study the sites and sights of Rome, its places (as distinct from its...

Karl Kusserow, ed.
New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. 424 pp.; 203 ills. Cloth $60.00 (9780231123587)

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February 26, 2015

This multi-author, multi-century account of the evolution of the portrait collection of the New York Chamber of Commerce arrives at an opportune moment. As lead author Karl Kusserow notes at the outset of his introduction, the financial scandals and crises that have defined much of the current century make this volume a timely consideration of how business elites articulate and consolidate identities public and private, and how they address “the predicament of portraying power in...

David Rijser
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012. 512 pp.; 40 color ills. Paper $47.50 (9789089643421)
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February 19, 2015

How “literate” was Raphael’s art? This question stands at the core of David Rijser’s Raphael’s Poetics, an ambitious study dedicated to the polymorphic relation—as the subtitle goes—between art and poetry in High Renaissance Rome. Divided into four chapters, each devoted to a major work by Raphael, and accompanied by a methodological interlude (surprisingly situated toward the end), the book is a partially revised version of a doctoral dissertation submitted to the Institute for Culture and...