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Browse Recent Book Reviews

Amy Freund
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014. 312 pp.; 43 color ills.; 58 b/w ills. Cloth $84.95 (9780271061948)
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July 23, 2015

Jacques-Louis David casts a long shadow over portraiture during the period of the French Revolution, with the stern visages and intense gestures of members of the Third Estate in The Tennis Court Oath (1792); his iconic portrayal of Jean-Paul Marat lifeless in his bath (1793); his sensitive depiction of the Dutch republican Jacobus Blauw deep in thought at his desk (1795); and eventually his grandiloquent homages to Napoleon, including his portrayal of the Emperor’s coronation...

Maia Wellington Gahtan, ed.
Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 296 pp.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $109.95 (9781409456841)
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July 23, 2015

Maia Wellington Gahtan, director of the MA program in Museum Studies at the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici, Florence, Italy, brings her professional interest in museological studies to this collection of essays, Giorgio Vasari and the Birth of the Museum. Indeed, all thirteen authors demonstrate not only a deep knowledge of Giorgio Vasari but also of art collecting in the Renaissance and the exhibition of Renaissance art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Many of the...

Elizabeth C. Childs
An Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts Book. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. 352 pp. Cloth $49.95 (9780520271739)
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July 23, 2015

Elizabeth Childs’s Vanishing Paradise: Art and Exoticism in Colonial Tahiti is several books in one: a survey of the European encounter with Tahiti from Captain Cook to the present; a focused examination of artistic (and to a lesser extent literary) representations of the island from about 1880 to 1901 (the year Paul Gauguin left Tahiti for the Marquesas and both Henry Adams and John La Farge published accounts of their visits); a critique of colonial...

Nebahat Avcıoǧlu and Emma Jones, eds.
Burlington: Ashgate, 2013. 326 pp.; 16 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth £ 70.00 (9781472410825)
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July 16, 2015

The retirement of the eminent architectural historian Deborah Howard from her position at the University of Cambridge, especially following that of Patricia Fortini Brown from Princeton University, marks a major turning point in the teaching of Venetian art and architecture in the academy. To honor Howard, recognized and admired for her rigorous, clear scholarship, as well as her kind, generous nature, some of her many students and friends have edited and contributed to this Festschrift....

Michael K. Schuessler
Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014. 240 pp.; 35 ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780816529889)
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July 9, 2015

In Foundational Arts: Mural Painting and Missionary Theater in New Spain, Michael K. Schuessler proposes that a “visible bridge” developed between theater and mural painting in the early years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. To reveal the relationship between written and visual forms of expression and to create a vocabulary and methodology for describing it, Schuessler compares mural paintings in two Augustinian monasteries in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico, to a religious play; a...

Joseph Connors and Louis A. Waldman, eds.
Cambridge, MA: Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, 2014. 440 pp. Paper $40.00 (9780674427853)
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July 9, 2015

Most of the essays contained in Bernard Berenson: Formation and Heritage, edited by Joseph Connors and Louis A. Waldman, were presented as lectures during a conference at Villa I Tatti in 2009 marking the fiftieth anniversary of Berenson’s death. As Connors both perceptively and tactfully observes in the introduction’s opening paragraph, the timing was propitious: by 2009 the “cult of personality” that had surrounded Berenson during his life had “dissipated for the most part,” and...

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Leonardo López Luján
2nd rev. ed. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2012. 468 pp. Paper $37.50 (9786071609328)
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July 9, 2015

This compact 2012 paperback edition of Escultura monumental mexica (Monumental Mexica Sculpture) is considerably smaller than the hefty—over 11 inches square, 1 5/8 inches thick—hardback first edition of 2009, yet its importance is equally “monumental.” This stems in no small part from the expertise of its coauthors, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Leonardo López Luján, two Mexican archaeologists who, over the course of over three-and-a-half decades, have helped lead the effort to recover, reconstruct, and analyze...

David Levi Strauss
New York: Aperture, 2014. 192 pp.; 25 ills. Paper $29.95 (9781597112710)
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July 2, 2015

In regards to documentary photography, the issue of responsibility—be it ethical, social, political, or a combination thereof—has been a central concern throughout its polemicized history. One could stretch that argument, along the line of memory, from the last photograph uploaded or tweeted onto the World Wide Web at precisely 00:00 tonight, to the first instances when human presence was registered on a photographic plate, as in the famous view of the Boulevard du Temple in...

Eleanor Heartney, Helaine Posner, Nancy Princenthal, and Sue Scott
New York: Prestel, 2013. 256 pp.; 185 color ills. Paper $39.95 (9783791347592)
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June 25, 2015

In the 1992 postscript to her essay “Patrilineage,” published in Art Journal the year prior, Mira Schor argued for the necessary interruption of male-dominated art history through the production of histories of and by women. “The method is really very simple,” she explained. “It will always be a man’s world unless one seeks out and values the women in it” (Mira Schor, “Patrilineage,” in Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture, Durham: Duke University Press,...

Stephen Houston
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 208 pp.; 43 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (9780300196023)
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June 25, 2015

In this absorbing yet brief book, Stephen Houston, a noted Maya epigrapher and archaeologist, seeks to map out one of the core issues of the anthropology of art—materiality—within the ancient Maya context. The volume highlights in particular native attitudes toward the spirits or energies that reside within certain materials with which the Maya fashioned their visual culture. Over three main chapters, The Life Within: Classic Maya and the Matter of Permanence outlines varied dimensions of...