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Browse Recent Book Reviews

Richard Shiff, Robert Storr, and Arthur C. Danto, eds.
Phaidon, 1999. 332 pp.; 200 color ills.; 30 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (0714838195)
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June 22, 2001

With Robert Mangold, I enjoyed thinking about what autonomous art might entail. Beyond the routine social constructionist dismissals of this possibility, it obligates considerations more complex than an "Against Interpretation" kind of appeal to raw experience. With their internal sequences rooted in physical reality and construction details, Mangold’s paintings provide objective criteria by which to evaluate them. These criteria count for more than any individual interpretation of them. Such an aesthetic autonomy would require that...

Susan Sidlauskas
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 230 pp.; 8 color ills.; 56 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521770246)
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June 22, 2001

In the introduction to Body, Place, and Self in Nineteenth-Century Painting, Susan Sidlauskas asks the following question about the four paintings she examines in her book: "What material and theoretical conditions—of making and spectatorship—made these works possible?" (2). This is an important query, and not just because it acknowledges both the artist’s and the beholder’s share in the production of meaning. What Sidlauskas suggests is that the work of art history ought to begin with...

Malcolm Goldstein
Oxford University Press, 1999. 370 pp. Cloth (019513673X)
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June 8, 2001

The art market has become headline news: Masterpiece paintings regularly achieve prices in the tens of millions of dollars, prominent museum curators appear on television broadcasts, and glossy magazines feature New York art dealers on their covers. Various publications and exhibitions have examined certain periods in the development of the fine art market and commercial galleries in the United States, including, most notably, Linda Henefield Skalet's "The Market for American Painting in New York: 1870-1915"...

Patricia Meilman
Cambridge University Press, 1999. 260 pp.; some color ills.; many b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0521640954)
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June 6, 2001

The subject of Titian and the Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice, notwithstanding its expansive title, is Titian's celebrated Peter Martyr Altarpiece (1537-30). In spite of the painting's fiery demise in 1867, Patricia Meilman successfully reconstructs the altarpiece and its environment in the reader's mind, a project facilitated by her clarity of purpose to re-secure the work's artistic importance. The author furnishes a close study of the religious context, sources, and subsequent critical and artistic significance of...

John Crook
Oxford University Press, 1999. 308 pp.; 111 b/w ills. Cloth $85.00 (0198207948)
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May 28, 2001

John Crook's study, The Architectural Setting of the Cult of the Saints in the Early Christian West c. 300-1200, represents a remarkable synthesis of more than a decade of research spent in pursuit of a laudably ambitious goal: to provide an overview of the architectural setting of the cult of the saints in the West between the beginnings of the cult and 1200. Given the many factors that complicate the project, the results are much...

Vidya Dehejia, ed.
Munich: Prestel, 2000. 2 pp.; 215 ills. Cloth $80.00 (379132408X)
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Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, December 3, 2000-March 25, 2001.
May 25, 2001

As any bibliophile knows, art books can be both purveyors of information about objects and objects of beauty themselves. This is certainly the case with the exquisite catalogue created for the recent exhibition on early photographs of India held at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, DC. India through the Lens: Photography 1840-1911, edited by Vidya Dehejia, has a carefully coordinated aesthetic appeal—from the fold-out pages revealing the protracted splendor of panoramic photographs...

Christine M. Boeckl
Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 1999. 210 pp.; 45 b/w ills. Paper $30.00 (094354985X)
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May 22, 2001

Christine Boeckl's Images of Plague and Pestilence: Iconography and Iconology is a concise overview of the visual and literary history of cultural responses to pestilential epidemics. In this study, Boeckl draws on her extensive knowledge of the scholarly literature on plague—pioneered by Jacqueline Brossollet and Henri Mollaret—and to which she has contributed several significant articles since completing her dissertation in 1990. Thus, the book draws on Boeckl's familiarity with the symptoms of the plague, its...

Evan M. Maurer and Niangi Batulukisi
Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts in association with University of Minnesota Press, 1998. 154 pp.; 76 color ills.; 79 b/w ills. Paper $34.95 (0816636559)
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The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, October 1, 1999-July 2, 2000.
May 20, 2001

Spirits Embodied: Art of the Congo; Selections from the Helmut F. Stern Collection was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title held in 1999 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. All the works came from the Congo. Helmut Stern purchased most of them from Marc Léo Félix, the Belgian connoisseur and African art dealer. The core of the collection, twenty-two out of seventy-one pieces, formerly belonged to the late Belgian artist Joseph...

John Williams, ed.
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. 228 pp. Cloth $75.00 (0271017686)
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May 18, 2001

For much of the twentieth century, the study of medieval Bible illustration was focused on the problem of origins. In the most systematic theory of the genre, Kurt Weitzmann argued in Roll and Codex (Princeton, 1947) that the earliest biblical manuscripts followed the conventions of ancient papyrus rolls in which narrative images were embedded within narrow columns of text, providing a dense sequence of pictorial equivalents to the principal episodes of the text. Establishing a...

Mary Bergstein
Princeton University Press, 1999. 230 pp.; 164 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0691009821)
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May 15, 2001

Mary Bergstein's The Sculpture of Nanni di Banco follows in the tradition of the great monographs like Sculpture of Donatello by H.W. Janson and Lorenzo Ghiberti by Richard Krautheimer, but on a more modest scale. Although Nanni di Banco (ca. 1374-1421) accomplished only six major works in his career, he, with Brunelleschi, Ghiberti and Donatello, "self-consciously and deliberately set into motion the issues that would occupy painters, sculptors, and architects through out the fifteenth and...