Concise, critical reviews of books, exhibitions, and projects in all areas and periods of art history and visual studies

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Elmer Kolfin
Trans. Michael Hoyle. Leiden: Primavera Press, 2005. 312 pp.; 14 color ills.; 192 b/w ills. Paper $28.00 (9059970136)
The early Dutch Republic witnessed an explosive growth in the popularity of paintings and prints representing groups of handsome young men and women absorbed in social pleasantries. These “merry company” scenes, as they are often termed, characteristically show their ostentatiously attired figures occupying richly appointed interiors or elegant open-air gardens. Gathered around tables covered by freshly ironed linens and set with expensive goblets and platters, they engage in good-natured... Full Review
September 19, 2006
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Carl Brandon Strehlke
Exh. cat. University Park and Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004. 600 pp.; 130 color ills.; 700 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0271025379)
For nearly ninety years, John G. Johnson’s bequest of 1,279 objects to his native Philadelphia has counted among the city’s great treasures. For over twenty years, Carl Strehlke, adjunct curator of the collection; Mark S. Tucker, the Philadelphia Museum’s vice chairman of conservation and senior conservator of paintings; and Tucker’s extensive team have focused scrutiny on ninety-seven early Italian pictures in the Johnson Collection and another twenty among the museum’s holdings. Their work... Full Review
September 18, 2006
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Martin A. Berger
Berkeley: University of California Press 252 pp.; 79 b/w ills. $49.95 (0520244591)
The American Culture Association’s presentation of its 2006 Cawelti Book Award to Martin Berger’s Sight Unseen: Whiteness and American Visual Culture is an early indication of its deserved recognition and acclaim. This terse volume is doubly ambitious: as a groundbreaking investigation of a category of analysis mostly uncharted by the field of US art history, and as the delineation and defense of a provocative interpretive methodology that reads “artworks against the grain of their... Full Review
September 12, 2006
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Désirée G. Koslin and Janet E. Snyder, eds.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 288 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Cloth $59.95 (0312293771)
If it is historically true that “clothing makes the man,” this collection of essays determines how that dictum was enacted in the Middle Ages. Désirée Koslin and Janet Snyder have assembled a variety of articles exploring medieval fashion and dress with a truly interdisciplinary approach. The scope of the collection is broad in several ways. The essays discuss textiles and dress diachronically from the Merovingian period of the seventh century to the sixteenth century. They combine the... Full Review
September 12, 2006
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Peter Stewart
New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 350 pp.; 48 b/w ills. Cloth $135.00 (0199240949)
The title of Peter Stewart’s Statues in Roman Society subtly delineates the major premise of his innovative study: that the modern notion of sculpture hinders our ability to understand the quotidian functions of statues within Roman society. As explained in his introduction, “classical art history has generally been concerned with Roman sculpture as a kind of art, not Roman statuary as a remarkable accumulation of objects working in society” (10). Using a variety of... Full Review
September 12, 2006
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Cécile Whiting
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. 268 pp.; 20 color ills.; 77 b/w ills. Cloth (0520244605)
As Cécile Whiting acknowledges in the introduction to her recent analysis of the relationship between Los Angeles and the art produced there, a copious literature already exists addressing both the city and its art world. That said, Whiting offers a fresh approach to the subject that illuminates how diverse artists helped redefine Los Angeles in the public imagination during the 1960s. Perhaps even more important is Whiting’s methodology, which promises a broad applicability well beyond its... Full Review
September 12, 2006
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R. Tripp Evans
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004. 224 pp.; 64 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0292702477)
For many scholars, the historiography of their own fields is a late-career feat, arrived at after decades of slow rumination—George Kubler’s Aesthetic Recognition of Ancient Amerindian Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991) comes immediately to mind. This slim volume, by contrast, is the reworking of a dissertation (Yale, 1998). Its five chapters are written with vigor and freshness, and while they lack the intellectual heft of Kubler’s work (though this could be said of most... Full Review
September 11, 2006
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Maurice Cerasi, Emiliano Bugatti, and d’Agostiono Sabrina
Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2004. 154 pp.; 8 color ills.; 89 b/w ills. Paper $62.50 (3899133706)
The “Divanyolu” in Maurice Cerasi’s title refers to the main thoroughfare of Ottoman Istanbul. Cerasi uses the Divanyolu to provide a novel lens on the city. According to the author, the Divanyolu escaped the attention it deserves in existing literature because it was not perfectly axial or unitary as a throughway. It was not built for the display of monumentality or as a hub of commerce. Yet, it was central to urban culture because of its spatial character. Hence, the Divanyolu helps... Full Review
September 11, 2006
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Jeannette Shambaugh Elliott and David Shambaugh
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004. 192 pp.; 45 b/w ills. Cloth (0295985224)
The Odyssey of China’s Imperial Art Treasures is a master narrative of the political life of art objects in China, from early Shang-dynasty bronze vessels to the “remnant collections” of the last Qing emperor now belonging to the National Palace Museum in Taiwan and the Palace Museum in Beijing. While much of what Jeannette Shambaugh Elliott and David Shambaugh have to say about the relationship between art and authority is familiar, the study is the first to present an extended... Full Review
September 11, 2006
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John H. Oakley
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 296 pp.; 16 color ills.; 175 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0521820162)
This volume makes a welcome contribution to the study of Classical Athenian white lekythoi. These oil vessels, painted in polychrome on a white background, are known from more than two thousand examples produced from about 470 to 400 BCE. Used mainly as grave offerings in Athens and its territory, their function and funerary imagery link white lekythoi closely with Classical Athenian burial practice. In Picturing Death in Classical Athens, John Oakley’s concentration on the vases’ rich... Full Review
September 11, 2006
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