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

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Bruce Boucher, ed.
Exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. 314 pp.; 80 color ills.; 120 b/w ills. $75.00 (0300090803)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, TX, November 18, 2001–February 3, 2002; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, March 14, 2002–July 7, 2002
The exhibition catalogue Earth and Fire: Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova was published to accompany the exhibition of the same name. Since this reviewer was unable to visit either venue, the following comments, perforce, concentrate on the only permanent record of the show, its catalogue. The catalogue is divided into two distinct parts: six essays with separate authors that treat different aspects of the exhibition’s content, and a series of... Full Review
June 3, 2003
Joseph M. Dye III
Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2001. 599 pp.; 307 color ills.; 175 b/w ills. Cloth $75.00 (0917046609)
To write a book entitled The Arts of India must have been a labor even more daunting than to write a review of one. The Western reader might reflect on what it would be like to address “the Arts of Europe” between two covers. Admittedly this volume catalogues one museum’s collection, which might seem to require finite skills. In fact, that collection includes forms often entrusted to separate curatorial departments: stone sculpture (originally part of a building), bronze... Full Review
May 30, 2003
Charles Barber
Princeton University Press, 2002. 208 pp.; 38 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0691091773)
Charles Barber’s Figure and Likeness: On the Limits of Representation in Byzantine Iconoclasm sets out to explore Byzantine iconoclasm as primarily an art historian’s concern. The author writes: “In the course of the eighth and ninth centuries, the ideas in play around the icons and the emphases within these ideas were to change considerably. It is these changes that need to be addressed before iconoclasm can be shown to be either the cause or the effect of the shape of... Full Review
May 29, 2003
Marjorie Susan Venit
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 284 pp.; 10 color ills.; 160 b/w ills. Cloth $80.00 (0521806593)
Ancient Alexandria, in spite of its fame and importance in the Mediterranean during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, does not come into focus clearly. Even the most rewarding discussions of Alexandria leave us frustratingly aware of the gaps in the historical record (see the recent Getty symposium documented in Kenneth Hamma, ed., Alexandria and Alexandrianism [Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996]). For this reason, Marjorie Susan Venit’s new book on Alexandrian tombs... Full Review
May 29, 2003
Victor M. Schmidt, ed.
Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, 2002. 528 pp.; 24 color ills.; 369 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300094612)
In 1939, and in response to the massive Mostra Giottesca of 1938, Roberto Longhi wrote a sour, intentionally provocative piece that he curtly called his Guidizio sul Duecento, or judgment regarding the thirteenth century. In the essay, Longhi fretted that writers on medieval art had become so absorbed in establishing the authorship and origins of images that they had largely forgotten to act as responsible critics. They had thus also begun to forget that the majority of... Full Review
May 29, 2003
Carmen C. Bambach, ed.
Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2003. 800 pp.; 333 color ills.; 182 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300098782)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 22–March 30, 2003
Of all artists, Leonardo da Vinci is best understood through study of his drawings, as previous scholars such as Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark, Carlo Pedretti, Martin Kemp, and David Brown have amply demonstrated. Berenson went to the heart of the matter in The Drawings of the Florentine Painters (2 vols. [New York: E. P. Dutton, 1903]) when he wrote: The quality of qualities, then, in Leonardo’s drawing is the feeling it gives of unimpeded, untroubled, unaltered... Full Review
May 23, 2003
Joanne Pillsbury, ed.
Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, 2001. 344 pp.; 13 color ills.; 310 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0300090439)
This handsome and imposing volume, Moche Art and Archaeology in Ancient Peru, seems destined to become a mainstay of every art historian and archaeologist’s library. From its arresting cover detail of a beetle-browed portrait head vessel—refreshingly not overrestored—to its international array of authors and brilliant images of the exciting discoveries from the past decade, this book presents new material for scholars in both fields to ponder. Color photographs, each... Full Review
May 14, 2003
Duncan Bull, ed.
Waanders, 2002. 192 pp.; 68 color ills.; 159 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (9040086761)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, March 9–May 20, 2002; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, June 15–August 25, 2002; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, September 20–December 1, 2002
History has not been kind to the Brussels-born genre painter and portraitist Michael Sweerts. Despite having enjoyed patrician patronage in Rome and founding one of the earliest academies of art in his native city, Sweerts was disregarded by contemporary chroniclers of painting, and upon his death his name and achievements were quickly forgotten. When at the start of the last century the artist began to interest scholars and modern collectors, he was wrongly taken for Dutch. Later historians... Full Review
May 13, 2003
Adrian W.B. Randolph
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. 352 pp.; 20 color ills.; 75 b/w ills. Cloth $60.00 (0300092121)
Adrian Randolph’s Engaging Symbols: Gender, Politics, and Public Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence possesses a most provocative and, indeed, engaging jacket: an image of the rear view of Donatello’s bronze David. The photograph is cropped, tantalizingly, so that the beholder (the expression Randolph himself uses consistently throughout his book, in place of viewer) is prevented from feasting his or her eyes on what are perhaps the most sexually charged pair of male buttocks ever... Full Review
May 13, 2003
Andrew Ladis and Shelley E. Zuraw, eds.
Exh. cat. Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 2000. 254 pp.; many b/w ills. Cloth $35.00 (0915977400)
The catalyst for this volume was the exhibition Private Prayers: Medieval and Renaissance Objects for Personal Devotion, held from September 23 to November 19, 1995, at the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia. Its editors, who also contributed to the volume, have brought together thirteen methodologically diverse essays that examine the relationship between images and lay and clerical devotion in Italy from the... Full Review
May 8, 2003