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

Reviews in caa.reviews are published continuously by CAA and Taylor & Francis, with the most recently published reviews listed below. Browse reviews based on geographic region, period or cultural sphere, or specialty (from 1998 to the present) using Review Categories in the sidebar, or by entering terms in the search bar above.

Recently Published Reviews

Hans Belting
Trans Scott Kleager New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 128 pp.; 27 b/w ills. Paper $20.00 (0300076169)
The brevity and informal nature of these essays, first published in German in 1992, should not obscure their density, just as the length and extremely formal nature of Belting's Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art should not obscure the clarity of its essential argument. That dichotomy—dense, "formless" evocation versus brief, "rational" argument—will be familiar to Belting, since it is one of the manifestations of the "troublesome" relationship between German and Italian art. The question of the national characteristics of art is important but treacherous, perhaps especially in Germany's case.… Full Review
April 22, 1999
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Jonathan M. Bloom
New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Ediciones El Viso and Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Kingdom of Morocco, 1998. 124 pp.; 80 color ills.; 28 b/w ills. Cloth (0300086377)
This splendidly illustrated book provides a meticulous documentation of the restoration of one of the finest works of medieval Islamic woodwork surviving today. Restoration began as a result of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 1992 exhibition "Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain" in which the minbar (pulpit) of the Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakesh was featured in the catalogue but, due to its fragile condition, could not suffer transport for display in New York and Granada. In 1996–97 the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs, assembled a technical team to clean, stabilize, and support… Full Review
April 22, 1999
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O. A. Krivtsun
Moscow: Aspect Press Publishers, 1998. 430 pp. Cloth
This book focuses on the fundamental philosophical issues of art and the actual problems of modern art history. It unfurls a polyphonic tapestry of the development of art from antiquity to the twentieth century in relation to various stages in the development of European culture. However, the chief purpose of O. A. Krivtsun's work appears to be not so much the reproduction of historical and artistic factual details as raising, and finding answers for, questions of the art process theory. The book includes eight sections and thirty-five chapters. The sections include: "Philosophy of Art History," "General Theory of Art," "Sociology… Full Review
April 21, 1999
Paul Tucker
Exh. cat. Yale University Press, 1997. 310 pp.; 130 color ills.; 25 b/w ills. $50.00 (0300077491)
Exhibition Schedule: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, September 23, 1998–January 3, 1999; Royal Academy of Arts in London, opened January 21, 1999.
This morning I drank my green tea from my lavender Monet-signature mug. This same autographic logo is reproduced as the first word of the title of Monet in the 20th Century, the catalogue of a major exhibition seen in the fall at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and appearing this spring at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. I wasn't able to join the international throng of visitors who saw the show in Boston and London, but I am nonetheless grateful to the guest curator, Paul Hayes Tucker of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, whose formidable curatorial capacities also… Full Review
April 21, 1999
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Andrew Butterfield
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 272 pp.; 200 color ills.; 60 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300071949)
As the author notes in his introduction, The Sculptures of Andrea del Verrocchio is preceded by nine major monographs on the artist. Without question, Butterfield's reconsideration of the sculptural production of Verrocchio adds considerably to what remains a surprisingly uncertain chronology—despite the earlier monographs and countless other articles on individual works (including the essays published in 1992, Verrocchio and Late Quattrocento Italian Sculpture, ed. Steven Bule et al., Florence: Le Lettere). Andrea del Verrocchio was born between 1434 and 1437 in Florence and died in 1488 in Venice. He produced some of the most important large-scale,… Full Review
April 21, 1999
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Michael Podro
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 208 pp.; 44 color ills.; 88 b/w ills. Cloth $30.00 (0300069146)
Erwin Panofsky is said to have been particularly pleased with the fact that he possessed one near-sighted and one-far sighted eye. Using his optical inheritance as a model for how one should write the history of art—paying attention to detail and description, while never neglecting the panoramic view—he provided successive generations of art historians with a powerful challenge to disciplinary blindspots. Michael Podro, one of Panofsky's most insightful readers (as witnessed in his much reprinted The Critical Historians of Art [Yale University Press, 1982]) has put this visual lesson to stunning work in his recent writing. Nevertheless, Podro's lavish and… Full Review
April 21, 1999
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Francis Ames-Lewis
Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 1997. 270 pp.; 12 color ills.; 146 b/w ills. Cloth $99.95 (1859283764)
This book offers undergraduates and lay enthusiasts who have not had the good fortune of attending one of Professor Ames-Lewis's courses at Birbeck College in London an opportunity to see and understand key monuments of Italian Gothic sculpture through his sensitive and insightful eyes. It offers many insights for more sophisticated readers, as well. Patiently introducing readers to the historical circumstances in which Tuscan sculptors worked, Ames-Lewis cites intriguing examples of how economics, the growth of cities, improvements in roads and communications (including a general concern for improving and beautifying civic infrastructure), and local patriotism led to the production of… Full Review
April 21, 1999
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Sheila Blair
New York: New York University Press, 1998. 416 pp. Cloth $59.95 (0814713289)
Epigraphy has long been a subject of tremendous fascination and prodigious investigation within Islamic studies, and has inspired a number of ambitious scholarly undertakings, such as the Materiaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum (11 vols., 1894–1985), the Repertoire chronologique d'epigraphie arabe (21 vols., 1931–91) and the Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum (30 vols., 1955–90). As their titles suggest, the genesis of these multivolume, multidecade compendia was largely archaeological and taxonomic. The thrill was in collecting and ordering (whether by region, language, chronology or media) as many inscriptions as possible, with the aim of using the material thus amassed to explicate aspects (historical… Full Review
March 19, 1999
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Elizabeth Cropper
Los Angeles: Getty Trust Publications, 1997. 132 pp.; 21 color ills.; 32 b/w ills. Paper $19.95 (0892363665)
The picture painted in Florence sometime in the second quarter of the 16th century by Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo, and known for most of the 20th century as The Halberdier, burst out of the comfortable obscurity of the Frick Collection in New York, where it had been on indefinite loan when Christie's sold it at auction in the winter of 1989 to the J. Paul Getty Museum for more than $35 million. Since very few 16th-century paintings of secure provenance by major masters come on the art market now, specialists found the sale of The Halberdier by the private foundation… Full Review
March 19, 1999
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Sarah Blake McHam, ed.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 287 pp.; 139 color ills. Paper $24.95 (0521473667)
Looking at Italian Renaissance Sculpture brings together under one cover a series of essays written over a thirty-year period. The earliest articles, first published in 1970 and 1971 respectively, are H. W. Janson's "The Revival of Antiquity in Early Renaissance Sculpture" and Irving Lavin's "On the Renaissance Portrait Bust." Also reprinted here are Christiane Klapisch-Zuber's "Holy Dolls: Play and Piety in Florence in the Quattrocento," (first published in French in 1983) and Claudia Lazzaro's "Gendered Nature and Its Representation in Sixteenth-Century Garden Sculpture" (first published in 1991). The remaining seven essays—by G. M. Helms, John T. Paoletti, Joy Kenseth, Sarah… Full Review
March 18, 1999
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Hatden B. J. Maginnis
University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997. 368 pp.; 16 color ills.; 112 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0271015993)
Some of the underlying tensions—I hesitate to use the word conflicts—in this ambitious book are expressed even before it is opened, in the juxtaposition of the name of the great Florentine artist, Giotto, with a detail of the Virgin and Child from the Rucellai Madonna painted by the Sienese master Duccio on the cover. Is the point that the era belongs (or has belonged) verbally or nominally to Giotto (i.e., Florence), but, in fact, visually to Duccio (i.e., Siena)? This would seem to be the sense, at least in part, of the author's dual preoccupation with words and images—with the… Full Review
March 18, 1999
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Alex Coles and Alexia Defert, eds.
London: BACKless Books in association with Black Dog Publishing, 1997. Paper $14.95 (1901033759)
The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity is the second volume in the De-, Dis-, Ex- series from BACKless Books. The volume features interviews with Julia Kristeva and Hal Foster, essays from Rosalind Krauss, Louis Martin, Timothy Martin, Beatriz Colomina, and Howard Caygill, and photographs of Candida Höfer, all of whom focus on the intermingling and friction between the schools of art, architecture, and theory. The anxiety develops when poststructuralist theory, born of literary and political discourse, enters the hardest, most crystallized science, architecture. The anxiety ferments, because the physical nature of architecture resists relativism. The anxiety fills the proponents of interdisciplinarity, because… Full Review
March 17, 1999
Sandra Hindman, Mirella Levi D'Ancona, Pia Palladino, and Maria Francesca Saffiotti
Princeton University Press in association with Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. 256 pp.; 33 color ills.; 217 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0691059713)
At a session on the historiography of illuminated manuscripts held during the recent annual CAA conference in New York, it was generally agreed that the publication of catalogues was of particular importance to the advancement of scholarship in manuscript studies. Exhibitions, exhibition catalogues, and catalogues of collections are essential instruments in manuscript studies, because they bring illuminated manuscripts out of the sequestered environment of rare book libraries and into public view. Of course, the Lehman Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art hardly needs publicity. Only a few of the manuscript illuminations belonging to this celebrated group of objects, however… Full Review
March 17, 1999
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Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker, eds.
Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art in association with Yale University Press, 1998. 372 pp.; 48 color ills.; 272 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300075219)
This long-awaited volume contains a large selection of the papers that were delivered at a symposia in Washington, D.C., in 1995 and The Hague in 1996 in connection with the Vermeer exhibition held at the National Gallery of Art and the Mauritshuis respectively. The monumental exhibition was itself a spectacular success, drawing immense crowds at each of its venues. In some respects the very occasion of the exhibition as the first one dedicated exclusively to the work of Vermeer could be construed as a culmination of decades of intense scholarly interest in the painter. Indeed, rarely in the discipline of… Full Review
March 17, 1999
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Linda Merrill
New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Smithsonian Institution, 1998. 408 pp.; 105 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Cloth $65.00 (0300076118)
In 1875, Frederick R. Leyland, a prosperous Liverpool businessman and patron of the arts, invited two artists to design schemes for the interior of his new London house at 49 Prince's Gate. He asked his friend the painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler to decorate the entrance hall and charged a designer of metalwork and japoniste interiors, Thomas Jekyll, to redesign the dining room to hold his large collection of Chinese blue-and-white Kangxi porcelain, as well as Whistler's painting La princesse du pays de la porcelain. Jekyll's scheme for the room included an elaborate system of open shelves, a Jacobean-style ceiling… Full Review
March 16, 1999
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