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

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Mary Ellen Miller
Thames and Hudson, 1999. 240 pp.; 57 color ills.; 150 b/w ills. Paper $14.95 (050020327X)
Mary Ellen Miller's Maya Art and Architecture is the first textbook in English on Maya art written by a major scholar of the Maya. It is, therefore, a milestone in the dissemination of knowledge about Maya art, particularly in a classroom setting, where this book will be most useful. That a book published in 1999 deserves this honor may come as a surprise since the study of Maya art is one of the more established in ancient New World art history. As Miller points out in her... Full Review
June 23, 2000
Francesco Colonna
Trans. Joscelyn Godwin. Thames and Hudson, 1999. 476 pp.; 174 b/w ills. Cloth $70.00 (0500019428)
"Reader, if you wish to hear briefly what is contained in this work, know that Poliphilo tells that he saw remarkable things in a dream, hence he calls the work in Greek words 'the strife of love in a dream'. He represents himself as having seen many ancient things worthy of memory, and everything that he says he has seen, he describes point by point in the appropriate terms and in an elegant style: pyramids, obelisks, huge ruins of buildings." With these words, Francesco Colonna introduces... Full Review
June 16, 2000
Patricia Lee Rubin and Alison Wright
Yale University Press, 2000. 352 pp.; 230 color ills.; 50 b/w ills. Cloth $50.00 (0300081715)
When Giovanni Rucellai wrote that spending surpassed earning as one of the great pleasures in life, he surely expressed the sentiments of many wealthy Florentines in the second half of the 1400s. Certain forms of conspicuous consumption had become acceptable now that the successful merchants, and the humanists they supported had adapted the Aristotelian notion of magnificenza to their own circumstances. The display of wealth became praiseworthy when it embellished the city and... Full Review
June 6, 2000
Lothar Ledderose
Princeton University Press, 2001. 304 pp.; 16 color ills.; 275 b/w ills.; 50 ills. Paper $24.95 (0691009570)
This is a book about how works of art are made, how images and design motifs originate, and how artists think. By grappling with these issues, Lothar Ledderose performs a great service to the field of Chinese art, which has come to focus most of its energies on problems of reception, socio-economic factors, and historiography. Although Ledderose makes no such claim, his book can be read as a radical reorientation, a shifting of the focus of study away from the audience/receiver to the... Full Review
June 6, 2000
Alexander Vergara
Cambridge University Press (0521632455)
It is curious that Peter Paul Rubens's relationship with Spain has never received monographic treatment. Certainly the Flemish artist's most notable commissions for the Spanish Hapsburgs have been analyzed in the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard series: relevant volumes include those on the portraits of the Spanish monarchs, their families, and members of their court (Frances Huemer, 1977; Hans Vlieghe, 1987); the Triumph of the Eucharist tapestry series (1627-28), commissioned by the... Full Review
June 2, 2000
Mountain View, CA: Research Libraries Group, 1999. CD-ROM
The Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) Library, a collection of more than 50,000 catalogued images of art works held in 26 North American museums, is a wonderful thing--but perhaps not the thing everyone might want it to be. A teacher might want such a collection to supply the images needed for standard art history courses. A researcher might want it to provide a catalogue to the vast holdings of these museums. When something is new and different, we often attempt to understand it using... Full Review
May 25, 2000
Dawn Ades
New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 1999. 196 pp.; 109 color ills.; 61 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0300081774)
Now that the twentieth century is over it begins to make sense to assess modernism as a whole, and in that context artists like Salvador Dalí become unexpectedly important. For decades he has been an asked-and-answered question, largely on the lead of his expulsion from the Surrealist group in 1939 (when Breton said his work was "little more than crossword puzzles"). He did not help his case by moving so aggressively into marketing, and at the start of the twenty-first century he has the... Full Review
May 25, 2000
Michael Shapiro and Brett Miller
Berkeley: American Association of Museums, 1999. 120 pp.; 99 color ills.; 22 b/w ills. Paper $24.95 (0931201632)
At the stroke of midnight, December 31, 1977, valuable collections vanished suddenly and probably forever from museums all over the United States. The dollar value of the loss has never, to my knowledge, been assessed. Yet, it certainly ranked in the many millions. Surprisingly, museum officials at first took little notice of their loss. They filed no police reports, made no insurance claims. In the days and weeks that followed, there were no mass protests against the vast conspiracy,... Full Review
May 25, 2000
Ewa Lajer-Burcharth
Yale University Press, 1999. 374 pp. Cloth (0300074212)
The Bicentennial of the French Revolution in 1989 has brought in its wake perhaps the most thoroughgoing reassessment of a major artist in recent art historiography, namely Jacques-Louis David. In that year David was the subject of what must be by the same token one of the most productive conferences ever, David Contre David. Since then a flood of articles has been supplemented by a major biography by Dorothy Johnson, Thomas Crow's Emulation, and now Ewa Lajer-Burcharth's... Full Review
May 24, 2000
Jean-Loup Champion, ed.
Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1998. 469 pp. Cloth $720.00 (2070115119)
This survey of sculptures in French museums, well-chosen and profusely illustrated, covers the history of European sculpture. Written by an array of scholars--most of whom are curators, all recognized as preeminent in the field--the texts define the seventeen periods, from Paleolithic to contemporary sculpture, presented in this comprehensive tome. Their concise introductions are followed by a selection of photographs of works drawing upon the principal public collections of France, which, it... Full Review
May 23, 2000