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

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Beth Fowkes Tobin
Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998. 320 pp.; 42 b/w ills. Cloth $54.95 (0822323052)
Some of the most provocative and insightful scholarship on eighteenth-century British art produced in the last fifteen years has explored the vexed relationship between art and commerce. This important body of work is limited, however, by its "domestic" vision of what that commerce actually entails: it tends to focus on art produced in Britain, commercial discourse produced by British ideologues, and the British merchant as a domestic figure. Beth Fowkes Tobin's Picturing Imperial Power:... Full Review
September 3, 1999
André Vauchez
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 645 pp.; 43 b/w ills. Cloth $120.00 (0521445590)
Sainthood in the Middle Ages first appeared in 1981. It is a measure of the impact and continuing value of his study to historians of late medieval Europe that André Vauchez's book has been translated into English some sixteen years later. Vauchez has provided a highly differentiated account of changing perceptions of sainthood between 1185 and 1431, in which he distinguishes those who initiated, witnessed, and managed the processes by which public cults were authorized for a tiny... Full Review
September 3, 1999
Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis
Honolulu: University Of Hawai'i Press, 1999. 240 pp.; 20 color ills.; 104 b/w ills. Paper $29.95 (0824820819)
This book is a carefully constructed, well-researched study of Japanese mandala paintings. Within the broader context of pan-Asian Buddhism the most famous mandalas are those associated with Esoteric or Tantric Buddhist theology. Another important and influential type of mandala, the Taima mandala, was created to represent Buddhist doctrine of the Pure Land sect. The appearance of Japanese Esoteric and Pure Land mandalas is unquestionably derived from Chinese prototypes, but this study... Full Review
September 3, 1999
Richard Cleary
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 300 pp.; 12 color ills.; 194 b/w ills. Cloth $90.00 (0521572681)
When the Place Louis-le-Grand (today Place Vendôme) was inaugurated on August 13, 1699, many of the elegant facades that surrounded the square had no buildings behind them, and the king it was intended to glorify was not even there. The state of the square did not matter, in some sense, because its future shape was dictated by Mansart's revised blueprint for the site, and the absence of the king did not matter, in some sense, because the urban space was dominated by... Full Review
August 26, 1999
Dianne Sachko Macleod
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 530 pp.; 8 color ills.; 74 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521550904)
Andrew Hemingway and William Vaughan, eds.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 386 pp.; 70 b/w ills. Cloth $69.95 (052155182X)
These recent books from Cambridge take different approaches to a common topic. Both infuse new content into a category term: "bourgeois" or "middle-class" society, as it dominated the production of nineteenth-century art through private or state patronage, individual purchase, exhibitions, and the press. The fifteen essays collected and introduced by Andrew Hemingway and William Vaughan begin with Britain (five essays) but then turn to shorter sections on France (three essays), Germany (four... Full Review
August 26, 1999
James Cracraft
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 409 pp.; 35 color ills.; 95 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0226116654)
Grigory Kaganov
Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997. 206 pp.; 76 b/w ills. Cloth $51.00 (0804727422)
In Western thought, space is preexisting and absolute. So asserts the philosophical tradition traced through Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Newton, and Kant. But as spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre points out, accounts of mental conceptual space in mathematics distanced themselves from those concerning the measurable physical space of geography. And neither mental nor physical space were treated by theorists in relation to the collective social space produced by human practices, viewed since the... Full Review
August 26, 1999
James Ryan
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 272 pp.; 88 b/w ills. Cloth $47.50 (0226732339)
Christopher Pinney
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 249 pp.; 40 color ills.; 90 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0226668657)
Postcolonialist theory revisits and reframes European expectations of knowledge, authority, and visibility in representations of the colonial encounter. Photography played an important role in the formation of these expectations, one discussed in modern histories of the medium. While differing in their objectives and academic disciplines, James Ryan and Christopher Pinney both use postcolonial theory to rewrite narratives of Euro-American photographic history. Pinney's book, in particular,... Full Review
August 3, 1999
Elizabeth Bartman
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 242 pp.; 194 b/w ills. Cloth $95.00 (0521583942)
As a monograph on the portraits of Livia, the wife of the emperor Augustus, this book reflects current scholarly interests in Augustan art and in the representation of women in the Roman Empire. Although the literature on Augustan Rome is grounded in the political contexts of the monuments, the author is to be admired for casting a wider net than is typical in the scholarship on Roman portraiture, which tends to be technical in its relentless classification of portrait types and variants... Full Review
July 27, 1999
Julia M. White, Reiko Mochinaga Brandon, and Yoko Woodson
Exh. cat. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in association with Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1997. 270 pp.; 209 color ills.; 19 b/w ills. Cloth $45.00 (0295977663)
In the last two decades, most scholarship on ukiyo-e has appeared in exhibition catalogues. Such thematic exhibitions as the Portland Museum of Art's 1993 The Floating World Revisitedand the Worcester Art Museum's 1996 The Women of the Pleasure Quarter have whet our appetite for insightful scholarship. But while our scholarly cravings lust after challenging interpretations and... Full Review
July 23, 1999
Selma Al-Radi
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 216 pp. Cloth (0197280234)
This monograph is a composite presentation by three different contributors, who describe the layout, physical structure, and painted and carved wall and ceiling decorations of a religious college (madrasa) built on the central plateau of Yemen in the sixteenth century. Included is a compendium of the inscriptions from which the pedigree of the building is derived. Insight into traditional Yemeni building practices is provided in the section dealing with the restoration work. The main... Full Review
July 22, 1999