art say what?

art history is where it's at.

Behold, the beauty of the wig (and everything else about this tiny portrait). 

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Samuel Cooper (1608/9-1672), Portrait miniature of an Unknown Man, perhaps Anthony Ashley Cooper, 2nd Earl of Shaftesbury, 1666-1670. Watercolour on vellum, put down on a leaf from a table book in a gilt locket. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Accession number P.66-1968.

Behold, the beauty of the wig (and everything else about this tiny portrait). 

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Samuel Cooper (1608/9-1672), Portrait miniature of an Unknown Man, perhaps Anthony Ashley Cooper, 2nd Earl of Shaftesbury, 1666-1670. Watercolour on vellum, put down on a leaf from a table book in a gilt locket. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Accession number P.66-1968.

Highlights from Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. More complete post to come!

From the National Gallery

From lapis lazuli to cobalt blue, to dazzling gold and silver – travel through the story of colour with the National Gallery. ‘Making Colour’, the first exhibition of its kind in the UK, invites you on an artistic and scientific voyage of discovery. From sparkling minerals to crushed insects, learn about the surprising materials used to create pigments and the incredible journeys made by artists in their pursuit of new hues.

Why hasn’t anyone done this before?? Such a great idea for an exhibition!

Making Colour, on view from 18 June to 7 September 2014, National Gallery, London. 

Bronzino, Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo with her son Giovanni de’ Medici, 1544-45. Oil on panel, 115 x 96 cm. Uffizi, Florence.

Bronzino, Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo with her son Giovanni de’ Medici, 1544-45. Oil on panel, 115 x 96 cm. Uffizi, Florence.

Painting of murdered Renaissance beauty revealed under layers of paint

This is so bizarrely fascinating. Seriously. The fact that museum employees during the 1800s did things like this is just… weird. But even more interesting is the whole process that the Carnegie Museum curators and conservations went through to find out who the sitter actually was, as well as the fact that they took the painting to a medical x-ray clinic for scanning (love it!).

And even more awesome is that the sitter, Isabella de’ Medici, is Maria Salviati's granddaughter! The previous attribution was Eleanor of Toledo, who was Maria's daughter-in-law (and whose portrait I have a postcard of pinned to the bulletin board above my desk).

It’s really cool to see how standards of beauty fluctuate over time. Apparently while she was alive, Isabella was considered to be a quite the looker. I personally can see how that might have been, especially considering not only what people thought was attractive at the time (i.e. double chins, high hairlines, tightly clamped lips), but also that this could be just a less-than-talented artist who wasn’t all that great at capturing likenesses. It happens! Sometimes you get five different portraits of the same person where they look completely different in each one. Anyway, lots of interesting aspects to consider!

The painting is currently on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s exhibition Faked, Forgotten, Foundwhich sounds pretty great. So if you’re in the Pittsburgh area between now and September 15th, stop by and check out the show!

Jan Havicksz. Steen, Adolf and Catharina Croeser, Known as ‘The Burgomaster of Delft and his Daughter’, 1655. Oil on canvas, 82.5cm × 68.5cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
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What a curious way to choose to be depicted: not as a wealthy merchant in the act of giving money to a poor woman, but instead as a wealthy merchant looking disdainfully at the less fortunate. Maybe he’s in the act of pulling something from his wallet, who knows, and I guess that’s not the point. But it’s an interesting portrayal of what is most likely a more realistic depiction of the sitter’s character, instead of the usual idealized Christian charity theme that we often see. 



But then again, maybe not…



Here’s what the Rijksmuseum has to say about this double portrait:

Legs wide apart and his right arm akimbo, Croeser sits on the stoop of his house on the Oude Delft canal in Delft. His thirteen-year-old daughter Catharina looks straight out at us. Jan Steen included a narrative element in this portrait: a poor woman and child beg for alms from the wealthy grain merchant. In 1657, just two years after this portrait was made, Croeser stood surety for Steen, who was seriously in debt.

So, there we go. There’s no use in passing judgement based on what you see on canvas, although as art historians, it’s sometimes the only thing we have to go on. But I guess it’s complexities like these that are around to keep us on our toes!

Jan Havicksz. Steen, Adolf and Catharina Croeser, Known as ‘The Burgomaster of Delft and his Daughter’, 1655. Oil on canvas, 82.5cm × 68.5cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

What a curious way to choose to be depicted: not as a wealthy merchant in the act of giving money to a poor woman, but instead as a wealthy merchant looking disdainfully at the less fortunate. Maybe he’s in the act of pulling something from his wallet, who knows, and I guess that’s not the point. But it’s an interesting portrayal of what is most likely a more realistic depiction of the sitter’s character, instead of the usual idealized Christian charity theme that we often see. 

But then again, maybe not…

Here’s what the Rijksmuseum has to say about this double portrait:

Legs wide apart and his right arm akimbo, Croeser sits on the stoop of his house on the Oude Delft canal in Delft. His thirteen-year-old daughter Catharina looks straight out at us. Jan Steen included a narrative element in this portrait: a poor woman and child beg for alms from the wealthy grain merchant. In 1657, just two years after this portrait was made, Croeser stood surety for Steen, who was seriously in debt.
So, there we go. There’s no use in passing judgement based on what you see on canvas, although as art historians, it’s sometimes the only thing we have to go on. But I guess it’s complexities like these that are around to keep us on our toes!

Living on the Edge: Tapestry Borders

I know that I’ve been sucking lately at keeping up with my Tapestry Thursdays series, which… well, sucks, because I think it’s fun to write about stuff that isn’t always related to my usual research interests. But to try and make up for my absence, I’ll now repost this incredibly interesting article from (where else) the Met’s website. 

I’d never really paid attention to tapestry borders before— wait, that’s a lie: I had, but I never thought they were anything more than ornamental. I won’t say anything further here, as the post linked to above is pretty informative. The author even talks about the Raphael cartoons & tapestries, so that’s an automatic +10 points for her.

This is a portrait of the French still-life painter Anne Vallayer-Coster. It was recently sold at auction for a handsome sum, but before that it was exhibited at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm during their exhibition Pride and Prejudice: Woman and Artist in Eighteenth-Century France and Sweden, 1715-1860. I had the good fortune of seeing it up close, and it is, of course, even more beautiful in person. This painting happens to be by Roslin, but it was exhibited with the sitter’s own paintings nearby, so you got both sides of the equation in a very fitting way. 
I love how this portrait is informal without being overly seductive and inundated with symbols of female virtue (fruit, flowers, etc.). She’s shown doing something, rather than trying to embody something else— might seem self-evident now, but it wasn’t always so during the eighteenth century (just ask Rousseau).
Vallayer-Coster was one of the few women admitted to the French Royal Academy of Art (they had a cap of having no more than 4 female members at one time) and was close friends with Roslin and his wife, Suzanne Giroust (also a painter, also awesome). They were favorites of the king and court, and even had residences at the Louvre. 
You can read more about this awesome artist, as well as Roslin’s portrait at Bukowski’s website. There was also an exhibition of her works in 2002 in the US, and the catalogue is available from Amazon. 
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Alexander RoslinAnne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818)Oil on canvas 72 x 59 cmPrivate Collection
Photo from the Bukowski’s website.

This is a portrait of the French still-life painter Anne Vallayer-Coster. It was recently sold at auction for a handsome sum, but before that it was exhibited at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm during their exhibition Pride and Prejudice: Woman and Artist in Eighteenth-Century France and Sweden, 1715-1860. I had the good fortune of seeing it up close, and it is, of course, even more beautiful in person. This painting happens to be by Roslin, but it was exhibited with the sitter’s own paintings nearby, so you got both sides of the equation in a very fitting way.

I love how this portrait is informal without being overly seductive and inundated with symbols of female virtue (fruit, flowers, etc.). She’s shown doing something, rather than trying to embody something else— might seem self-evident now, but it wasn’t always so during the eighteenth century (just ask Rousseau).

Vallayer-Coster was one of the few women admitted to the French Royal Academy of Art (they had a cap of having no more than 4 female members at one time) and was close friends with Roslin and his wife, Suzanne Giroust (also a painter, also awesome). They were favorites of the king and court, and even had residences at the Louvre. 

You can read more about this awesome artist, as well as Roslin’s portrait at Bukowski’s website. There was also an exhibition of her works in 2002 in the US, and the catalogue is available from Amazon. 

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Alexander Roslin
Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818)

Oil on canvas
72 x 59 cm
Private Collection

Photo from the Bukowski’s website.

Call for Papers: Lace and Commerce in 18th Century Europe (Rotterdam, 27-31 Jul 15)

I saw this CFP from the International Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS) in my inbox this morning and instantly freaked out and started looking up flights to Rotterdam. Even though I would never dare present a paper on the topic, I would be extremely interested in seeing what others had to say about the lace market in eighteenth-century Europe (and when I say extremely, I mean extremely).

Any lace experts out there should definitely think about submitting a proposal, or if you’re just an enthusiast like me, register to attend the conference! You don’t have to be an ISECS member to attend.

I (re)discovered this picture over the weekend as I was going through bags of old papers from grad school. It was featured in one of the pamphlets for Master Paintings Week a few years ago, and I can totally understand why I saved it. I love weird portraits, and— for me at least— unfinished ones definitely fall in that category. It just feels so bizarre that this guy’s face is completed in such fine detail, while just the hint of his clothing exists. I had to find out more about this work (as well as the 19th-century Italian artist that I’d somehow never heard of). Thankfully, the gallery that was selling it still has it up on its website (still unsold, eh?) and they even have a nice bit of background info available in PDF form. I’ll include some of the more relevant details below (but read the whole thing, it’s an informative read).
More on the artist, Pelagio Palagi:

Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860) though above all a painter, was also a sculptor, architect and extraordinary interior designer, who left magnificent traces of his work across the Savoy courts, in the palaces of the Palazzo Reale of Turin and Racconigi, and in the beautifully signed sheets kept in the Archiginnasio at Bologna.

And about this particular unfinished work:

This painting can be viewed as being part of a genre of non-finished or incomplete portraits that makes up a large amount of Palagi’s works, starting from the Portrait of Professor Giuseppe Guizzardi (Bologna, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, owned by the Collezioni Comunali d’Arte) completed in Rome between 1807 and 1809 […]. His predilection for this expressive solution, which he felt resulted in paintings of great allure, connects him to the similar practice of Mengs, David and other masters of Neoclassicism. 
The theory behind leaving the canvas in an unfinished state, with only the face completed depends on a “temperamento insofferente che commincia i lavori e non li conduce a termine” (“insufferable temperament to start works and not see them through until the end”) […]. This suggestion isn’t, however, upheld as, notwithstanding and due to the unfinished canvas in the background, it appears, from an emotive point of view, to be perfectly complete and coherent. In our case the unfinished area is shown by the preparation with a precise trace of the drawing concerning not so much the background, as the clothes of the portrayed, which seem characterised by a frock coat with a high collar and curious headwear. Perhaps a two cornered hat, possibly making it the portrait of a dignitary. Or perhaps a theatrical costume, making it therefore a painting of the singers or actors who were on stage in Milan at the start of the Restoration.


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Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860)Unfinished PortraitOil on canvas52 x 40 cmRobilant + Voena Gallery, London

I (re)discovered this picture over the weekend as I was going through bags of old papers from grad school. It was featured in one of the pamphlets for Master Paintings Week a few years ago, and I can totally understand why I saved it. I love weird portraits, and— for me at least— unfinished ones definitely fall in that category. It just feels so bizarre that this guy’s face is completed in such fine detail, while just the hint of his clothing exists. I had to find out more about this work (as well as the 19th-century Italian artist that I’d somehow never heard of). Thankfully, the gallery that was selling it still has it up on its website (still unsold, eh?) and they even have a nice bit of background info available in PDF form. I’ll include some of the more relevant details below (but read the whole thing, it’s an informative read).

More on the artist, Pelagio Palagi:

Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860) though above all a painter, was also a sculptor, architect and extraordinary interior designer, who left magnificent traces of his work across the Savoy courts, in the palaces of the Palazzo Reale of Turin and Racconigi, and in the beautifully signed sheets kept in the Archiginnasio at Bologna.

And about this particular unfinished work:

This painting can be viewed as being part of a genre of non-finished or incomplete portraits that makes up a large amount of Palagi’s works, starting from the Portrait of Professor Giuseppe Guizzardi (Bologna, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, owned by the Collezioni Comunali d’Arte) completed in Rome between 1807 and 1809 […]. His predilection for this expressive solution, which he felt resulted in paintings of great allure, connects him to the similar practice of Mengs, David and other masters of Neoclassicism. 

The theory behind leaving the canvas in an unfinished state, with only the face completed depends on a “temperamento insofferente che commincia i lavori e non li conduce a termine” (“insufferable temperament to start works and not see them through until the end”) […]. This suggestion isn’t, however, upheld as, notwithstanding and due to the unfinished canvas in the background, it appears, from an emotive point of view, to be perfectly complete and coherent. In our case the unfinished area is shown by the preparation with a precise trace of the drawing concerning not so much the background, as the clothes of the portrayed, which seem characterised by a frock coat with a high collar and curious headwear. Perhaps a two cornered hat, possibly making it the portrait of a dignitary. Or perhaps a theatrical costume, making it therefore a painting of the singers or actors who were on stage in Milan at the start of the Restoration.

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Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860)
Unfinished Portrait
Oil on canvas
52 x 40 cm
Robilant + Voena Gallery, London