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January 2006, No. 1234 – Vol 148

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Editorial

Wonders at the Walters

IN EUROPE, old-master paintings can be admired in churches and country houses as well as in galleries, and the latter are greatly varied in character: in a matter of hours one can move from the National Gallery of Scotland, where a lavish Regency decor is revived, to Carlo Scarpa’s Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona, with its austere insistence on yesterday’s modernity. In the United States, where public art collections have less variety in their content, the styles of presentation are also far more uniform – worryingly so, when we consider that the display of a work of art is an act of interpretation. In this context, the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, which recently changed its name (ominously) to the Walters Art Museum, is to be congratulated on reasserting its idiosyncratic character. Its original Palazzo, designed by William Adams Delano and completed in 1909, reopened this autumn with a display of some of its Renaissance and post-Renaissance European art which provides a welcome contrast to the way in which masterpieces are presented in the American capital nearby and is refreshingly different from any of its rivals across the States.

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  • Painting and patronage at Westminster Abbey: the murals in the south transept and St Faith's Chapel

    By Emily Howe

    WHILE THE AUTHORSHIP and patronage of the wall paintings in and around Westminster Abbey’s south transept remain uncertain, their art-historical and technological significance is clear. The paintings, which appear to have belonged to a sumptuous and far more extensive decorative programme embracing this part of Henry III’s spectacular new abbey, represent the pinnacle of wall painting in England in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Owing to the destruction of Westminster Palace by fire in 1834, the depictions of the Incredulity of St Thomas and St Christopher carrying the Christ Child (Fig.1) in the transept’s southern arcade, and of St Faith (Fig.11) in the adjoining chapel, are among the only mural survivals from the Plantagenets’ London court. Moreover, painted on a thin white ground and subtly modelled in translucent layers of organically bound pigment, they epitomise the technological transition which occurred in this period towards a more complex wall painting technique born of the pursuit of luminescence.

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  • John Osborne, the Salisbury House Porticus and the Haynes Grange Room

    By Manolo Guerci

    DURING RECENT RESEARCH in the archives at Hatfield House, Joseph Friedman discovered a remarkable elevational drawing (Fig.25). Measuring over 1.5 metres long on three sheets of paper originally pasted together, it can be identified as a long-overlooked design of c.1605–10 for a ‘Porticus’ in the riverside garden of Salisbury House, the Strand palace of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, built between 1599 and 1613 (Fig.26). Hitherto the Salisbury House Porticus has only been known from an elaborate specification in the Public Record Office, London, written by an unidentified ‘Osburne’, which describes in extraordinary detail the proportional and constructional features of a two-storey colonnaded building to be erected at the end of the garden of Salisbury House, overlooking the River Thames (see the Appendix below). The elevational drawing of the Porticus in the Hatfield House archives is the corresponding scale drawing for this specification and is in the same hand. As far as we know, the Porticus was never built. As a design, however, it is one of the earliest manifestations of Vitruvian classicism in the history of English architecture.

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  • A curator at the Tate Gallery

    By Dennis Farr

    I STARTED AS an Assistant Keeper, Grade II, at the Tate Gallery in London on Monday 13th September 1954. I reported to the front desk and was taken to the spiral back staircase that led up to the offices sited under the central dome above the main entrance. I quickly learned the trick of opening one of the double iron gates at the foot of those stairs, by pressing a catch concealed in the thickness of a transom in the right-hand leaf. Until then, I knew only the public areas of the Tate, and was intrigued to go back-of-house. All the bomb-damaged galleries had been repaired by early 1949, but the outer walls at the corner of Atterbury Street and Millbank bore, as they do still, the scars left by an exploding bomb that blew in the glass roofs of many galleries in 1940, and rendered them unfit for use.

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  • Dean Walker Jr. (1948-2005)

    By Joseph J. Rishel
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  • Stuart Preston (1915-2005)

    By Richard Shone
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  • Ritratto di una collezione: Pannini e la Galleria del Cardinale Silvio Valenti Gonzaga

    By David S. Chambers
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  • The Thornham Parva Retable: Technique, Conservation and Context of an English Medieval Painting

    By Julian Luxford
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  • Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence

    By Jonathan Katz Nelson
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  • Marco Pino. L'opera completa

    By Erika Langmuir
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  • François Boucher. Seductive visions

    By Colin B. Bailey
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  • Samuel Palmer. London and New York

    By Martin Butlin
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  • Degas, Sickert, Toulouse-Lautrec. London and Washington

    By Merlin James
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  • Black Victorians. Manchester and Birmingham

    By Julian Treuherz
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  • André Derain. London

    By Sarah Whitfield
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  • Munch and Expressionism. London and Oslo

    By Jill (J. L.) Lloyd
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  • Roger Fenton. London

    By Alexandra Moschovi
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  • Lorenzo Veneziano. Tours

    By Carl Brandon Strehlke
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  • Caravaggio and Europe. Milan

    By John Gash
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  • Paolo Farinati. Verona

    By Terence Mullaly
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  • Russia! New York

    By Christina Lodder
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  • Prague: the Crown of Bohemia. New York and Prague

    By Jeffrey Hamburger
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