PIAZZETTA: A TERCENTENARY EXHIBITION OF DRAWINGS, PRINTS AND BOOKSby George Knox;MASTERPIECES OF EIGHTEENTH CENTURY VENETIAN DRAWINGby Giandomenico Romanelli

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  • PIAZZETTA: A TERCENTENARY EXHIBITION OF DRAWINGS, PRINTS AND BOOKS by GeorgeKnox; MASTERPIECES OF EIGHTEENTH CENTURY VENETIAN DRAWING by GiandomenicoRomanelliReview by: JOHN STEERJournal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 133, No. 5346 (MAY 1985), pp. 427-428Published by: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and CommerceStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41373975 .Accessed: 28/06/2014 08:11

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  • NOTES ON BOOKS

    THE ART AND ARCHITECTURE OF LONDON. AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE By Ann Saunders Foreword by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT Oxford, Phaidon, 1984. 22.50 Books on the art and architecture of London, like the buildings of the city they describe, appear to come in waves. With each fresh surge, new aspects of the metropolis are turned over, while others get buried in the sand. Of late, there has been a veritable high tide, with Bernard Adams' authoritative London Illustrated 1604-1851, the useful London Encyclopaedia edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, and the fasci- nating London as It Might Have Been by Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde, to mention the most valuable. Ann Saunders' guide makes a weighty addition, entirely to be recommended. The author first started to work on the book in 1970,

    although she writes with the ease of someone who has been at home with the subject for a lifetime. Her in- troduction is masterly. Like some supernatural bird, she hovers above the city watching its development over two thousand years: casting a benevolent eye down on the infants still being baptized in the Norman fonts in little churches on the outskirts, swooping to examine the shafts of columns in the nave of West- minster Abbey, where the fourteenth-century archi- tects had subjugated the style of their own day to that of an earlier generation for the sake of continuity, and positively diving to find the ample kitchens beneath the Merchant Taylors' Hall which have been in use since 1388, or Henry VIII's wine-cellar, still in exis- tence but presumably not in use, somewhere below a ministry building in Whitehall. Thereafter she tackles the area covered by the Greater

    London Council: first the cities of London and West- minster, district by district, and then the other London boroughs, north and south of the river. It is a feat not equalled elsewhere in one volume and the standard of accuracy, readability and presentation is exemplary. The author adopts a fairly casual attitude to the vexed

    problem of what to mention and what to leave out in relation to that which no longer exists. Where rooms have been removed from houses long since demolished, like the Music Room from Norfolk House, St. James's Square, she mentions their present whereabouts, in this instance the Victoria and Albert Museum. Indeed, she emotively lingers on its description so that we are given some sense of how the whole house must have looked. Like all lovers of London, she has a deep feel- ing for the resonance of associations of where she is walking and she manages to convey this sense of the past and the present intertwined to us. A further exam- ple conveys her particular skill. In Paddington, she naturaHy takes us to that architectural jewel, St Mary's,

    Paddington Green, beautifully restored and rich in artistic associations, from Hogarth's marriage to Nollekens' burial, with Mrs. Siddons tragically con- templating the traffic speeding past to Westway out- side. The motorway represents, she admits, the ugliest aspect of twentieth-century development. Yet, the walk along the towpath of the Paddington canal within the shadow of motorway flyover 'and suddenly the structure, so repulsive as one crosses it, reveals its beauty as its curves travel, sinuously and purpose- fully, westwards'. Perhaps the most valuable service Ann Saunders

    performs is not her coverage of the more glamorous London 'villages' like Hampstead or Richmond, terri- tory well charted elsewhere, but her exploration of those boroughs hitherto meanly served by municipal guides only patchily supplemented with flimsy pub- lications from local history groups. Her energy ought to serve as an inspiration for those jaded inhabitants who think is nothing left to discover about the city. The book is handsomely packaged, with a gracious

    foreword from the Duke of Edinburgh. My only serious criticism is that the black and white photo- graphs neatly interspersed with the text somehow contrive to make London look both architecturally dull and devoid of life, inferences which the author resoundingly refutes.

    CELINA FOX

    PIAZZETTA: A TERCENTENARY EXHIBITION OF DRAWINGS, PRINTS AND BOOKS By George Knox Washington, National Gallery of Art; Cambridge, University Press, 1983. 30 MASTERPIECES OF EIGHTEENTH CENTURY VENETIAN DRAWING Edited with an introduction by Giandomenico Romanelli London, Thames and Hudson, 1983. 8.95 These two books are both catalogues of exhibitions presented in book form. That on Piazzetta, a handsome production in hardback from the National Gallery, Washington, and the CUP, records the tercentenary exhibition held in Washington in 1982: the other, a more modest paperback from Thames and Hudson, records the ambitious but less specialized Dessins Venetiens du Dixhuitme Sicle held in the Palais de Beaux Arts in Brussels in 1983. Its text is in English, translated, we are told, from the French by David Smith and since all the articles in it are by Italians and were presumably originally in their authors' native language, he is to be congratulated in presenting them, after this double transformation, in meaningful and presentably elegant English. The Piazzetta catalogue reproduces a handsome

    selection of drawings in good plates and lays welcome

    427

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  • JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS

    emphasis on the engraved work by and after Piazzetta which formed an important part of his later produc- tion. The exhibition was selected and catalogued by George Knox, which in itself establishes its scholarly credentials, and he uses his catalogue to establish the current state of connoisseurship in regard to Piazzeta drawings and to add some new insights. These include the interesting observation that various studies from the mid-twenties to the mid-forties are likenesses of the artist's wife, Rosa and son, Giacomo and can be dated as they grow progressively older so that, to turn to the paintings, Giacomo appears as seventeen in the Dresden Ensign (1742) and twenty in the Cologne Pastoral (1745). It should be said, however, that the introductory

    essay is fairly dry, and would be more appropriate in Old Master Drawings than in a volume of this kind. T use the catalogue and its checklists of related work effectively, one needs an array of the other standard works of Piazzetta and, while this is quite acceptable to the scholar, it will not be of much use to an en- thusiast for Piazzetta formed by the exhibition itself or for that matter to an afficionado , who is not also a specialist. What the book lacks is any appreciation of Piazzetta's character and quality as an artist and any art-historical discussion of his social and stylistic roots. With a presentation as narrow as this, it is per- haps not surprising that exhibitions of drawings, how- ever fine their quality, are less popular with the public than they should be. The catalogue of the Brussels exhibition is a dif-

    ferent matter and, despite the variety of its authors which makes for a certain lack of focus, it can be recommended as a general introduction to Venetian eighteenth-century drawings. Unfortunately poor Piazzetta is only moderately well dealt with by Ugo Ruggeri, but there is an excellent essay by Adriano Mariuz on Giambattista Tiepolo. This most percep- tively stresses the element of irony in his work: 'Soothsayers in oriental robes, warriors with ancient weapons, and naked shepherds and youths, all have walk- on parts in the historical scenes depicted by Tiepolo. In his Scherzi, however, the same figures are seen in remote places strewn with classical remains such as obelisks, sarcophagi and altars, but also with the emblems and tools of the musician's trade. They seem to thrust themselves forward to take part in exorcisms and acts of necromancy or to examine with feverish curiosity something hidden in powdered bones. Under the cloak of a seemingly relaxed form of art, the artist is using these images with their anti- theses of youth and age, life and death, primitive instinct and ancient wisdom, to ask searching questions about the human condition which transcend the generally accepted framework of sense. All possible answers are quickly exposed as vain. All is presented as an insoluble enigma in an atmosphere of endless suspense.' This is, it seems to me, good stuff, which gets to the

    core of what Tiepolo is about and, while in the essays in this catalogue no new material is presented, there

    428

    NOTES ON BOOKS are several very useful summaries of established posi- tions, such as Teresio Pignatti's essay on the drawings of Pietro Longhi, with its emphasis on the relation of Longhi to Watteau and Chardin. This places in their scholarly context exactly those points about the draw- ings which would be likely to strike the enthusiastic, informed but non-specialist viewer, and this surely is what essays in catalogues such as this should do. In presentation, however, the book/catalogue is not

    so happy. The black and white plates on shiny paper are decidedly grey and flat and the colour plates only slightly better. The editing is more than a little slip- shod. The contributors do not seem to have been encouraged to make their points as much as possible from drawings actually in the exhibition and therefore reproduced in large size in the catalogue, and, where they do, these drawings are by no means always identified in the text. Thus in Pignatti's essay on Longhi, references are given to the plates in his own book of 1968 but not to the reproductions a few pages further on in the catalogue itself; a procedure so ridiculous as to be beyond comment. Altogether one has the impression of a rushed and

    imperfectly co-ordinated job. Thames and Hudson should and can do better than this.

    JOHN STEER

    THE DRAWINGS OF HENRI MATISSE By John Elderfield London , Thames and Hudson , in association with the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Museum of Modern Art , New York9 1984. 16 Drawing, wrote Ingres, is the probity of art. Until nineteenth-century romanticism, it was generally seen as the cardinal discipline. But in the ferment of ideas which spanned the turn of the century, when a new world seemed to be at hand in which all things would be possible, elements of the visual image were isolated, one by one, and granted their independence. Line shook off its responsibility to objective documentation and, in Klee's phrase, 'went for a walk'. This book, published to coincide with the major Arts Council exhibition lately at the Hayward Gallery, gives a very full account of how one pre-eminent member of that generation developed this new freedom. Of course lines can make very different kinds of

    journey. Klee's encompassed signs and symbols, con- ceptual undertones and overtones, echoes of folk memories. On occasion they were sinister; more often they were playful. Matisse's line sought to capture sensation. It was relaxed, sensuous, hedonistic - but seldom, if ever, playful. There was an intensely serious even worried, sobriety about his relaxation. Henri- Edmond Cross described him as 'madly anxious'. Proficiency was not notable in his student days.

    Much later, indeed throughout his career, signs of strain are often evident behind the apparent facility, in

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    Article Contentsp. 427p. 428

    Issue Table of ContentsJournal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 133, No. 5346 (MAY 1985), pp. 375-432NOTICES OF THE SOCIETY [pp. 375-381]THE IRISH SEA [pp. 382-386]EDUCATION FOR CAPABILITY [pp. 387-395]CORPORATE MANAGEMENT OF ELECTRONICS TECHNOLOGY [pp. 396-404]GARDEN FESTIVALS AS A MEANS OF URBAN REGENERATION [pp. 405-421]GENERAL NOTES [pp. 422-426]OBITUARY [pp. 426-426]NOTES ON BOOKSReview: untitled [pp. 427-427]Review: untitled [pp. 427-428]Review: untitled [pp. 428-429]Review: untitled [pp. 429-430]Review: untitled [pp. 430-430]Review: untitled [pp. 431-431]

    FROM THE JOURNAL OF 1885 [pp. 432-432]