Objective Journal of History of Design and Curatorial Studies Issue No. 2
Editor in Chief – Catherine Powell Editorial Board – Adrian Madlener and Narender Strong Chief Copy Editor – Penny Wolfson Copy Editors – Samantha Wiley; Elizabeth Scheuer; Jeffery McCullough; Anne Bailey Design – Bill Shaffer (Head) and Alison Underwood Faculty Advisor – Dr. Marilyn Cohen
Penny Wolfson, MA History of Decorative Arts and Design (2014), is an awardwinning essayist and author of the 2003 memoir Moonrise. Her article “Enwheeled: Wheelchair and User in Early Film”, taken from her MA thesis, was published in the inaugural issue of Objective in 2015. Alison Underwood, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (candidate), is a first-year student and Kentucky native pursuing design history and practice in New York City. Alison contributed to the graphic design of the current issue of Objective. She is also currently an intern with the Brooklyn-based design firm Decorative Traces, co-founded by alumna Danielle Walish. Jeffery McCullough, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (candidate), is a first- year student who earned a degree in Interior Design from the Interior Design School of Georgia Southern University. He established McCullough Art & Design Consulting in 2003, and in 2007 he was named as one of the top "10 under 40" designers by New York Spaces Magazine. His projects have been published in national publications. Elizabeth Scheuer, MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design (2013), is an attorney by training. She currently is a lecturer at Purchase College, SUNY and a docent at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. * Other biographies can be found throughout the Journal, at the end of the text for which the contributors are responsible.
The Objective: Relationships As I write these words, I look back to the inaugural issue of Objective, published in April 2015, and am reminded of the remarkable publication it is. It sets the foundation of Objective as a journal “meant to represent the breadth of [the MA Program in History of Design and Curatorial Studies] our interest in objects, the contexts which produced them, and the methodologies through which they can be understood”. I believe that this second issue fulfills this mandate, by including a range of topics that varies widely across media, geography, and temporal boundaries. The essays in this issue will take you to the masquerade balls of eighteenthcentury France and the Reformed Dutch churches of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; into a world of luxurious textiles designed in twentiethcentury Italy and the universe of couture perfume in nineteenth-century France. We present the work of Frances Toor, the American intellectual who created Mexican Folkways (1925-1837), a magazine and cultural milestone, as well as a unique perspective on the traditional British fascination with the material culture of things as captured in the dark film comedy Withnail and I (1987). The reviews – of exhibitions, books, and the stage – explore the underbelly of the fin de siècle in Paris; cutting edge design in Seoul; the dark but poignant realm of mourning and remembrance in nineteenth-century America; and the hyperkinetic mind of a young man living with Asperger’s Syndrome in our contemporary, never-still Western society. Yet, as diverse as these topics may seem, all of them are, at their core, concerned with relationships: between the makers and the users of material culture, whether it be the curators and viewers of an exhibition, textile and costume designers, or the relationships amongst social classes, to name a few. The omnipresence of these relationships has given us the opportunity to reflect upon relationships within Objective itself. Dialogue: The Uses of Text, ponders the use of text as part of the devotional artwork in Dutch Reformed churches and as used by Zagreb-born Dimitrije Bašicevic (pseudonym “Mangelos”) in his neo-avant-garde “anti-art” pieces exhibited in the recent MoMA exhibition Transmissions. Similarly, “Interviews” and “Perspectives” explore relationships between design history and curatorial practice. These articles offer a unique opportunity for our contributors to bring to the fore emerging issues and recent developments both in scholarship and in practice. The research and academic commentary presented in this journal is guided by our faculty and principles of advanced scholarship, and is further inspired and enhanced by the collection and expertise of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. We hope that in reading our journal, you will feel prompted to reflect, to debate, to relate. This is our OBJECTIVE. CP
Contents The Objective: Relationships
Nil usu penna, sed arte (Never your pen, but your art): The Art of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Text-Panel Painting Catherine Powell
Dialogue: The Uses of Text Narender Strong
Exhibition Review: Splendor and Misery Samantha Wiley
Why Didot? Interview with Bill Shaffer, designer of Objective.
Mexican Folkways: Frances Toor and Photography Claire Waugh
Talking about Beauty: Interview with Andrea Lipps, Assistant Curator, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Exhibition Review: Spatial Illumination in Seoul Jiyoon Park
Madame de Pompadour and Turquerie: Masquerade, DĂŠcor and Power Carolina Arevalo
Book Review: Narratives of the Deceased in Relics and Postmortem Photographs Rebecca McNamara
A Manifesto for Revived Ideals? Adrian Madlener
New Bar, Old Wallpaper Anna Rasche
Gallengaâ€™s Gold: Tradition, Innovation, and Collaboration in Early Twentieth-Century Italy Laura L. Camerlengo
Theatre Review: Seeing and Feeling Thought: Theatrical Design in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Matthew J. Kennedy
The David Whitney Building Wendi Parson
Perfume: The Essence of French Style and Luxury Susan Teichman
Withnail and I: Dissipation and Decorative Arts on Film Catherine Gale
Interior of the Church of St. Bavo in Haarlem, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, 1636. ÂŠ Rijksmuseum, NL
Nil usu penna, sed arte (Never your pen, but your art): The Art of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Text-Panel Painting
Catherine Powell The wave of iconoclasm that swept through the Netherlands in the second half of the sixteenth century fundamentally altered the nature of religious artworks displayed in Dutch Reformed churches.1 Pieter Jansz. Saenredamâ€™s Interior of the Church of Saint Bavo at Haarlem (1638) and Emanuel de Witteâ€™s Interior of a Protestant, Gothic Church, with a Gravedigger in the Choir (1669) are two of the many Dutch paintings inspired by this pictorial cleanse. Saenredamâ€™s painting depicts the whitewashed expanses of the church, stripped of figurative ornamentation, save for a painting of Christ and a blue-painted text banner on the great organ. The church interior depicted by de Witte is similarly devoid of figurative
ornamentation; the decoration of the church consists of geometric armorial panels hanging on the pillars, and of a framed yellow text panel. This paper is concerned with these text panels, which most often contain quotations from the Bible: the Word, effectively, having replaced the traditional figurative icons.2 This paper argues that these text panels (also known as tekstschilderijen, or tekstborden) would have been considered as a new form of art especially prized in the Netherlands of the early modern period, and that they served a moral and decorative purpose. Their materiality and composition contributed to their aesthetic value, while their installation within the church guided the devotional practices of the 9
parishioners and legitimized the oral prayers delivered by the clergy, effectively becoming spiritual tools to regulate Christian behavior after the Reformation. The Iconoclasm According to an often-told story, before dawn one day in 1517, Martin Luther, fed up with the corruption, clerical abuses, nepotism, simony, and sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church, posted ninety-five theses on the doors of the Wittenberg church. Discontent with the ways of the Catholic Church was hardly new, but Luther was the first to successfully challenge the institution of so-called “absolute monarchs”.3 In essence, Luther opposed the influence of money on the Church, particularly with respect to the purchase of indulgences (the total or partial forgiveness of sins). This included the purchase of masses for the salvation of the dead and outright “donations” in exchange for favors. It also extended to the cult of the saints, which had grown particularly powerful and financially profitable for the Church. One of the implications of the Reformation was to put into question the appropriateness of figurative works of art in churches. Many of these paintings and sculptures were richly decorated, carved in marble, gilded, ornamented with precious stones, or even clothed with sensuous textiles. Their beauty and richness risked 10
tempting the faithful and leading them astray from the Second Commandment, which prohibits idolatry. The Reformers feared that, rather than relying on the object or image to direct their meditation and devotion to God, devotees would in fact be praising the artistry and materiality of the object or image. For Luther, as well as for Erasmus (who remained within the Catholic faith, criticizing it from within), the antidote to these troublesome religious practices was to be found by returning to the sources—in this case, the Bible.4 Although Luther did not call for a complete ban on religious imagery, others did, and persuaded a segment of the population of the correctness of their position. The “great image debate” resulted in the Beeldenstorm of 1566, when destructive factions of the population charged through the churches of the Netherlands, removing or destroying religious works of art, often leaving nothing behind but whitewashed walls and barren buildings. Gilded altarpieces depicting the Virgin or various saints were removed and destroyed, maimed, or defaced. This scene is powerfully illustrated in the engraving by Jan Luyken, simply entitled “Beeldenstorm, 1566.”5 In the aftermath of this iconoclastic fervor, statues of saints were replaced by crucifixes; precious altarpieces were hidden, if they survived at all; and figurative paintings were replaced by panels on which were written passages from the Bible, heeding the Reformers’
call for a return to the Word. In the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, calligraphic text panels recounting the story of the Last Supper from the Bible (as opposed to a figurative representation of the scene), as well as the Ten Commandments, became ubiquitous.6
found in many of the Delft inventories surveyed by John Michael Montias, and included in the value of artworks.10 Calligraphy enabled writers to go beyond what was strictly necessary to convey their message; they could arrange letters, words, and sections into a pattern or enrich them with flourishes, often beyond mere The Art of Calligraphy in the legibility, such that writing became Netherlands of the Early their art.11 It is reasonable to Modern Period conclude, therefore, The Dutch that the calligraphic population of the text panels found in early modern period the Dutch was highly literate. Reformed churches Letter writing and were a “new species reading was a of art,” created to significant part of the fill the void left by education of men, the rejection of women, and religious imagery.12 7 children. CalligraCalligraphy, or phy, or schoonscrift learning how to (literally, “beautiful write beautifully, writing”), was a was intended to widely recognized instruct and mark of culture in discipline the hand. Duytsche exemplary van alderhande gheschriften, 1620. early modern Dutch It was commonly Jan van de Velde. Image courtesy of www.archive.org society. It was taught understood that the in schools, demonscript utilized in strated and promoted by manuals, writing a letter conveyed a particular and rewarded in public meaning, as part of a complex code competitions.8 Well-known calligra- of status and social conduct.13 How phers were elevated to the rank of something was written was insepaartists, and celebrated in song and rable from what was written.14 9 poetry. Schoolmaster Felix van Calligraphy not only required the Sambix, for example, won the exercise of skill, it also required Crowned Quill Prize of 1589; his discrimination to navigate the work was collected widely, including widely recognized code. A writer by leading fine artists, such as would have been acutely aware that Rembrandt. Furthermore, sheets the script she used carried very and panels of calligraphy were specific social associations that 11
placed her and her reader within “a matrix of coded social relationships,” and she would have judged the script of others on the same basis.15 The publication of instruction manuals on calligraphy proliferated in Germany and the Low Countries during that period. It is estimated that as many as 800 such manuals were published between 1500 and 1800.16 A typical calligraphy manual would include models of scripts to copy through moral maxims, usually in several languages and their corresponding script. A widely admired schoonscrift model book was Jan van de Velde’s Spieghel der schrijfkonste, published in Rotterdam in 1605. Others include Marie Strick’s Schat oft voorbeelt ende verthooninge van verscheyden geschriften ten dienste vandelieffhebkers der hooch-lofläcker konste der penne, published in 1618, and Johann Amos Cominius’ Orbis Sensualium Pictus, published in 1730. Even Albrecht Dürer’s Underweysung der messing mit dem zirckel und richtscheyt, published in Nuremberg in 1525, contained a section concerning Roman capitals and Gothic letters.17 From these manuals, one can delineate four broad categories of scripts used during the early modern period: Gothic, Civilité (a Gothic cursive), Roman all capitals, and rounded italic.18 Gothic was the oldest script to be printed, being used in the Guttenberg Bible, and is strongly associated with Germany and its Teutonic neighbors. Gothic letters are composed of straight, heavy lines, 12
and constitute an authoritative presence on the page. The Gothic script followed Gothic architecture closely; indeed, as vertical lines gradually supplanted horizontal ones, and rounded roman arches were transformed into pointed ones, so too did the Gothic script emerge, with vertical lines dominating visually, and “the texture [being] relieved only by the initials and decoration.”19 Although script manuals carefully dictated the form and the lines of the minuscule letters, the design of the capital letters was left largely to the fantasy of the writer. Notwithstanding the elaborate flourish of the capital letters, however, many individuals versed in calligraphy looked upon the Gothic script with disdain. To the humanists of Renaissance Italy, “Gothic” was synonymous with rude or barbaric, and unworthy of the classical authors they were rediscovering.20 Van de Velde found the script inferior, as it seemed slow and sluggish.21 Erasmus agreed, pointing out that transcribed in Gothic, even a speech by Cicero would come across as uneducated and barbarous.22 In contrast, the prestigious italic cursive letter, which seized upon the Carolingian writing, was believed to be the genuine writing style of antiquity; it was precise and rounded, and very elegant.23 It implied that its user was well educated, and appreciated the visual and artistic dimension of handwriting.24 Nevertheless, the Gothic script
Interior of a Protestant, Gothic Church during a Service, Emanuel de Witte, 1669. ÂŠ Rijksmuseum, NL
was dominant in early modern Dutch culture. The abundant use of the Gothic script meant that it was easy for people to read, and documents intended for wide public consumption—from the Dutch translation of the Bible authorized after the Synod of Dort, published in 1637, to advertisements for the sale of artworks, or comedies—were generally written in that script.25 It would also have been the script used by notaries, merchants, and clerks. Van de Velde’s Spieghel der schrijfkonste illustrates the hierarchy of scripts that existed in early modern Dutch society: interestingly, the title of the book is in Roman capitals; the text is entirely in Gothic; and the author’s name at the bottom of the page is in italic cursive.26 By reference to the hierarchy of scripts, van de Velde implicitly (albeit rather directly) communicated that his book was a serious work, and that he intended it for use by the general public; as the author of the book and master calligrapher, he conveyed his superiority by using the italic font to identify himself. It is reasonable to assume that the same hierarchy of script would have applied (and understood to apply) to the Dutch text paintings. Indeed, the consumers of Dutch text paintings were also the readers of van de Velde’s manual. The text panels surveyed for this paper all utilize the Gothic script. The panel of the Ten Commandments from the Great Cathedral in Harlinger, for example, sets out the 14
text of the Commandments in Gothic script, painted in gold on a dark background. Similarly, the text painted on the panel of the Last Supper, located in the St. Bavo Cathedral, Haarlem, replicates the relevant passage from the Bible using the Gothic script. The “Pictorial” Composition of the Text Panels In addition to the choice of script, the pictorial composition of the text panels was also critically important. The manner in which the text was grouped into zones, inciting a linear reading or not, the use of negative and positive space, and even the spatial arrangement of the letters in relation to one another could create meaning. Through pictorial composition, sentences could become announcements, a lengthy text could find rhythm, and a familiar verse could convey powerful rhetoric. Moreover, some layouts were very distinctive, and would have been familiar to the parishioners, who would have known the nature of the inscription even without reading it.27 Simply considering the “relationship between what surface and text, as well as the layout of the ‘page’ and the kind of writing,” would have created “a visual image” that would have informed the devotees about the writing.28 The panel of the Ten Commandments from the Great Cathedral in Harlinger, for example, is framed to replicate the shape of the tablets
handed to Moses, as commonly depicted in paintings, and it would have been immediately recognizable to the parishioners.29 Adding to the visual impact, ornate Roman numerals separate the Commandments from one another, and each of the Commandments begins with a florid capital that incorporates a rhythm into the panel; it is as though each section is an announcement of another Commandment. The Last Supper in St. Bavo is another example of the visual power of the text paintings. One can see four distinct text zones in the painting: the margin citation, the main body, a centered heading, and the subgrouping of the last three lines. By using these distinctive text zones and playing with the negative and positive space created by the arrangement of the letters, the panel brings to mind a page from the Bible, and would likely have been identified as such by the parishioners. The Materiality of the Text Panels As a result of the primacy given to the scriptures after the Reformation and the Iconoclasm, the Word was made into a tangible object—a thing that could be applied to form, meaning, and patronage.30 The text paintings exhibited a physical materiality, whether as a result of their appropriation of the materials used in the architecture of the church, or of their being made of other materials available at the time,
such as plaster, wood, stone, metal, or pigment. The materiality of the text panels is most obvious when the panels become materials of the church itself, that is, literally a part of the architectural structure. A particularly apt example of this phenomenon is the Linen Weavers’ painting in the St. Bavo Church, which is painted directly onto a pillar.31 By applying the paint directly onto the plaster, the painting acquires the materiality of the architectural pillar. The bright colors and strap work motifs applied to frame the text panel lend the Linen Weavers’ painting the appearance of a tapestry, further enhancing the material aspect of the painting. Materiality is also manifest in the frames used to define the text paintings. By adding a frame, a text painting instantaneously became an independent object, a thing that could be hung on a wall or moved as needed. As noted previously, the Last Supper text painting in the St Bavo Church hangs in the very same structure that used to house the High Altar. It is made of wood, which is carved with classically inspired swags and egg-and-dart motifs. The structure itself is in the shape of a temple, complete with pediment and pilasters with capitals. Here, the Last Supper, effectively, becomes a small building within the church. Some text paintings are framed in elaborate metal frames, such as the Last Supper text panel found in St Peter’s Church in Leiden.32 The 15
restrained black frame immediately surrounding the text panel is ornamented with elaborate gilded metal scrolls in the form of acanthus leaves. It is topped by a cartouche (itself inscribed with text), upon which sits a putto. The Reformation itself did not bring about new materials or technologies; it was to be expected that the text paintings would be executed using the same techniques and materials as the figurative art they replaced. What seems surprising, however, in light of the rejection of the opulence of religious art by the Reformers, is that the text paintings would be encased in frames and materials and forms that were just as rich and ornate as the earlier art forms, and even painted to resemble elaborate weavings and metal works. The framing of the text paintings supports the argument that the works were considered art in their own right, and were used to decorate the church.33 The Function of the Text Panels The purpose of religious figurative art was to awaken sensibilities, to communicate religious truth, and to aid in worship and education.34 The representational aspect of religious images allowed uneducated people to understand the religious narrative; it incited devotion; and it functioned as a mnemonic device. While people may forget what they hear, they tend to remember what they see. Given their materiality and artistic 16
characteristics, the text panels would also have inspired worship and education, in the same manner as the figurative paintings they replaced. Text Panels as the Ultimate Validation The text panels also would have served a very immediate purpose during and post-Reformationâ€”that of legitimization. The uncertainty and instability created by the great theological debates surrounding the Reformation, no doubt, left the population in need of reliability and guidance. In a time of religious strife, writing provided much needed assurances. Increasingly, it was recognized that certain matters were simply too important to be trusted to oral agreements and traditions; in such instances, writings became the ultimate arbiters of truth, hence the ultimate power of the Scriptures.35 For Reformers, the Word was a sword as well as a shield. In their attacks on the Catholic Church, they relied upon the Bible to deny the existence of Purgatory and denounce the sale of indulgences and distribution of papal pardons. In resolving internal debates and justifying their actions, they relied on the Bible as unshakeable proof of legitimacy.36 For example, a great debate regarding the use of the organ and inclusion of music in church was resolved through a thorough parsing of the Bible. In St. Bavo, where music was accepted as an appropriate form of devotion,
the great organ was adorned with painted banners that quoted from the Bible.37 In essence, “It is written” became synonymous with “It is permitted.” The text panels could therefore be seen as conferring veracity and validity to the messages inscribed on them, as though relying upon the authority of God Himself by means of such inscription.38 The Text Panels as Signifiers of God’s Omnipresence and Guidance It has been argued that the text paintings found in St. Bavo were meant to be read and used for personal meditation or group discussions.39 However, it is unlikely that the text paintings would have been used primarily in this manner. In all likelihood, the parishioners were unable to read the text panels in a way that would have allowed profound meditation or personal devotion. The paintings of Daniël de Blieck (Kerkinterieur, 1652, in the Rijksmuseum); Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (Grote Kerk, 1648, in the National Gallery of Scotland); and Job Adriaensz Berckheyde (Interior of St. Bavo Church in Haarlem, 1668, in the Frans Halsmuseum), to select only a few, convey the sheer immensity of many of the urban Dutch Reformed churches and, in particular, of the St Bavo Cathedral. They illustrate the scale and position of the text paintings in relation to the pews and the parishioners. While some of the text panels painted on
pillars may have been within reading reach of some adults, the principal text paintings of the Last Supper and the Ten Commandments would have been all but impossible for anyone but the choir to read.40 Nevertheless, the text panels were very conspicuous, and they were placed in the church so that they would be noticed: on pillars, on the choir screen, high above the altar. Even if they could not be read easily, they would have served as omnipresent reminders of the importance of the Word, and an inducement to live according to the moral code the Reformers believed the Bible established. The popular calligraphy manuals that proliferated in the Netherlands in the late sixteenth and seventeenth century support this theory. By reading and working through these manuals, individuals would have understood that a “letter is effectively a summoning of a person who is absent.”41 The mere sight of the text panels would have conveyed to the devotees the impression that God was present, speaking to parishioners and “watching” them through the text paintings. An extension of God, the text panels, almost as a form of surveillance, would have served to impose order and discipline on the flock. Conclusion The text panels can be construed as sermons echoing through the church, impressing upon the 17
devotees the rules of the newly Reformed Church and appropriate moral behavior. The text panels shared many attributes with figurative paintings they replaced; like the figurative paintings, the panels relied upon materiality and pictorial composition to convey a spiritual message and guide devotional practice. Relying upon calligraphy with which parishioners could relate, the text panels embodied a new art form that fulfilled decorative, educational, and supervisory functions.
of the scope of this paper, as their purpose would have been different from, and unrelated to, the return to the Word as a key precept of the Reformation.
Catherine Powell, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (2016), is a second-year student whose research focuses on the material culture of early modern Europe and, in particular, on issues arising from patronage and production. She is currently at work on her thesis on the afterlife of a seventeenth-century tapestry design.
10. John Michael Montias, Artists and Artisans in Delft: A Socio-Economic Study of the Seventeenth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), 229. The inventory of Rembrandt’s possessions made in 1656 contained a “[small book] with outstanding [examples of] calligraphy.” Jensen Adams, Disciplining the Hand, 66.
Notes 1. Yet, surprisingly, the effects of the iconoclasm on early modern painters and other artists have not been well studied. Koenraad Jonckheere, Antwerp Art after Iconoclasm: Experiments in Decorum, 1566-1585 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 8. 2. Mia M. Mochizuki, The Netherlandish Image after Iconoclasm, 1566-1672: Material Religion in the Dutch Golden Age (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2008), 197.
7.Peter C. Sutton, Love Letters: Dutch Genre Painting in the Age of Vermeer (London: Frances Lincoln, 2003), 26-27. Relying upon contemporary accounts, Sutton notes that large segments of the population could read, and that even some peasants and serving girls could write; as many as eighty percent of the sailors in North Holland could write. 8. Ann Jensen Adams, “Disciplining the Hand, Disciplining the Heart: Letter-Writing Paintings and Practices in Seventeenth-Century Holland,” In Love Letters: Dutch Genre Painting in the Age of Vermeer, Peter C. Sutton, ed. (London: Frances Lincoln, 2003), 65-67. 9. Ibid. 66.
11. Peter Jessen, ed., Masterpieces of Calligraphy: 26 examples, 1500-1800 (New York: Dover, 1981). Michael Baxandall draws parallels between the flourishes of Mastersong, the High German perception of pattern in handwriting, and the florid quality of the limewood sculptures of Renaissance Germany. Michael Baxandall, The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 149-52. 12. Andrew Morrall, Jörg Breu the Elder: Art, Culture and Belief in Reformation Augsburg (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2001), 139. 13. Jensen Adams, Disciplining the Hand, 65.
3. Jonckheere, Antwerp Art after Iconoclasm, 8-12.
14. Suzanne Meurer, “Johann Neudörfer’s Nachrichten (1547): Calligraphy and Historiography in Early Modern Nuremberg,” in Visual Acuity and the Arts of Communication in Early Modern Germany (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate), 2014.
4. Jonckheere, Antwerp Art After Iconoclasm, 31.
15.Jensen Adams, Disciplining the Hand, 65-66.
5. Etching on paper, Jan Luyken, Beeldenstorm, 1566, ca. 1677-1679, Rijksmuseum.
16. Jessen, Masterpieces of Calligraphy.
6.Text panels were also used to recount important community events, such as the Siege of Haarlem in the St. Bavo Cathedral. These panels fall outside
17. Alexander Nesbitt, The History and Technique of Lettering (New York: Dover, 1957), 82. 18. Jensen Adams, Disciplining the Hand, 67.
19. Nesbitt, History and Technique of Lettering, 36. 20. Ibid., 38. See also Collette Sirat, Writing as Handwork: A History of Handwriting in Mediterranean and Western Culture, edited by Lenn Schramm, with an appendix by W.C. Watt (Brepols, Belgium: Turnhout, 2006), 305. 21. Jensen Adams, Disciplining the Hand, 70. 22. Desiderius Erasmus, “De reta Latini Graecique sermonis pronintiationne,” translated, in J. Kelly Sowards, Collected Works of Erasmus: Literary and Educational Works 4 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), 390-91. 23. Nesbitt, History and Technique of Lettering, 65-68. 24. Jensen Adams, Disciplining the Hand, 71. 25. Ibid., 67. 26. Ibid., 71. 27. Sirat, Writing as Handwork, 171. 28. Ibid., 171. 29. See, for example, Anonymous, De Tafelen der Wet met de tien geboden in schoonschrift getoond door Mozes, ca. 1560, Rijksmuseum. 30. Mochizuki, Netherlandish Image, 192. 31. Anonymous, Linen Weavers’ Painting, 1580. Haarlem, Great or St Bavo Church, in Mochizuki, Netherlandish Image, 2. 32. Mochizuki, Netherlandish Image, 131. 33. Juliet Fleming notes this contradiction, and writes that notwithstanding concerns over idolatry, in the case of text paintings (in her case, graffiti), “language does not seem to be aspiring to full transparency,” and accords full “presence to its own material supports.” Juliet Fleming, Graffiti and the Writing Arts of Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 67-70. 34. Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, “Visual Arts as Ways of Being Religious”, chapter 13 in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts, edited by Frank Burch Brown. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 221. 35. See, for example, The Statute of Frauds (29 Car 2 c 3), enacted in England in 1677. The purpose of the Statute of Frauds, and other laws like it, was to prevent fraud and perjury by requiring that
certain types of documents, such as the conveyance of real property or marriage agreements, be reduced to writing and signed, in order to prevent fraud. 36. For example, Tara Hamling writes of a painting of the sacrifice of Isaac in a church in Cornwall, England, which bears an inscription. She writes, “The text serves to underline the scriptural fidelity and therefore the legitimacy of the image.” Tara Hamling, Decorating the “Godly” Household: Religious Art in Post-Reformation Britain, published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 55. 37. The organ, and the second, lower text banner painted on it, was captured by Pieter Jansz. Saenredam in his View of The Great Organ, ca. 1634-1635 (Paris, Institut Néerlandais). The first (upper) banner quoted Psalm 130:4: Looft hem met snarenspel ende orgel (Praise Him with harp and organ). The second (lower) one quoted Ephesians 5:19: Sprekende tot Malkanderen met Pslamem ende Lofsangend ende Gheestelicke liedekens (Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. See Mochizuki, Netherlandish Image, 218. 38. Mochizuki, Netherlandish Image, 256. 39. Ibid, 273. The theory on meditation advanced by Mochizuki is not dissimilar to what H. L. Meakin argues with respect to the emblems painted in Lady Anne Bacon Drury’s closet (also known as the Hawstead Panels), of roughly the same period. See H. L. Meakin, The Painted Closet of Lady Anne Bacon Drury (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2013). 40. Based on a diagram provided by Mochizuki, The Last Supper is located at the very back of the High Choir, and a text panel of the Ten Commandments immediately at the front of the Low Choir. According to the scale provided with the diagram, the Ten Commandments would have been located approximately thirty meters from the very front pew, while the Last Supper would have been located approximately sixty meters from the same pew. The vast majority of people in the Church, therefore, would have been well outside reading distance from the text paintings. Mochizuki, Netherlandish Image, 4. 41. Jensen Adams quotes from Heyman Jacobi’s Ghemeene Seynbireven (Common Letters) of 1597, published in Amsterdam, as follows: “Een ontbiedinghe van d’eene mensch zyn sin de absent is.” Jensen Adams, Disciplining the Hand, 63.
The Uses of Text
Narender Strong Although there were over 300 works on display in the recent Museum of Modern Art exhibition Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960-1980 (September 5, 2015 through January 3, 2016), which featured artists responding to repressive regimes in Latin America and Eastern Europe in the post-World War II period, two works by Dimitrije Bašicevic (19211987), (who used the pseudonym “Mangelos”) captured my attention. Manifest de la relation (1976) and Manifest
diguraski (1977-78) are both mass-produced globes with thinly brushed calligraphic black text and red lines around their circumference. I would like to place these works in “dialogue” with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch text panel paintings discussed by Catherine Powell in this issue of Objective. In contemplating Mangelos’s globes and these anonymous Dutch text panels, I was inspired by Denise Whitehouse’s essay “The State of Design History as a
Mangelos (Dimitrije Bašicevic) – Manifest de la relation 1976 (Synthetic polymer paint on globe made of plastic metal); Manifest diguraski 1977-78 (Acrylic gold leaf on plastic and metal globe)
Discipline” and her argument that there are many different ways in which one can intellectualize the history of design. In this case, Mangelos’s globes and the Dutch text panel paintings offer different ways that ‘artworks’ utilize text as a form of design with which to communicate larger ideologies. Mangelos was an artist, art historian, and critic who worked in Zagreb, Croatia (Mangelos being the name of a town near his birthplace in Yugoslavia). Documented as a member of the Croatian neo-avantgarde art group Gorgona, Mangelos was interested in systems of thought; he used letters and words in his art as the main tools of communication. Advocating the anti-art of the Gorgona Group, Mangelos denied painting. Instead, he painted manifestos in black, white, and red calligraphy between parallel lines on globes. His attempt to deny painting was, in his words, to fight its irrational side. Mangelos used the globes to symbolize a circular process of unlearning and relearning. He believed in replacing the irrational thinking entrenched in a past naïve age of art, embodied in painting, with functional thinking suited to an evolving, more technology-influenced society. To undo the irrational quality of painting, he used letters and words from Latin, Cyrillic and Glagolitic (an ancient Slavic alphabet) as elements of rational thought. Mangelos’s theory of ‘no-art’ was “to negate the picture by writing it with words, to negate the word by painting it.”1 Text or writing, therefore, was Mangelos’s way of protesting conventional painting. His manifestos hypothesized that art had been left behind as society was
progressing. His globes are a communicative design that challenge how we think about global order, ideologies, hierarchies and values in art, and, more broadly, how we think about political economies. In Powell’s understanding of the Dutch text panel paintings, calligraphic text and writing played an important role in asserting the religious teachings of the Reformation in opposition to the Catholic Church. The text on the panels functioned as primary visuals that reinforced the spiritual and authoritative messages of the Reformation. Churchgoers didn’t so much read the panel paintings (set high in the church) as imbibe their spirituality. For both Mangelos and the Dutch, text and calligraphy conveyed powerful responses to the political and social atmosphere of the period. In both cases, figurative imagery no longer served a useful purpose–albeit for different reasons. While Mangelos took mass-produced globes and applied text to them, rejecting their original function and asserting instead a new aesthetic paradigm, the Dutch embraced the function of the text panel paintings and used calligraphy to communicate religious truths, provide spiritual guidance, and incite and inspire devotion and worship. For both, text becomes a form of design or ‘anti-art:’ Text replaces image to spell a desire for a new world order. 1.Branislav Dimitrijevic, “A Brief Narrative of Art Events in Serbia after 1948,” East Art Map, edited by IRWIN (London: Afterall, 2006), 287.
Narender Strong, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (candidate), is a first-year student and a curatorial intern at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Narender is on the editorial board of Objective.
L‘Attenté, 1880; Jean Béraud. Image courtesy of the Musée d’Orsay.
Splendor and Misery Samantha Wiley The notorious French aristocrat and writer Marquis de Sade said, “In order to know virtue, we must acquaint ourselves with vice.” But what if we focus solely on vice instead of virtue? The salacious is certainly more intriguing, and ultimately, more profitable than the virtuous; countless popular portrayals of prostitution in art and literature, from seventeenthcentury Dutch paintings of brothels to Émile Zola’s novel Nana (1880), have piqued public interest for centuries attesting to this proposition. The Musée d’Orsay’s highly-anticipated “Splendor and Misery: Images of Prostitution 1850-1910,” explores the relationship between vice and virtue by staging the largest exhibition devoted to the subject of prostitution to date and revealing its unspoken position in the art and culture of Paris between the Second Empire and the Belle Époque. This period in French history was marked by major changes in society and technology. The Paris population swelled as people left the country in pursuit of work. The once wellestablished gender and social roles that governed society became less defined.
Even the architecture of the city changed: Haussmann’s 1853-1870 transformation of the Parisian cityscape into wide, symmetrical boulevards provided a dramatic backdrop for artists, who now chose to depict the harsher realities of modern city life. Recurring themes of the new urban scene included isolation, mass-consumption, industrialization, and prostitution. A common, legal profession that was monitored by police and strict hygienic standards, prostitution became an increasingly popular and controversial subject matter in art as demonstrated by the proliferation of artworks and artifacts exhibited in “Splendor and Misery,” some of idealized beauty, others of severe reality. Even today an exhibition about prostitution is not without controversy. “Splendor and Misery” has been marred by negative publicity, including an indirectly-related museum strike that delayed the opening; questions as to the integrity of a museum in choosing to produce a ‘blockbuster’ exhibition geared towards attracting tourists; and a recent nude performance by artist Deborah de Robertis in front of Manet’s Olympia (1863).
De Robertis’s performance led to her arrest for indecent exposure, and fueled the ongoing debate over censorship and what constitutes art. While the controversial theme of “Splendor and Misery” may have propelled ticket sales and criticism, it is the careful curation and design of the exhibition that successfully provide a comprehensive look at the role of prostitution and its influence on art. The breadth of this extensive exhibition is disciplined by a methodological division into five sections, each of which reinforces particular aspects of prostitution. These include ambiguity, brothels, prostitution in the moral and social order, the aristocracy of vice, and prostitution and modernity. Within these carefully curated sections, the more familiar or favorite works by artists such as Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Edouard Manet, and Vincent van Gogh intermingle with photographs, sketches, and artifacts. The exhibition begins with a series of rooms devoted to the topic of ambiguity. These rooms highlight hidden symbols in art that allude to prostitution, from the illumination of a gas-lit lamp post to the subtle exposure of a woman’s ankle and the locale of the Paris Opera House, a venue associated with upper-class prostitution. Paintings, such as Jean Béraud’s L’attente (1880), call attention to the recurrent image of the single woman. Béraud’s female subject, cloaked in all black, contrasts the whitewashed Parisian cityscape as she stands on the edge of the sidewalk, looking towards the figure of a man in the background as a potential client. The depiction of the lone woman, whether on the street, at a café table during ‘absinthe hour,’ or socializing in high society, is a constant trope for
prostitution throughout the exhibition. Subtle aspects of imaginative and evocative contemporary exhibition design here may be overlooked as the crowds rush to see the better known, crowd-pleasing artists and works of the exhibition. Thoughtful architectural details reinforce the theme of each room as visitors may, consciously or unconsciously, perceive the hidden symbols and themes attendant to the representative array of objects. The passageway to the second section of the exhibition is an example of this. After the initial introductory rooms, visitors must walk through a narrow hallway lined with life-size photographs of a nineteenth-century Parisian streetscape. The imagery and alteration of space transports the visitor from the contemporary world of Musée d’Orsay into the underbelly of Paris during the Belle Époque. From here visitors enter a sequence of rooms devoted to brothels in which paintings such as Féliz Vallotton’s Women Washing (1897) and Toulouse-Lautrec’s print series titled Elles (1896) depict the life of a brothel worker. Women are seen in the process of preparing for a night of work by bathing and getting dressed. Steeped in reality, these works contrast others in the room that romanticize and fantasize life in a brothel. The design of these rooms itself evokes the domestic interior of the brothel through the exaggerated use of red coloration and plush fabrics. Additional interior elements are added as the visitor progresses through the exhibition, including red wainscoting and a circular, velvet settee. The oversized settee doubles as a place for exhibition visitors to rest and as a display case for escort calling cards,
tokens (a form of currency used at the time), advertisements, and photographs. These artifacts of the trade were meant to lure customers to legally licensed brothels. While these rooms may not accurately reflect the interior of a nineteenth-century brothel, the use of stereotypical associations such as the color red, plush velvet fabric, and domestic details like wainscoting and carpet evoke the image of a brothel as we commonly imagine it. In the next room, a dark plum color lines the walls of the section devoted to the moral and social order of prostitution. Here, the debate surrounding the regulation and abolition of the trade is shown through artifacts, rather than artworks. Medical journals, illustrations, and wax figures depicting the realities of trade - diseases and ailments - are displayed in cases. The section is small, taking up the space of a long hallway, but is vital to the exhibition. It places the subject of prostitution as seen in art within a larger historic and social context by demonstrating the severity of its physical effects—the misery denoted by the exhibition title. The impression that prostitution was an activity in which only the lower classes were involved is disproved by the following section titled ‘The Aristocracy of Vice,’ devoted to aristocrats, courtesans, and the demi-monde. The distinction between a courtesan and a street prostitute is made visually obvious in the works on display. For example, Henri Gervex’s Madame Valtesse de la Bigne (1889) shows the young woman poised in a frothy white dress and holding a parasol as she walks through a garden. She is the opposite of Béraud’s darkly dressed woman in L’attente, displayed earlier in the exhibition and discussed above. Her refined appearance
deliberately echoes her wealthy, aristocratic clientele. Not surprisingly, courtesans were often difficult to differentiate from aristocrats. This ambiguity is explored through both paintings of courtesans and the decorative arts they owned. Furnishings become the subject of examination in the room titled ‘Respectable Society and the Demi-Monde.’ The whimsical, Rococo-revival swirls of the shell-shaped Lit de la Marquise de Païva (before 1860) draws attention in a room filled with exceptionally lavish furnishings. Its sheets are rumpled as if someone has just left the bed – a potent reminder of the theme of the exhibition. While furniture and decorative arts do not constitute a significant portion of the exhibition, its clever use in connection to the paintings of courtesans that line the walls creates a holistic view of the demi-monde. They are displayed so as to assert the lack of distinction between the interiors of respectable aristocratic society and that of the demi-monde. Aesthetically, both were characterized by an emphasis on traditional French luxury and taste. This is reinforced by the exhibition’s transition from the garish red walls of the brothels to the luxurious grey damask wall coverings featured in this portion of the exhibition. “Splendor and Misery” concludes with a chronological display of prostitution in paintings from 1850 through 1910. The sequence begins with galleries devoted to classical themes, with a room dedicated to the reclining figure and another to allegorical representations, and concludes with prostitution as seen through the daring colors and lines of early-twentieth century modernists. The display is effective in demonstrat
ing the presence and evolution of prostitution in art, highlighting changing perceptions and styles that have enveloped it. However, the traditional picture gallery setting with its emphasis on paintings pales in comparison to the previous rooms on display in which art, artifacts, and the exhibition’s conceptual and spatial design are so well integrated. Indeed, it is these curatorial choices that rebuff any argument that the subject matter was chosen to augment ticket sales. Rather, “Splendor and Misery” goes beyond pure salaciousness to explore the larger role and meanings of prostitution in human history and educates the curious visitor to the complex ways in which both vice and virtue influence art, design, and material culture. ‘Splendor and Misery: Images of Prostitution
1850-1910’ was exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay from September 22, 2015 – January 17, 2016. The exhibition was collaboratively curated by Marie Robert and Isolde Pludermacher curators at the Musée d’Orsay, Richard Thomson, professor at Edinburgh University, and Nienke Bakker, curator at the van Gogh Museum. It will be shown at the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from February 19, 2016 – June 19, 2016. The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive, 308-page catalogue featuring essays and illustrations published by the Musée d’Orsay and Flammarion. Samantha Wiley, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (expected 2016), is a second-year student whose research interests include the history and social impact of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century furniture and architecture. Samantha spent the 2015 fall semester studying at Parsons Paris as part of her MA studies.
Why Didot? INTERVIEW
The Didot family were book publishers and printers active in France in the second half of the eighteenth century. Pierre and Firmin Didot took over the family business started by their father, François Didot and, in the 1780s, Firmin Didot drew the first version of the family of typefaces we know today as Didot. The Didot typeface was marked by the extreme contrast between the thickest and thinnest parts of each letterform, and has remained an influential set of fonts that are studied by typographers to this day. Objective: The inaugural issue of Objective used the Avant-Garde typeface. Why did you decide to change it? Bill Shaffer: The inaugural issue actually used two typefaces, Avant-Garde for headlines and Baskerville, for text. And the issue contained an essay about the creation and meaning of Avant-Garde, designed by the legendary American graphic designer Herb Lubalin. As both a historian and a graphic designer, I very much appreciated Objective incorporating the story of typography as a fundamental part of the journal. It made me think that perhaps there were other typographers whose story could be told as well, and that whoever comes along to design subsequent issues of Objective might also have an opportunity to highlight a typographer that they held in high regard.
Objective: Why use the Didot typeface in particular? BS: It comes a little bit from where I happen to be in the program. We have started this second semester in Survey looking at neoclassicism and the birth of modernism – and to what degree historical influences from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were either kept or discarded as design moved into the twentieth century. The Didot family looked at classic typefaces – like our text font, Baskerville, for example – and then set out to make a more modern version. Objective: Yet the name of the typeface used for the inaugural issue – AvantGarde – seems more modern, does it not? BS: It may seem this way at a glance, but for me the Didot typeface is very modern. The extreme contrast between the thicks and thins of the letters was unheard of at the time, and an example of French audacity. But most importantly for me, Didot has withstood the test of time: to this day, it is used on the cover of Vogue and in all kinds of editorial publications. I believe that typographically it is possible to be both classic and modern at the same time, and hopefully that comes through in this issue of Objective. Bill Shaffer, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (candidate), is a first-year student and has been in design practice in New York for thrity years.
Folkways Frances Toor and Photography
Claire Waugh I wanted ‘Mexican Folkways’ to express the Mexico that interested me so keenly, it … has touched upon art, music, archaeology, and the Indian himself as part of the new social trends, thus presenting him as a complete human being. And …that the magazine might mean something to the Mexicans as well as to outsiders. – Frances Toor Mexican Folkways1 Mexican Folkways, a publication created by North American intellectual Frances Toor, sought to preserve and disseminate Mexican folk customs, art, and traditions after the Mexican Revolution. The photographs published in the magazine, taken by Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, and Hugo Brehme, among others, demonstrated varying perspectives on Mexican Figure.1 Frances Toor, Two Zapadores Mexican Folkways 5, no.1 (1929): 11.
identity. From abstracting the exotic landscape to overt political messages and nostalgic peasant scenes, these photographs represented Mexican folk culture as complex and multilayered. Post-revolution Mexico was a time of great political, social, and artistic activity. Inspired by the socialist goals of the revolution, Mexican, North American, and European artists were eager to be part of creating and imagining a new Mexican identity. Political institutions, upended during the revolution, represented a formal, elitist, and academic approach to education and art.2 Rejecting this upper-class, Eurocentric influence, artists and intellectuals instead focused on poor, rural, and indigenous culture. They emphasized that the real Mexican identity lay in 29
folk art and customs that had existed American audience. Art photograbefore the Spanish conquest.3 It was phy was also published as a the preservation and celebration of celebrated creative form. Photograthis culture—its incorporation into a phy had developed throughout the larger Mexican national identitytwentieth century, moving from a that artists of the time championed. soft focus, with a sentimental and The mission of Mexican Folkways romantic feel, to a sharper lens and was to cultivate understanding and an interest in abstraction, evident in appreciation of Mexican folk culture high contrast.6 Modernism broke among a North American audience the representational method with (predominantly white, and middle geometric forms, to create new ways or upper class). North Americans of seeing and understanding the largely saw Mexico as a violent, world. Photographers in postimpoverished, if exotic, revolutionary Mexico nation, which was the used this new style. perception created by Their interest in the photographic and deconstructing the written documentation representational world of the revolution.4 The into graphical forms publication endeavored was mediated by their to change these social agendas.7 North negative perceptions, American photograand to ignite appreciaphers prioritized their tion for indigenous interest in Mexico as a Cover, Mexican Folkways culture. Toor wanted subject above all else, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1928 Mexican Folkways to be allowing them to available as a resource for Mexicans capture the rapid and complex as well, documenting the continued transformation of Mexico after the traditions and vibrancy of folk art. revolution. To accommodate both audiences Toor, the editor and driving force the publication was bilingual, with behind Mexican Folkways during its articles written in both English and ten-year run, spent the greater part Spanish. Much to Toor’s disappoint- of her life living in Mexico.8 Born in ment, however, the magazine was Plattsburgh, New York, in 1890, she too expensive for Mexicans to was first drawn to visit the country afford. North American readers saw after seeing an exhibition of Spanish texts as tokens of authentic- Mexican folk art in California.9 In ity, rather than Toor’s effort to 1922, she attended summer school connect with a Mexican readership.5 at Mexico City’s National UniverPhotography in Mexican Folkways sity. Greatly inspired, she remained served as documentation, recording in Mexico after her program and scenes of indigenous life and folk began publishing Mexican Folkways. objects unknown to a North She was part of the post-revolution 30
community of artists there that included Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, René D’Harnoncourt, José Clemente Orozco, and Miguel Covarrubias, among other famed artists and intellectuals. Recognizing the significance of their work, Toor published reviews, interviews, and images in her publication. The innovative collaboration of this artistic community provided context for the use of photography in Mexican Folkways.10 An intellectual interested in preserving and glorifying Mexican indigenous folk culture, Toor was not a visual artist in her own right. Yet she took many of the photographs published in Mexican Folkways. She was a one-woman show, researching, writing, and photographing much of the content published. Her work revealed an attention to subject over aesthetics. Two Zapadores, for example, accompanied an article on Oaxacan masks and provided a visual example of the masks discussed in the written text (fig. 1). A North American reader would have been unfamiliar with these hand-carved wooden masks. The photography was authentic, yet exotic, documentation. A Yucatan Potter depicted a young man seated on the ground, shaping a ceramic pot. This image set a scene. If a North American visited a rural Mexican pueblo, this would be what they saw. Toor rendered Mexican cultural tropes as evidence of a moment in time. Edward Weston, the influential twentieth-century American
Figure 2. Edward Weston, Maguey Cactus. Mexican Folkways 2, no 4 (October/November 1926): 12.
photographer, had some of his most iconic images published in Mexican Folkways.11 Weston spent four years in Mexico between 1923 and 1927. His most significant contribution to shaping the Mexican identity during this time were his collaborations with Anita Brenner and her 1926 book Idols Behind Altars.12 This edition was both a photographic and written record of indigenous arts and crafts. Many of Weston’s work featured in Mexican Folkways had originally been taken for Idols Behind Altars. “Art for art’s sake” was Weston’s goal. Attention to aesthetics took precedence, but a social and cultural message remained. Maguey Cactus was a symbolic expression of Mexico; the cactus represented exotic ideas of rural life and a simpler time (fig. 2). Looming large and dark at the center of the composition, the maguey reached its long, spiky leaves up towards the sky. Oaxaca Water Jars epitomized Weston’s balancing of aesthetics and social agenda. Arranged in a 31
triangular composition, three ceramic water jugs created a harmonious and geometric image. These aesthetic elements would have appealed to a North American audience. The photographer’s interest in modernism did not break the representational world beyond recognition. Water jugs, objects used in rural peasant life, were glorified, as Mexican identity was portrayed as exotic, rich in history, and rooted in the landscape.13 As compared to Toor, Weston demonstrated a specific aesthetic intention beyond documentation. Cultural awareness of post-revolution Mexican identity in this way was facilitated through photography. Tina Modotti was arguably the most important photographer connected to Mexican Folkways, serving as the primary photographer and a contributing editor for the first five years of its publication. The magazine effectively launched Modotti’s artistic career – championed by Toor and exposing Modotti’s work to a large Mexican, North American, and European audience.14 Edward Weston’s lover and muse, as well as his photographic assistant, Modotti was often overshadowed by him. Working with Mexican Folkways gave her independent recognition for the first time.15 Modotti’s photographs were primarily political in nature. She was an activist and member of the Mexican Communist Party.16 Composition and aesthetics were tools to further her political message. Worker’s Parade was taken 32
in 1926 at a demonstration (fig. 3). A view of the demonstrating workers, taken from above, captured a sea of sombrero hats worn by parading men. The photo elevated the poor, everyday worker, emphasizing the number of demonstrators and their solidarity with one another. The composition reinforced the political message, as the circular-shaped sombreros showed a modernist attention to graphics. This symbol brought an element of exoticism to the image, as it would have been foreign to North Americans but was a classic representation of indigenous, rural Mexico.17 Publishing Modotti’s photographs, Toor educated her readers on postrevolutionary Mexico’s complex political situation. Presented as a well-composed artwork, difficult social issues, such as workers’ rights, were made tangible to a North American audience.18 Modotti’s Sickle and Corn epitomized Mexico’s post-revolution struggle in an arranged still life of a sickle, an ear of corn, and a bandolier. The sickle represented the Communist Party, the ear of corn the Mexican people, and the bandolier the revolution’s physical conflict. Modotti glorified the Mexican indigenous rural population and quest for a socialist society.19 Weston’s influence on Modotti was evident here. A simplified composition and attention to form and contrast was reminiscent of the modernist compositions Figure 3 Tina Modotti, ‘Workers Parade’, Mexican Folkways 2 no. 3 (August/September 1926): 21.
created by Weston and published in Mexican Folkways.20 Modotti was set apart from her teacher, however, by political message. Sincere interest and concern for the Mexican people, manifest in political activism, ran through her photographic career. Hugo Brehme, by contrast, presented a picturesque interpretation of Mexican identity in Mexican Folkways. The German emigrĂŠ Brehme arrived in 1908 during the revolution. His early photographs
documented the conflict. He tookthe iconic photo of Emiliano Zapata, in Cuernavaca.21 After the revolution, Brehme turned his lens to the Mexican landscape and people, traveling to rural villages around Mexico City, capturing indigenous peasant life. In 1923 Brehme published these photographs as a collection called Mexico Pintoresco. Many works of this series were featured in Mexican Folkways.22 Brehme played to North American ideas of Mexico as a beautiful,
exotic place.23 His idealism is evident in Women of Veracruz, where four indigenous women stand dressed in typical Mexican embroidered dresses. The women appear content and unburdened by the modern world. Attention is focused on their unusual clothing as representative of their indigenous character: simple, rural, and pure. Indian Sandals similarly glorified an exotic, yet sedate, rural life. A Mexican man has lined up sandals, presumably for sale at a market. Portrayed as simple and hardworking, the man is unencumbered by tensions of modern life. This image upheld romanticized and idealized notions North Americans projected onto Mexico.24 Publishing Brehme’s photographs, Toor presented different perspectives on the country. Balancing Weston’s symbolic images with Modotti’s political oeuvre and Brehme’s picturesque interpretations, the reader of Mexican Folkways obtained a multidimensional identity of Mexico. There were other photographers included in Mexican Folkways, and their work likewise contributed to the complex presentation of Mexican folk culture that Toor wanted to communicate. Among the most famous was Manual Alvarez Bravo, known for his portraits of famous artists and thinkers. His photograph of René D’Harn oncourt, a prominent figure in the Mexican art scene and later director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, is a good example. Alvarez Bravo took over the 34
position of contributing photographer to Mexican Folkways in 1931, when Modotti was exiled for her communist activities.25 The work of Alvarez Bravo, born in Mexico of mestizo descent, is not included here because this paper has focused on North American and European artists working in Mexico. But Mexican Folkways represented art and opinions from artists of many nationalities, indigenous and mestizo Mexicans, North Americans, and European émigrés. An examination of North American and European photographers published in Mexican Folkways reveals varied representations of Mexican identity during the 1920s and 1930s, or the post-revolution period. Mexico was depicted as picturesque, symbolic, and political, with artists finding inspiration in the nation’s landscape and people. By including this stylistic range of photographs in her publication, Toor did not simplify or reduce Mexican identity to any derivative; rather, she embraced and published varied expressions or interpretations of the nation at one of its most critical historical moments. Claire Waugh, MA in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies (expected 2016), is a second year student who focuses on nineteenth-century British material culture and on theories of luxury. A former Fulbright Fellow, she is passionate about connecting people with the beauty of design.
Notes 1. Frances Toor, “Editor’s Note,” Mexican Folkways 7 (1932): 208. 2. James Oles and Marta Ferragut, South of the Border: Mexico in the American Imagination, 1917-1947 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993), 40. 3. Peter A. Stern, "Frances Toor and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance," Paper presented at the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (2000), 3. 4. Oles and Farragut, South of the Border, 25. 5. Stern, "Frances Toor and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance," 4. 6. Lynne Warren, Encyclopedia of TwentiethCentury Photography (New York: Routledge, 2006), 1062-64. 7. Esther Gabara, Errant Modernism: The Ethos of Photography in Mexico and Brazil (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 7-9. 8. Toor was born in 1890 and died in 1956. “Frances Toor, 66, Wrote on Mexico,” New York Times, June 18, 1956. 9. Stern, "Frances Toor and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance," 1. 10. For further discussion of the community of artists working in Mexico after the revolution see Stern, "Frances Toor and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance"; Hudson Strode, Timeless Mexico (New York: Harcourt, Brace,1944); Oles and Farragut, South of the Border. 11. Weston was born in 1886 and died in 1958. Patricia Albers, Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti (New York: Clarkson Potter, 1999), 159-61.
12. Idols Behind Altars was published in 1926. Warren, Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, 1675-76. 13. John Mraz, Looking for Mexico: Modern Visual Culture and National Identity, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 79-80. 14. Stern, "Frances Toor and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance," 12. 15. “A Walkthrough of the Exhibition Mexico as Muse: Tina Modotti and Edward Weston,” SFMOMA video, September 2006. 16. Albers, Shadows, Fire, Snow, 281; Margaret Hooks, Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary (London: Pandora, 1993), 188. 17. Mraz, Looking for Mexico, 79; “A Walkthrough of the Exhibition Mexico as Muse” SFMOMA video, 2006. 18. Leonard Folgarait, Seeing Mexico Photographed: The Work of Horne, Casasola, Modotti, and Álvarez Bravo (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008) 36-40. 19. Folgarait, Seeing Mexico Photographed, 78-79; Hooks, Tina Modotti, 142-46. 20. Albers, Shadows, Fire, Snow, 181. 21. Annette Leddy and Beth Ann Guynn, “Inventory of The Hugo Brehme Views of the Revolution, 1913-1920” (The Getty Research Institute, 2007), 1. 22. Leddy and Guynn, “Inventory of The Hugo Brehme Views of the Revolution, 1913-1920,” 3; Strode, Timeless Mexico, 419. 23. Mraz, Looking for Mexico, 79-81. 24. Strode, Timeless Mexico, xi - xii. 25. Albers, Shadow, Fire, Snow, 308; Hooks, Tina Modotti, 188.
Photo: Matt Flynn
Interview with Andrea Lipps, Assistant Curator at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Objective: What are some of the things you’ve been working on since then?
Objective: How did you become an assistant curator at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum?
AL: I worked on the following iteration of Cynthia’s exhibition “Design with the Other 90%: CITIES,” which opened in 2011. My next big project has been co-curating with Ellen Lupton the fifth National Design Triennial exhibition, “Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial,” scheduled to open in February 2016.
AL: I graduated in 2008 from the Parsons School of Design masters program now called History of Design and Curatorial Studies. Through an internship during the program, I worked with Cynthia E. Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design at Cooper Hewitt on her 2007 exhibition: “Design for the Other 90%.” After that exhibition wrapped up, I worked with Paola Antonelli at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on the “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibition as a research assistant, and later came back to Cooper Hewitt as a curatorial assistant on the fourth National Design Triennial, which opened in May 2010. Dress, 2015: Textiles designed by Suzanne van der Aa, Michiel Schuurman, and Sanne van Winden; manufactured by Vlisco. Courtesy of Vlisco Netherlands B.V.
Objective: This is quite a big leadtime, isn’t it? AL: Most major exhibitions have a long lead-time to properly research content, develop an accompanying publication, and plan and mount the show. Some of our early preparation was very conceptual – thinking about how to frame the exhibition. The 2010 National Design Triennial was organized around a theme – how designers 37
respond to human and environmental problems – which was the first time we had done that. It was an effective framework and we wanted to do that again; so we (the 2010 Triennial curators) met a few times, brainstormed themes, and discussed how to organize the exhibition. Objective: The theme of the 2016 National Design Triennial is “beauty.” Why? AL: In some ways, it is a dialectical response to the theme of the 2010 Triennial. This time around we wanted to recognize that while designers are still solving problems and focusing on function, there is also aesthetic innovation in design. Who doesn’t want to celebrate sensual invention and experience? Objective: Looking back to the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many designers and design theorists – Pugin, Ruskin, Morris, Hoffman, Gropius, et al. – seemed determined to “teach” people about taste and beauty, implying that these ideals could be defined and taught. Is there really such a thing as an ideal of beauty? AL: Not so much anymore; the notion of an ideal of beauty is grounded in early Greek philosophy, and a universal ideal of beauty continued to be discussed and debated in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German aesthetic theory. But in the twentieth century, beauty, particularly as it 38
related to arts and design, came to be regarded as deceptive – something that could not be trusted. If beauty was universal, then whose version of beauty was privileged? Beauty was devalued, seen as mere decoration and play at the surface. Critical artists embraced the banal and ugly, like the Dadaists. Modern designers celebrated simple geometries and function, like the Bauhaus. Beauty was struck from the conversation, eventually becoming the province of an entire industry centered on the surface: makeup, hair, fragrance. For the 2016 Triennial catalogue we interviewed designers contributing to the exhibition and asked each one what beauty means to them. Interestingly, many of them said it was a secondary aspect of their work. They were first focused on the object’s function. Yet, beauty is still very present in the work and in fact enhances an object’s function. It elevates the everyday, like using Daniel Emma’s cleaning set, which is made of polished aluminum, powder coated steel, and walnut. It helps us embrace time, like wearing Noa Zilberman’s wrinkles of gold. Beauty changes based on culture and time, even our mood and how something catches us. We recognize beauty because we experience it; it heightens our senses. That is what we were seeking to express with the exhibition. The 2016 Triennial is about creating that dialogue and recognizing that contemporary design practice celebrates beauty and sensual experience.
olfactory experience. Sound emanating from videos will provide an auditory experience. We had initially discussed featuring food and taste, but this was tricky to pull off in a museum setting.
Earrings; 2013; Designed by Hemmerle, Courtesy of FD Gallery.
Objective: Recently, we’ve noticed that a lot more attention seems to be given to complete sensory and immersive experiences. Is this a perspective you considered in developing the 2016 Triennial? AL: Absolutely. More and more, people are interested in having experiences. We want to enter physical spaces and be immersed and stimulated in ways that are very different from viewing a digital place. We see that now in museums, including at Cooper Hewitt, and in plays and creative dramatic programs that are completely immersive, such as “Sleep No More,” where the audience is free to wander about the expansive set, investigating. We were very conscious of these developments and sought to incorporate them into the exhibition to the extent possible. The exhibition will feature the work of a smell designer and artist, so visitors will have an
Objective: The introduction of the Pen* at Cooper Hewitt was heralded as a cornerstone in its reopening. How has the public reacted to this digital “experiential” tool? Is this something you considered in designing the Triennial? AL: The Pen has been enormously successful. Visitors engage with it, take time to explore the digital tables, and visit their personal collections after their visit, which is terrific. For “Beauty,” we didn’t consider not using the Pen since it provides such a rich and unique lens to engage with the show and our collection. The exhibition is organized by designer, featuring one to three works for each. These works will be tagged, and visitors will be able to learn more about the works and explore related objects from the Museum’s permanent collection. Objective: Many of the works featured at the 2016 Triennial have been made specifically for the exhibition; and, even where that is not the case, all of the works are on loan. Does this change how you approach the design of the exhibition? AL: Many temporary exhibitions are loan- and donation-based exhibitions, and now that we have 39
the new third-floor gallery space in the Carnegie Mansion (where the Museum is located), we have the opportunity to present temporary loan exhibitions and showcase new and interesting objects and perspectives, alongside displaying our permanent collection in the secondfloor galleries. Objective: “Curating” is a much overused expression du jour, leaving many with the impression that there exists a series of set principles or guidelines for designing an exhibition (or a playlist, or recipe book, or flea market). Have you found that to be the case? Do you have a personal curating philosophy? AL: In my role as a curator, I often think of myself as both an interpreter and educator about new design directions, as an advocate for designers, and as a producer of content. My expertise is contemporary design, so I am constantly synthesizing information that expands on new terrains of knowledge and practice, which may (or may not) eventually be manifested in exhibitions or collections. I visit design fairs and designer studios, attend talks, read as much as I can, and engage with colleagues. The challenge is to find a way to properly communicate new and exciting ideas. Ideas are infinite, and you often have to consider whether an idea warrants an exhibition or is better served by an article or a book or a class. There are lots of different forums, and understanding the best 40
forum for exploring an idea is key. Exhibitions of course remain central for sharing big ideas and special design practices with a wide audience. Objective: Is there an exhibition that proved particularly inspirational or influential to your practice? AL: This is a tough question! So many different exhibitions have impacted me in so many different ways. When I was at MoMA, I worked on the 2008 exhibition “Design and the Elastic Mind.” It was a watershed design exhibition for the first decade of the twentyfirst century, presenting a range of new and important design practices and approaches that continue today. It touched on the intersection of design and science, visualizations of big data, speculative design practice, and so much more. I was also struck by the American Folk Art Museum’s brief 2011 exhibition “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” at the Park Avenue Armory, but for very different reasons. The exhibition presented an enormous private collection of red and white quilts, but it was their installation that made the show memorable and utterly remarkable. Thinc Design, the exhibition designers, suspended 650 spot-lit quilts in cylinders and spirals that were almost 30-feet high, making dramatic use of the height of the Armory’s drill hall. That installation showed how dynamic exhibition design not only presents,
but elevates, content. Objective: In light of these influential exhibitions and your personal curatorial philosophy, what animating principles did you follow in designing the 2016 Triennial? AL: The subject of â€œbeautyâ€? is huge. Once we had settled on that theme, we recognized the need to engage other curators in order to obtain as many perspectives as possible. Co-curator Ellen Lupton
and I have American perspectives. So we reached out to people from other parts of the world to explore designers and practices we may not know or necessarily think of as beautiful. We gathered a group of international curatorial advisors from Brazil, South Africa, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, as well as a fashion expert. We asked everyone to nominate 15 designers whose work, in their judgment, embodied different facets of beauty. We came together in
Wallpapers (Archive Collection); 2014; designed by Studio Job; manufactured by NLXL; courtesy of NLXL.
February 2014 to present those nominations and explore one another’s thoughts on beauty. This created a foundation of principles and ideas from which to work. Curating is a rigorous process, and we went on to expand and refine further our list of nominees. Here, our approach to curating was founded on a rich international dialogue. Objective: Beyond this international perspective, did you actively consider other markers of diversity, such as gender and race, for inclusion in the exhibition? AL: We always think about gender diversity, and, thankfully, there are more and more examples of successful women designers practicing today. However, for the 2016 Triennial, our emphasis was international and on making sure we represented different points of view around beauty which, incidentally, ensured that the exhibition represents a broader spectrum of diversity, including cultures, gender, and race. Objective: You’ve worked on many important exhibitions, both at Cooper Hewitt and at MoMA. Is there anything you learned while working on this new triennial that was really surprising to you? AL: I learn so much from each exhibition. In this case, I learned principally about beauty itself. I did quite a bit of reading in philosophy, 42
evolutionary psychology, and design theory. I discovered a lot about beauty, what it had been thought to be and what it is thought to be today. It was surprising to me how much thought has been given to this intangible idea. Objective: What will occupy your nightmares in the months until opening night? [At the time of this interview, the Triennial was two months from opening night.] AL: So many things can go wrong! Will everything arrive on time? Will everything get installed on time? There is always a last-minute, frantic push, and, as much as we plan (and at Cooper Hewitt we plan everything to the last detail!), there are inevitably surprises in the field. It is all a bit unsettling. Yet we have such an incredibly professional team who makes these things happen on time, so I am confident that whatever challenge presents itself, we will be able to overcome it. Objective: You’ve been working on the 2016 Triennial since the year 2012. Is the big reveal going to be anticlimactic? AL: I always find it is thrilling to finally see the artworks arrive and installed in the galleries. Despite an exhibition being a curator’s vision, it is a hugely collaborative undertaking – from our crew, art handlers, conservators, registrars, exhibition specialists, graphic designers, exhibition and lighting designers, to
Beaded sculptures; 2015; designed by The Haas Brothers; courtesy of The Haas Brothers.
our communication, education, development, and events staff – it is a symphony of effort. Seeing your vision materialized and made tangible through such a huge collection of effort is incredible. Getting my hands on the exhibition catalogues straight from the box is also a highlight. It is the satisfaction that culminates from years of work, collaboration, and effort on the part of the publications, editorial, and design team.
*The “Pen” is a high-tech device that is a key part of the new Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum experience. Provided at admission, it enables each visitor to collect objects from around the galleries and create their own designs on interactive tables. At the end of a visit, the Pen is returned and all the objects collected or designed by the visitor are accessible online through a unique web address printed on every ticket. These can be shared online and stored for later use in subsequent visits.
Objective: Do you know yet what’s next for you? AL: Besides project managing a few internal projects and working a bit more on collections, I’ll be the curator-in-charge of a traveling exhibition that will be presented on the third floor of the Museum in 2017. More details to come!
All photos © Cooper Hewitt press images.
Artwork by Dennis Parren. Image courtesy of D Museum, Seoul.
Spatial Illumination in Seoul Jiyoon Park “9 Lights in 9 Rooms: Spatial Illumination” at the D Museum in Seoul December 5, 2015–May 8, 2016 On December 5, 2015, Daelim Museum opened the new D Museum annex with its inaugural “9 Lights in 9 Rooms: Spatial Illumination” exhibition. The new space was launched in Hannam-dong, an upand-coming Seoul neighborhood, 44
to celebrate the Daelim Cultural Foundation’s twentieth anniversary. The Museum has achieved unprecedented success in recent years, drawing much attention with an approach to display that blurs the lines between different genres of visual production; it has become a cultural destination for a younger, hipper generation of South Koreans.
Daelim Museum was originally founded in 1997 as Hanlim Museum. Located in the regional city of Daejeon, it was South Korea’s first museum dedicated to photography. In 2002, the institution moved to Tongeui-dong, Seoul, and re-opened as Daelim Museum. The charming, retro vibe of the neighborhood, which combines remnants of traditional Korean architecture from the Joseon Dynasty, with modern villas dotting narrow labyrinthine alleys, attracts young people in search of new cultural experiences. Since 2010, the Museum has established a distinctive identity by embracing a range of fields in its exhibition program: fashion, jewelry, architecture, graphic design, furniture, and photography. Showcasing these varied and very approachable exhibitions dramatically changed the audience for the Museum. Notable exhibitions have included “Work in Progress: Karl Lagerfeld Photography Exhibition” (2011); “The 100th Anniversary of Finn Juhl’s Birth” (2012); “Sparking Secrets: Swarovski” (2012); “Ryan McGinley: Magic Magnifier” (2013); “How to Make a Book with Steidl” (2013); and most recently: “Fashion Designer and Artist, Henrik Vibskov: Fabricate” (2015). Daelim Museum is pioneering a new realm of visual art exhibitions and continues to expand its boundaries by exploring aspects of art and design that are more accessible to a general audience or related to everyday life. The 2010 exhibition
“Inside Paul Smith,” for example, in which the renowned fashion designer’s personal collectionposters, art works, fashion illustrations and other objects—were displayed against life-sized prints of his office and residence, brought in new museum-going audiences, as did a successful retrospective of Linda McCartney’s photography. Daelim’s recent growth—over the last five years, the Museum has attracted a staggering 400,000 visitors —is particularly exciting, as it represents not just another museum space but a new type of cultural space in South Korea. Departing from the traditional static display of objects, the museum has actively developed a program, including alternative music concerts, parties with themes inspired by exhibitions on show, and other public events, that encourage visitors to make their experiences a part of social activity. The layout of the versatile new space, unimpeded by pillars and with eight-meter-high (26.2 foot) ceilings, lends itself to this range of activities. “9 Lights in 9 Rooms: Spatial Illumination” For its inaugural exhibition D Museum chose to showcase lightbased art works by nine leading international artists. Nine consecutive galleries introduce the work of each artist separately. Arranged as a kind of progression, from observation of pure light to direct experience of spaces, the showcase is 45
Artwork by Centh Wyn Evans. Photograph courtesy of D Museum, Seoul.
designed to stimulate the senses. In the first space of this exhibition, Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans’s neon light tube sculptures appear as suspended line drawings. Titled Neon Form (After Noh II and Noh III), the installation alludes to Nohgaku—a major form of classical Japanese musical drama—and evokes the movement of the character Noh lingering after a performance has ended. The artist’s transformation of formless concepts into shape finds affinity in the materials used as well as in immaterial gas in glass tubes illuminated by electrodes. Passing through Venezuelan Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation, one experiences a white space rendered in RGB-colored lights and floating objects; in the Danish
design duo Studio Roso’s Mirror Branch, a hanging sculpture comprising thousands of mirrored discs intricately attached to metallic branches; and in the Russian collective Tundra’s My Whale, an interactive video and sound installation of geometric forms projected on arched walls. Viewers then arrive at British artist Paul Cocksedge’s 2015 Bourrasque. Made of 200 LED light sheets, bent and molded by hand to resemble paper scattered in mid-flight, Cocksedge’s work was originally installed in the courtyard of France’s historic Hotel de Ville (town hall) in Lyon. In this show, mounted in a plain dark enclosed space, the work’s effect is far more reduced, but it still gives viewers the illusion of eternally suspended time.
Museum Boom in Asia Over the past decade, Asian governments have placed great emphasis on cultural growth and building museums; this is especially true in China, where the so-called Asian museum boom has created thousands of venues. Many of these museums were built by a new wealthy elite to show off their private collections without much consideration given to sustainability or longevity. China had only twenty-five museums in 1949, but after the nation launched a five-year plan in 2011 to create 3,500 museums by 2015, the growth was dramatic, and the projected goal was achieved three years early. Although the sudden expansion in the number of Chinese museums is often criticized for a lack of real institutional or intellectual infrastructure, it should be understood that the current Asian museum boom represents only the initial stage of cultural expansion. In some ways, this boom is reminiscent of a similar movement in western countries, such as the United States and Great Britain over the past hundred years, when wealthy patrons such as Getty, Guggenheim, and Tate built their own museums. At a certain stage of economic development, a society’s or nation’s cultural level becomes an index of civilization: the Chinese government fostered the growth of over 850 museums in 2011 and 2012 alone. On a smaller scale, South Korea has experienced a parallel museum
boom. Private institutions run by large industrial conglomerates are prominent in this trend: Leeum Samsung Museum of Art opened in 2004, run by the Samsung Foundation of Culture; Amore Pacific, a leading cosmetics company, opened an art museum in Yongin in 2009 and is scheduled to open a new exhibition space in Seoul by 2017; Art Center Nabi, specializing in new media art, was established in 2000 by the telecom giant SK Group. However, among these private museums housing large collections of international modern and contemporary art, Daelim Museum and its D Museum offshoot stand apart as environments that promote new ways of engaging with culture, lifestyle, and identity. “9 Lights and 9 Rooms” signals Daelim’s continued commitment to opening up the traditional museum experience to a broader range of social and cultural activities, mirroring and relating to the experience of a new contemporary Asian society. The venue is less static and didactic than in traditional museums; rather than viewing valued objects from a distance, this installation and the Museum itself is interactive and immersive, and singularly geared to engaging the visitor. Jiyoon Park, MA History of Decorative Arts and Design (2016), currently works as a curator at Onground, an architecture gallery in Seoul. Previously, she worked at the art gallery Gallery EM, also in Seoul.
Caftan, ca. 1725 - 1750. Image courtesy of Topkali Palace Museum, Istanbul.
Madame de Pompadour and Turquerie: Masquerade, Decor and Power Carolina Arevalo The appeal of “Oriental” motifs or chinoiserie for Europeans during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has been well documented. Much less explored during the same period is the lure of the exotic Middle East, which resulted in the birth of a style labeled turquerie. Not only was turquerie evident in the fine and decorative arts of the period, but it also found expression in such social activities as masquerade balls, where the display of Middle Eastern– inspired costumes could properly be characterized as a form of performance art. This paper considers the nature and importance of turquerie in eighteenth-century France as it was manipulated in the service of individual and national identities during the ancien régime – most particularly by Madame de Pompadour, courtesan, confidante, and patron of the arts during the reign of Louis XV. Madame de Pompadour appropriated turquerie as a form of artistic self-promotion that subverted hierarchies related to politics and gender in the French court. Exoticism and Turquerie in France Although diplomatic relations
between France and the Ottoman Empire existed from the beginning of the sixteenth century, it was only under the reign of Louis XIV that the French began to look to the Middle East with growing respect and as a source of inspiration. Turkish diplomats who admired the French court fueled a reciprocal admiration on the part of the French.1 Coinciding with the first major defeats of the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century, there was an increased flow of Middle Eastern artifacts and textiles into Europe, fueling the growing desire for turquerie. During the reign of Louis XV, this craze was especially evident in textiles used in fashion and other decorative arts as they appealed well to the Rococo taste.2 While imported textiles may have proven to be the most popular (and perhaps even the most successful) vehicle for turquerie, as noted by Julia Landweber, turquerie included goods made in France as well as authentic Turkish ones; that is, turquerie encompassed any object or action that symbolically referred to Turks and Turkey.3 As such, carpets, cushions, sofas, turbans, and caftans related to the Middle Eastern lifestyle, whether authentically Turkish or
produced at the Manufacture Royale des Gobelins, were introduced into French society. Looking comfortable and sensual, all of these items captured the romance of the Middle East harem. Literature was also a critical factor in the construction of turquerie. “Les Mille et Une Nuits,” (A Thousand and One Nights) translated into French in 1704 by Antoine Galland, portrayed an exotic Levant, dominated by eroticism and luxury—with a hint of danger. The translated novel became an evocative resource especially for the image of women inside the Ottoman sultan’s royal seraglio.4 Writers and travelers also brought back information from the Middle East that allowed the French to imagine and recreate the beauties of the women and the interiors of the harems they inhabited, the whole usually infused with moralizing judgments with respect to Islamic practices and standards of living in the Middle East.5 These writings in turn influenced the philosophies of French authors such as Montesquieu in his Lettres Persannes and Voltaire in Zaïre and Candide. Turquerie became a popular refuge for French society; it was a way to define the nation in contrast to the Turks, but one also offering them liberation from Christian values—bringing to the fore infidelity and indulgence. France and Masquerade Balls: Enter Madame de Pompadour From the time of Louis XIV and into the reign of Louis XV, the French had embraced masquerade balls: Masquerades were grounded in the centuries-old traditions of carnival and the world in reverse, liminal periods in which everyone customarily dressed as the symbolic opposite of their everyday selves ... This carnival spirit offers the
chance to have a new outlook on the world, to realize the relative nature of all that exists, and to enter a completely new order of things.6 Terry Castle observes that eighteenth-century public masquerade balls “were in the deepest sense a kind of collective meditation on self and other…. One became the other in an act of ecstatic impersonation.”7 Courtiers attending the masquerade balls were able to select their roles and disguises (within reason) in ways that allowed symbolical forms of expression outside regular court etiquette—and the opportunity to transgress boundaries of class as well as behavior. According to Mikhail Bakhtin, the mask hides things: “It is related to transitions, metamorphoses, the violation of natural boundaries, and to mockery.”8 By enveloping other national identities through costume, the French learned to define and re-conceptualize their own national and individual identities. 9 Indeed, the speed with which “Turkish” sultans and sultanas proliferated on French soil is documented in a 1764 engraving made from Charles Nicolas Cochin’s drawing The Yew Tree Ball, a masquerade ball held on the night of February 25, 1745, by Louis XV in the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles to celebrate the marriage of the dauphin to the infanta of Spain (Fig. 1). It was an important event in the history of Louis XV’s royal spectacles, and featured a significant number of “Turkish” costumed partygoers. As shown in the engraving, the characters represent rather varied embodiments of turquerie.10 Landweber describes the engraving as follows: Most noticeable are eight faux-Turkish figures sporting comically large papier mâché heads covered by turbans the size of wash-basins.
Figure 1. Decoration for a Masked Ball at Versailles, on the Occasion of the Marriage of Louis, Dauphin of France, and Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain (Bal masqué donné par le roi, dans la grande galerie de Versailles, pour le mariage de Dauphin, 1745); etching with engraving; ca. 1860 reprint of 1764 plate; Charles Nicolas Cochin I; Harry Brisbane Dick Fund, 1930; 30.22(34.34). Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Their ludicrous presentation indicates a joke of some sort: either they were emphasizing the old French stereotype of the lascivious Turk, with his large head, hunched neck, and hooded eyes, or else they were mocking the general fashion for elegant masquerade à la turque, which was then at the height of popularity in fashionable French society. Also visible, mingling in the crush, are many men and a few women dressed in more authentic reproductions of Turkish costume. These real-looking ‘Turks’ are shown conversing with other masqueraders dressed as Chinese, Siamese, East Indians, and American Indians; the Yew Tree Ball was a virtual smorgasbord of exotic peoples.11 At first glance, Cochin’s engraving might be interpreted as a statement about France’s international power, symbolized by the addition of the infanta of Spain to the French royal house. However, several of Cochin’s artistic decisions point in a different direction. Cochin emphasized the
Turkish imagery present, creating a specimen of turquerie, as Landweber describes, but he drew almost all of the audience facing the windows, such that their features cannot be readily observed. This artistic decision shifted the attention away from the many turquerie-clad participants as individuals, while making an “obligatory gesture at directing the viewer’s gaze to the Dauphin and the infanta, placing them in the brightly-lit center of the picture.” Nevertheless, one cannot help but look at “the congregating ‘Turks’ on the left and the equally odd yew-tree disguises on the right.”12 Cochin appears to focus in fact on a particular pair in the foreground, a man and a woman. The man, dressed in seemingly genuine Turkish garments, wears a mask with a large nose and a moustache, emphasizing that his costume is a disguise.13 The woman also wears a mask; her dress,
belted and fur-trimmed, appears to be in the true Turkish style. Despite her “turquerie,” however, the woman’s French identity is given away by her shoes: high-heeled slippers. The historical importance of the Yew Tree Ball was not as much a marker of the occasion of the union of France and Spain as it is the occasion on which Louis XV took notice of JeanneAntoinette Poisson, Madame d’Etiolles, soon to become his mistress under the name Madame de Pompadour. The moment of their encounter is shown in the engraving: the king, disguised as a yew tree, is in conversation with Madame, whose profile is recognizable. In true turquerie manner, the metaphorical handkerchief had been thrown: The sultan had chosen a woman from his harem. As observed by Perrin Stein, the motif of the thrown handkerchief (firmly understood in France by the middle of the eighteenth century) articulated the exact moment the romance began between the king and Pompadour as fantasized by French audiences intrigued by the polygamous household of Louis XV.14 Thus did the masquerade ball subvert court hierarchies: The king in disguise became attached to a woman of lower rank. Madame de Pompadour would go on to reign among a long string of the king’s mistresses; she would maintain Louis XV’s confidence even after she stopped being his mistress, and she would continue to use turquerie to mediate her image as a state personage. The Court as Her Stage and Madame de Pompadour as Sultana: Bellevue and la Chambre à la turque The chateau of Bellevue, built between 1748 and 1751, was Madame
de Pompadour’s residence and social base. It overlooked the banks of the Seine and was convenient to both Versailles and Paris. As the only residence built entirely and specifically for her use, writes Stein, Bellevue and its decoration took on a special significance for Pompadour as the king’s favorite; she “saw in its decoration an opportunity not only to demonstrate her taste, but also, through a purposeful and explicit program, to extol her virtues, talents and status.”15 Towards that aim, Bellevue contained a wide range of apartments and boudoirs decorated in exotic, especially Turkish, motifs. Madame de Pompadour’s bedroom at Bellevue, known as the chambre à la turque, was an early and emblematic example of “orientalizing,” according to Stein, with furnishings used to suffuse the room with an exotic ambiance: In furnishing the chambre à la turque, Madame de Pompadour was not concerned with verisimilitude in terms of re-creating contemporary Constantinople on French soil, but rather with a rich evocation of Turkey created with available luxury goods, both imported and of French manufacture. […] The sofa ‘à la turque’ must have been an evocative piece, likely placed under a baldachin of draped fabric. […] Oriental carpets and Chinese porcelains were mixed with porcelains, wall coverings and upholstery fabrics made in France and decorated with exotic motifs, including, on the fireplace, two large vases from Sèvres with lilac backgrounds and medallions depicting Turkish scenes [...] Francois Boucher’s large pendants Le Lever and Le Coucher du Soleil also painted for Bellevue, use the mythological representation of the sun as Apollo departing at dawn and then being welcomed home at dusk to signal Bellevue as a residence of the king (and Pompadour/Thetis as the reason for his loyal return), just as the harem series indicates Pompadour as the Sultana of the royal ( =
Louis XV’s) seraglio. Thus, in the decoration of Bellevue, both inside and out, Pompadour has employed various metaphors in the service of a consistent message: the chateau as a residence of the king to whom she is valued advisor and friend.16 In 1753 Madame de Pompadour commissioned a series of paintings for le chambre à la turque from Carle Van Loo that explicitly used the metaphor of the harem. The paintings were intended to promote and solidify her political position in the court of Louis XV as a patron of the arts.17 Van Loo’s main resource for the paintings was the Recueil de cent Estampes représentant différentes Nations du Levant, a collection of one hundred costume plates dated from 1714 and derived from a set of paintings
by Jean-Baptiste Van Mour, a painter who spent almost his entire career in Turkey working for the French embassy in Istanbul. According to Stein, the engravings showed astonishing ethnographic accuracy, providing a compendium of the various ethnic and religious groups that made up imperial Ottoman society, as well as a cross-section of the sultan’s hierarchical household. Taken from the 1715 edition, explanatory captions offered information on “Ottoman class structure and social activities that fueled the Western imagination, giving rise to the genre of harem scenes in French art.” (Stein states that Van Mour also had access to an original manuscript of Turkish paintings in the king’s library.)18 A Sultana Taking Coffee (Fig. 2) is one of Van
Figure 2. Madame de Pompadour as a Sultana; ca. 1754-1755; Carle Van Loo; oil on canvas; Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Artwork and faithful two-dimensional reproduction in the public domain.
Loo’s three paintings for the Bellevue commission. It portrays Madame de Pompadour as a sultana. Van Loo uses heavy drapery, low-cushioned sofas enswathed in iridescent fabrics, and turquerie-patterned carpets on the floor to create a mystic and luxuriant environment that evokes Pompadour’s unique relationship with the Sultan/King. A young black servant kneels to pour coffee for the richly dressed sultana, wearing oriental trousers (that Pompadour, in fact, had in her wardrobe) while she reclines on a sofa, with her long dark Turkish pipe resting on a small tabouret. “Pearls are woven through her braids and strands of jewels adorn her headpiece which is further set off by a single rose tucked into the knot.”19 The sultana’s costume is embellished in the manner of a person of high rankwhich, of course, in French society Madame de Pompadour was not, and glorifies her status. Van Loo’s other two paintings focus on odalisques (as concubines in a harem were known). Two Odalisques Embroidering shows two young white women seated across from one another at an embroidery frame. One is shown with her needle in mid-air while the other leans forward to converse. An Odalisque Playing a Stringed Instrument is a vertical canvas depicting a Turkish woman seated on cushions facing the viewer playing a stringed instrument. This painting relates to Fille Turque jouant du Tehegour, plate 51 of the Recueil. In her comparison of the three Van Loo paintings, Stein notes the distinction between the activities of the Pompadour figure “at leisure”—being waited upon in A Sultana Taking Coffee, as opposed to the odalisques in the other paintings who work at embroidery or entertain by playing music. They signify a contrast in social class between the sultana/
Pompadour and the odalisques.20 An overdoor painting in the music room at Bellevue, Le Serail, by JeanBaptiste-Marie Pierre (now in the Jablonna Palace, Varsovia), continues the conceit of the harem and represents the relationship between Louis XV and Madame Pompadour at Bellevue as that of sultan and sultana. In it: The sultan, at center, gazes up adoringly at the sultana, whose preferred status is further illustrated by the symbolic handkerchief clutched in her left hand. The sultan is immune to the affections of an odalisque who kisses his hand, and the presence of a second odalisque in the background alludes to the many others in the wings to whom he is similarly indifferent.21 The French perceived the harem as a sexual environment dominated by males, and in which females were submissive. Van Loo’s depiction of Pompadour as a sultana taking coffee subtly contradicts this patriarchy, positioning her as a figure to be venerated, and may well reflect input from Pompadour herself. French historian Le Roy (cited in Jones) explains: The sultan is absent as sultana Pompadour takes her coffee—another exotic eastern substance ... She received it from the hands of a black slave, not an implausible eventuality in the harem, but also an unwitting reminder of the sugar plantation slavery to which European states were subjecting African people ... Even within the harem, then Pompadour soars above the abjection of other woman, and her own domination is projected outwards onto others. As the sultana, Pompadour is prostrately obedient to her master, but dominates the other women of the harem.22 By using the imagery of turquerie at Bellevue, through both furnishings and
Bed (Lit a la turque); ca.1750-1760; Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Tilliard; Gessoed and gilded beech and walnut; modern silk upholstery. Image courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
the iconography of these paintings, Pompadour asserted her power as a woman over other women and outside the liminal boundaries of France and its patriarchal and class strictures. The paintings raise Pompadour to a higher status linked to her transgressive and erotic position as the king’s favorite. Using beauty, charm, and taste — her feminine qualities, Pompadour empowered herself and challenged the French hierarchy. Conclusion The universal relativism that characterized the Enlightenment had provided fertile ground for exoticism in the form of a passion for turquerie, but it also contributed to the insistence on images that confirmed French cultural superiority. The appetite for exotic goods and fascination with the harem as a social structure spurred the avid interest in Turkish cultural life and its physical accoutrements; but, more often than not, the exotic imagery of the eighteenth century stood not as an illustration of “any particular flesh-andblood ‘other,’ but for a theory, an idea, or a rationale which had currency in terms of its European cultural context.”23 Madame de Pompadour’s heavy
personal reliance on harem imagery refers to Turkish society—or an imaginary version of it—but, perhaps more significantly, to the class system in which she found herself caught. Though she maintained a singular relationship with the king, she was slandered often and viciously for her supposedly low-birth status and the money she squandered on her theatrical pursuits. From this perspective, Madame de Pompadour’s self-representation as a sultana can be considered a kind of self-commentary and construction of identity, a performance in the form of masquerade—the same masquerade à la turque that first brought her to the king’s attention. And Van Loo’s paintings should be seen as “expressing, through an exotic and cleverly stated analogy, a message addressed to and firmly rooted in the life and hierarchy of the French court.”24 Pompadour fashioned herself as a personage of state who played a determinant role well beyond the king’s apartments. Indeed, Thomas Kaiser suggests that the king was not only dependent upon Madame de Pompadour for satisfying his sexual appetite, but also for “maintaining his mental equilibrium—a dependency that dulled his reason and broke his political will…it was but a short step to conclude that Pompadour had crossed the thin line between amusing the King and controlling him, indeed, that through her manipulation of the royal taste, she had seized control of the state.”25 Pompadour’s relations with Louis XV became linked to fears that the French monarchy was descending into the despotism that Montesquieu and others were warning against: Through the manipulation of the king’s body and taste, Pompadour appeared to control the court. Significantly, wrote the
Marquis d’Argenson at the time, the court appeared as a “seraglio of women and eunichs”; to another contemporary, this “monster despotism” was even worse than the “barbarism of a Turkish Government.”26 Using the metaphor of the harem and masquerade, Pompadour breached the natural order of taste and rank within the French court and perhaps inadvertently even tainted turquerie. The sexual relationship between Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour ended when her health declined and prior to the construction of Bellevue. Nevertheless, her political role and hold on the king intensified, and she remained powerful until her death in 1764. Under Madame de Pompadour, the mansion located on the hunting grounds of Parc-aux-Cerfs effectively became the king’s harem; there, Madame de Pompadour recruited young, middle- and lower-class girls for temporary liaisons with the king.27 Pompadour controlled and supervised the rotation of the girls, so that none could exert too great a power over the king and, by extension, the affairs of the state. In exercising such a “sustained vigilance” over the sexual entertainment of the king, Pompadour in effect became the distillate of the romantic fantasies portrayed in the Mille et Une Nuits: She remained the sultana of the royal seraglio. Carolina Arevalo, MA in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies (expected 2016), is a second year student who focuses on textiles and is also pursuing the Gender Graduate Certificate at Parsons School of Design. Carolina was one of the designers of the inaugural issue of Objective in 2015.
Notes 1. “France had a history of cordial relations with the Ottoman Empire dating back to the 1530s, but only during Louis XIV’s reign did the two powers genuinely begin to respect each other’s diplomatic representatives ... The old stereotypes of Turkish men as cruel despots, and of Turkish women as helplessly sensuous harem residents, were partially erased from French culture by these eighteenth-century diplomats, whose evident interest in things French (ranging from language to architecture, philosophy, and technology) made them appear to possess an enlightened sensibility startlingly akin to how the French perceived themselves. The presence of real Turks also encouraged Turkish masquerading habits in France to evolve in a more realistic direction, as people who would never travel to Turkey studied the appearance and habits of the foreigners in their midst, and artists accurately recorded their appearance for posterity in formats both élite and popular.” Julia Landweber, “Celebrating Identity: Charting the History of Turkish Masquerade in Early Modern France,” Romance Studies 23, no. 3 (2005), 176. 2. According to Mairi MacKenzie, exoticism is the introduction of a style or custom from another country coupled with a fascination for its alluring strangeness. A number of gowns appeared in fashion c. 1772 with names suggesting an ‘exotic’ pedigree, such as robes a la turque or a la sultane. Mairi MacKenzie, ---Isms: Understanding Fashion (New York: Universe, 2010), 22-23.3 Landweber, Celebrating Identity, 175. See also note 16. 3. Landweber, “Celebrating Identity,” 175 4. “A Thousand and One Nights influenced Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who accompanied her husband, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, on a two-year stay in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1716.” Katherine F. Doyle, “The London Festival Ballet’s New York City Visit Recalls the Colorful History of Scheherazade,” Dance Magazine (1978), 71. 5. “Not to be confused with reportage, these harem romances nonetheless performed a different function by providing the setting for an array of metaphoric messages directed at French audiences.” Perrin Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor: Turquerie in Eighteenth-Century French Art (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Services, 2004), 11. See also Perrin Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts (January 1994), 37. 6. Mikhail Michajlovic Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 34. 7. Terry Castle, Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction, (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1986), 4. 8. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, 40. 9. Landweber, “Celebrating Identity,” 175. 10. Ibid.
11. Landweber, “Celebrating Identity,” 185. 12. “The man is dressed in genuine-looking Turkish clothing, although a pucker at the back of his headgear suggests that it is a cinched bag, not a real turban.” Landweber, “Celebrating Identity,” 184. 13. Ibid. 14. This reference came from the Recueil Ferriol, in which Jean-Baptiste Van Mour portrayed the Ottoman sultan holding a handkerchief, and its caption explained: “Each evening the sultan tossed this cloth at the feet of whichever woman in his harem he chose for that night.” Perrin Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 39. 15. Ibid., 168-70. 16. The taste for Oriental bibelots had been firmly established in Paris since the early part of the century and was reflected in the names of the shops of certain dealers of fine furniture and decorative arts, such as Gersaint’s A la Pagode or Duvaux’s Au Chagrin de Turquie, the latter patronized by Madame de Pompadour. Gersaint, who is shown in Watteau’s shop sign as dealing primarily in paintings, had changed the name of his shop in 1740 to reflect a new emphasis on decorative objects of Eastern manufacture or style. Many of the Orient-inspired objects sold in these shops were only inspired by the East, or, in the cases where luxury goods of foreign manufacture were being sold, they would often be set into a rococo framework consistent with French standards of interior decor, as with the Chinese porcelain mounted in Rococo gilt settings or the panels of Japanese lacquer used in French crafted furniture. For example, see a sofa (fig. 3) acquired by the Getty Museum, by Jean-Baptiste Tilliard (Paris, 1750–1760). Turkey’s influence can be seen in the development of French furniture types, although the adaptations were molded to French tastes and social mores rather than being loyal copies. The sofa is one such example of an Ottoman-derived, but significantly altered, furniture type. Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor, 177-179. 17. Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor, 196. See also Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” 29 and note 5. 18. Before this commission, Said Efendi’ s visit to Paris in 1741–42 occasioned further pictorial explorations related to themes of masquerade and role-playing. The majority of the works created at the time were portraits déguisés, and as such reinforced a self-referential way of thinking initiated by Carle Van Loo and essential to the figuring of the new forms of exoticism which would predominate in the second half of the century.” Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor, 128 and 58. Van Loo was the artist most known for Turkish subjects. Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” 32-34.
20 Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor, 182-186 and Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” 37. The source and meaning of these images is discussed in detail by Stein. 21. Ibid. 22. Colin Jones, Madame De Pompadour: Images of a Mistress (London: National Gallery, 2002), 73. 23 Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor, 182-86. 24. Ibid., 197. Also interesting to consider here is cultural cross-dressing and power relationships. See Inge Boer, “Just a Fashion?: Cultural Cross-dressing and the Dynamics of Cross-cultural Representation,” Fashion Theory 6:4 (2002), 421-40. Additionally, see Richard Martin and Harold Koda, Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress, (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994), 10: “We know of Western Chinoiserie, Japonisme, and Turquerie as recurring phenomena of the decorative arts and culture. Of the many objects in transaction between East and West, textiles and apparel have been among the most prominent. The power of costume is in its capacity to be absorbed. Nonverbal, the rich textiles and traditions of dress of the East transcend language barriers. The option in dress afforded by the East is charged with enchantment, with a seeming sweetness and seduction that allows the East's presence to seem innocuous.” 25. Pompadour’s theatrical pursuits were a notable form in which she created her public persona. Thomas E. Kaiser writes: Drawing upon a rich discursive tradition in which the dynamics of court politics were described through theatrical figures of speech, contemporaries who imputed to Pompadour an overweening will to power persistently pointed to connections between Pompadour’s ambitions and her theatrical art. Kaiser, 1034-35. “Pompadour,” wrote Charles Duclos in the eighteenth century, “was not insensible to the idea of playing a role more noble than she had played in the theater of the [King’s] apartments.” Quoted in Kaiser, 1036. However, Madame Pompadour brought discredit to the monarchy. Her efforts to bring glory to herself and the king through her artistic endeavors (her use of theater, in particular) were used by her opponents to convince the public that she was a threat to the welfare of the kingdom which bordered on despotism. Thomas E. Kaiser, ”Madame de Pompadour and the Theaters of Power,” French Historical Studies 19:4 (August 1996), 1034-36, 1044. 26. Ibid., 1039-1040. 27. Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor, 197 and Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” 39.
19. Stein, Exoticism as Metaphor, 182-186. Visual evidence, according to Stein, confirms that the Sultana is a portrait of Madame de Pompadour. Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” 32.
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Wuthering Heights, for example, Heathcliff, longing for the deceased Catherine, cannot separate spirit or soul from body: “if the flesh is still preserved, so too is the animation that was once contained in it” (69). By materially securing the memory of the deceased, the relic ensured that a narrative of life continued after death. The focus on relics, stated even in the title of Lutz’s book, forces the author to stretch its definition as she investigates non-fleshy materiality more loosely related to the deceased body. In addition to true relics, such as Catherine’s remains in Wuthering Heights, Lutz examines what are called secondary relics, that is, ordinary goods “touched by the hand of the now deceased” (98), for example, the couch Emily Brontë supposedly died on or an author’s manuscript. Upon death, such goods were “suffused with the presence and absence of the lost one” (67), maintaining a “patina of memory” (53) and “magic quality” (55). Similarly, death masks, plaster casts taken by survivors, offer the physicality of the deceased’s face, including wrinkles, but are not the body itself. In discussing Keats and Rossetti, and later Tennyson’s elegy In Memoriam, Lutz argues convincingly, in part through existing scholarship, that writing equates to “literary ‘remains’” (26), and the elegy to a shrine, as both “keep memories astir” (111). All of these relic types are useful in thinking about how Victorian Britons approached death and memorialized lost loved ones, but one wonders if Lutz’s need to redefine certain objects as relics distracts from richer exploration of their significance. What makes her study unique, Lutz claims, is its focus on secular, ordinary examples of “relic love,” that is, how one or a few remembered the
deceased rather than how thousands remembered saints or celebrities. She has integrated into her book a wealth of existing scholarship from such fields as Victorian death culture, Victorian literature, material culture studies, and “thing” theory. In general, she offers clear, well-written arguments, but relies heavily on secondary sources to do so. Although she synthesizes the information in a compelling way, and her text is an excellent example of interdisciplinary scholarship, some of the most thought-provoking ideas presented can be found in existing research. Additionally, the book assumes the reader’s comprehensive knowledge of Victorian literature and its writers such that anyone not deeply familiar with it would be at a loss. Beyond the Dark Veil, an exhibition catalog, features more than 180 nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury American postmortem and mourning photographs as well as related ephemera such as hair memorials. A lush yet simple design—black, gold-stamped cover binding and gold-edged pages—honors its contents as things to be cherished. Essays, a poem, and a glossary of photography and mourning terms—written by historians as well as a collector, a freelance writer, and a curator—offer an introduction to Victorian death culture, including overviews of postmortem photography, early photographic processes, and nineteenth-century social history. The plates are divided into six sections: Deathbed Pre-Mortem; Children & Family (the largest area); Adults; Crime, Murder, Tragedy (containing news articles related to the stories behind the photographs); Ephemera & Mourning; and Pets. The divisions are somewhat contrived, as nearly all
postmortem photography in this volume relates to family, but they offer the reader a helpful way to organize so many similar yet distinct images and, at the same time, demonstrate their pervasiveness in Victorian culture. The basic tombstone data provided with each image includes the photograph’s specific medium (albumen print, carte de visite, daguerreotype, and so on), which may be of especial interest to collectors and art historians. Contextual captions offer a mixture of visual description, background information on the subjects, and further insight into Victorian culture: a young girl holds scissors to represent “the severing of the thread of life” (83); blood leaks from a corpse’s nose following a long exposure time; particular framing and lighting techniques de-emphasize visible remnants of fatal trauma or illness or bodily decay. To the twenty-first-century eye, the images in this book are startling: mothers holding their deceased babies; bodies displayed together in a single casket; living children posed with their deceased siblings and widows or widowers with their deceased spouses. But as the texts remind us, these photographs, like Lutz’s relics, were “memory keepers,” and for their owners, they lacked the sense of morbidity one might feel viewing them today. For many people, the photograph taken postmortem would be the only means of preserving an earthly likeness. From an artistic perspective, the photographs can be variously masterful, with aesthetically pleasing light, shadow, composition, and hand-coloring, or clumsy and amateurish, but all benefit the historian seeking to understand the past. Ironically, only occasionally is the
sitter’s identity known: these subjects, once treasured, become anonymous with time. As happens with relics, the memories once contained in the postmortem object disappear when its original keeper dies. Today the photographs offer narratives not of specific individuals, but of a culture and its customs. Lutz similarly sees relic-like elements in photographyparticularly in its role as mementobut she argues that in lacking the physicality, the materiality, the “thisness” (165) of relics, photographs are absent the same magic and power. Eventually, however, photography and new visual technologies would supersede relic culture: “Remembrance no longer needed the body to be reenacted,” writes Lutz (12). Advances in medicine, science and germ theory would further alter customs related to dying and the deceased body. Each of these books examines the Victorian reverence for the dead, those material customs that secured a loved one’s remembrance. While Lutz in Relics of Death offers scholars and students of Victorian culture and literature an in-depth, theoretical analysis of relics, Beyond the Dark Veil provides both scholars and nonspecialists with a broad overview of Victorian mourning, importantly, using visual works themselves for analysis and dissection. The relic and the postmortem photograph are two distinct aspects of Victorian death culture, but each carried the same vital message: It was real. He was here. She lived. Rebecca McNamara, MA History of Decorative Arts and Design (2014), currently holds a curatorial position at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where she researches American art, design, and fashion collections. She is co-author of A Token of Elegance: Cigarette Holders in Vogue, and an e-book, tentatively titled Widows Unveiled: Middle-Class Mourning in Late Victorian New York, forthcoming from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
A Manifesto for Revived Ideals? Adrian Madlener The annual yet hallowed institution of the Salone del Mobile arrives each April as a point of pilgrimage for industry folk and idealistic students alike. Spreading beyond miles of fairground furniture and lighting displays, this half-century-old event (instituted in 1961) now infiltrates at least three neighborhoods within the Northern Italian metropolis, anticipating the onslaught of at least twohundred thousand visitors over the course of five days. Deviating from the standard lineup of classic manufacturers like Cassina or Thonet, exhibits range from the latest homeintegrated technology postulated by Ikea’s Research and Development department to Hermès leather furniture and Nendo retrospectives –
and that’s just the 2015 edition. Even car brands like Lexus or Peugeot throw their hats into the ring, sponsoring young talent awards alongside sensationalized light shows or immersive food tastings. Perhaps the most important newcomers are a series of school and national-platform showcases that began appearing at the Salone twenty years ago. With presentations by the Design Academy Eindhoven and the Royal College of Art, conceptual art, interaction, service, and social design arrived in full force. Though promoting the future of the field with optimistic student proposals created outside of and, therefore, without commercial constraints, many institutions use the Salone as an
“Beyond the New.” Image courtesy of jongeriuslab.
opportunity to present and promote their top talents to major players in the industry, who, in turn, are anxious to snatch them up as fresh and marketable brand extensions. Designer Hella Jongerius and critic Louise Schouwenberg, among others, take a dim view of these developments. Attempting to remedy the situation, Dutch design heavyweight Jongerius and equally renowned theorist Schouwenberg published their daring Beyond the New manifesto during the 2015 Milan Design Week. Boldly composed by graphic designer Joost Grootens, the document features large red italic type with the word “new” repeatedly scratched out in pencil-like notations. Printed in the format of a newspaper, the manifesto first reads like a book, but eventually the pamphlet opens into a single poster with somewhat abstract drawings intended to further the idea of machine-based manufacturing. An online and PDF version remain accessible: http://beyondthenew.jongeriuslab.com. Beyond the New called for change: renewed ideals championing industrial production. For Jongerius and Schouwenberg, the “limited edition” or “art design” approach – as initiated by cutting-edge design schools and appropriated by major brands – is detrimental to the discipline itself. These objects lose functional relevance once placed in museum displays. Counter to the tabula rasa philosophy of design – working from a blank sheet of paper to solve issues that have already been addressed in the past – seemingly espoused by the Salone, Jongerius and Schouwenberg argue that self-expression and
knowledge of the past should stay crucial to the discipline. ‘Good design for all’ – an idea central to the Bauhaus, the manifesto’s authors claim, has become too muddled with the desire for commercial growth over the past half-century – a constant need to push the limits of experimentation simply for the sake of being new. Although many achievements have been made within cultural sectors, for Jongerius and Schouwenberg, design has become “impoverished.” The field has expanded with new modes of presentation, but most events have become “depressing cornucopias of pointless products, commercial hypes around presumed innovation, and empty rhetoric.” According to the authors, this condition is the result of divergent facets of the profession, a lack of cohesion, and the power of financial motives. Commercial interests have clouded many of the original principles put forward by early modernism. The authors state: “We have lost sight of the higher ideals that were so central to the most influential movement by far in industrial design. The Bauhaus ideals – making the highest possible quality accessible to many people – were based on the intimate interweaving of cultural awareness, social engagement, and economic returns.” As one offered solution, new designers should begin to act as leaders in affecting the change suggested by the authors. The manifesto brings to the fore familiar debates between design and industrial production – beginning with Henry van de Velde (or even William Morris) and continuing through Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus: concerns with how design for the
many can co-exist with market conditions necessary to produce good design, as well as related to standardization versus individualization. The Belgian Van de Velde is an interesting case to consider. He professed social reform but worked in “limited edition” production for elite clients; the architect defended his actions unapologetically as simply being part of an artist expressing himself, and that for real change to come about, an educated few needed to set the tone for the rest of society. Historically, the Netherlands was a bastion of clear-cut modernism but with strains of bold, deeply ingrained and imposing individualism. Drawing from their Calvinist roots (a very personal relationship with god) and commercial origins – as some of the first international traders– the Dutch did away with the pretenses of class early on. Left with an egalitarian society and a flat, yet unstable, landscape, they had few avenues for expression. Arguably, it’s for this reason that the small country cemented its place as one of the more innovative European design players. For many decades of the twentiethcentury, this manifested itself primarily in graphics and architecture. The last forty to thirty years, however, has seen the rise of highly expressive or satirical furniture and product design. Conceptual and formal attributes – such as blatant references, ironic reconfigurations, and reprogrammed functions in formal composition – are all indicative of the widely successful postmodern Dutch design movement. This new zeitgeist was codified by Droog Design’s 1993 manifesto, refuting much of the mainstay
industry’s definition of the discipline. The Amsterdam-based platform and brand in its own right, played its part in launching the careers of Wieke Somers, Marcel Wanders, Jurgen Bey, Richard Hutten, Piet Hein Eek, Tord Boontje, and the design house’s co-founders Gijs Bakker. A second generation – coming out of the recently repositioned Philipsfounded Design Academy Eindhoven – began to infiltrate the industry and the Salone. The school, platform, and events such as the Dutch Design Week form a perfect trifecta through which talented students begin to enter the world’s main museums, a position Jongerius and Schouwenberg’s manifesto claims undermines the true purpose of design. The entire movement, well supported by the government as a national cultural asset, set in motion a global appeal for almost anti-mass production “limited edition” design. Today, highly experimental pieces are sold like art at fairs such as Design Miami. Both Jongerius and Schouwenberg have been proponents of the Dutch design movement in practice and criticism, respectively. The former’s current studio focuses on small-scale craft – well-made textiles for a small group of exclusive clients – through applications as varied as KLM’s revamped business class or new compositions for American fabric giant Maharam. Jongerius’s designs, such as the Vitra-produced Polder sofa, contain historical and cultural references, but they are far from the wide spread application she now preaches. Still, her designs have rarely reached the extreme of the experimental pieces described above, and
although they have primarily focused on the contract market, they have held true to some of the narrative-based and expressive trends of the movement. If one is to compare this with van de Velde’s attempt at disseminating elevated taste through elite examples, it’s clear that Dutch and “art” design followed in a similar model. Both the Belgian architect and this national movement shared a disdain for the systematization of machine-production. However, by considering the Beyond the New manifesto as another designed object – a byproduct of experimental, exclusive, semi-functional, and individually expressive Dutch design – one is confronted with the sensationalization of its form. The use of bold red type, cartoon-like scratched-out notations, and language satirizing the manifesto style was not far from perceivably ambiguous marketing strategies employed today to indirectly or subconsciously attract consumers. The manner in which graphics were used to dismiss the word “new” is similar to how big companies employ meaningless buzzwords for promotion and trend-adherence. Considering Habermas’ theory of performative contradiction – in which contrarians oppose the status-quo but within the same parameters – one might see Jongerius and Schouwenberg’s plea as indicative of the “impoverished” design climate it tries to change. This is evident not only through the manifesto’s aesthetic composition, but also in the practical inconsistency of the claims put forward. The idea that industrially-produced designs for the masses can result from free experimentation or research, the use of high
quality-materials and cutting-edge aesthetics is not entirely realistic. With commercial constraints, many contract brands are forced to employ reproducible designs and cheap materials like plastic. Historically, as proven in van de Velde’s practice, experimental or avant-garde interventions conflicted with the standardization of ubiquitous industrial production. Perhaps the confounding of these, normally incompatible, aspects describe the rare position Jongerius has enjoyed in her own “designed” practice. However aspirational and beneficial to the discipline, the manifesto fails in addressing the very real condition of the annexation of speculative design by industry. Do car companies mount emotive light shows to promote new design ideas or simply market their latest models? Do schools that bring their top students to the Salone hope to create a new generation of design innovators or simply to promote and ensure the survival of their own programs? Do brands seek out young graduates to implement their radical proposals or to use their free-thinking in shaping surface-level brand images? Symptomatic of this ambiguity, how could the Beyond the New manifesto truly have impact? Adrian Madlener, MA in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies (candidate), is a first year student who trained at the Design Academy Eindhoven; he has also been a summer intern with avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson. He has worked for different European publications and galleries and continues to work as TL magazine's editor-at-large.
New Bar, Old Wallpaper Anna Rasche
P E R S P E C T I V E
“…the true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” William Morris, “The Aims of Art”, 1887 This famous mantra of Morris was clearly taken to heart in the design of the Up & Up, a cocktail lounge in Greenwich Village co-designed by Tanya Piacentini (HDCS) and her husband, Matt. With a tight budget and the endgoal of an “upscale but low key” ambience, the duo found their design solution in a classic Morris & Co. wallpaper. The pattern chosen for the job was Blackthorn, conceived for the company by the artist J.H. Dearle in 1892 (and part of ‘Volume 2,’ a pattern book containing 25 Morris & Co. patterns from 1882-96 in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum). The somewhat ominous title belies a sophisticated and pleasant floral of stylized Common Hawthorn branches and wildflowers. Blossoms in muted terra cotta, ochre, cream and cornflower blue are scattered symmetrically across a network of sage green branches atop a forest green ground. Opened in late 2015, the cheekily-named Up & Up resides at the bottom of a discreet set of stairs on Macdougal Street. Like the Baggins family hobbit hole, it is a cozy, inviting space despite (or perhaps because of) its location in an ancient cellar. A fan of William Morris for years (the couple used
Morris’s Brother Rabbit wallpaper for a previous project), Tanya’s coursework at HDCS inspired her to further investigate his products and philosophies. She explains, “bartenders who work with cocktails like [those at the Up & Up] are dedicated career practitioners who approach their craft (for what else is it?) with a sleeves-rolled-up approach that Morris might appreciate.” Having already agreed that the color green was the right call for the space, Blackthorn quickly became the favorite choice. Aside from fitting the preferred palate, Blackthorn’s Medieval-inspired florals set the pattern apart from the Victorianrevival damask wallpapers that have become ubiquitous in gimmicky “speakeasy” style bars like the ones with faux secret entrances that serve your martini in a tea cup. Most importantly, the decor has been a hit with clientele. “People love the wallpaper,” says Tanya, “they often touch - pet! - the wallpaper, which is very satisfying.” Anna Rasche, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (candidate), is a second-year student and a curatorial fellow in the Wallcoverings Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Her research focuses on jewelry. Anna was the editor-in-chief of the inaugural issue of Objective in 2015.
Gold Tradition, Innovation, and Collaboration in Early Twentieth-Century Italy
Laura L. Camerlengo In the early twentieth century, Italian designer Maria Monaci Gallenga (1880 – 1944) achieved international fame for her luminous metallic-printed costumes and textiles. Her process – the “Gallenga Process,” as it was known in her marketing materials – used a mixture of brass, copper and zinc pigments block printed or brushed onto fabric to achieve astonishing depths of color.1 Gallenga was celebrated for these designs in her time, and continues to be lauded today for their beautiful and harmonious executions. In addition to her creative output, Gallenga was an active and important participant in the revitalization of Italian arts and crafts in the first three decades of the twentieth century, often Figure 1
collaborating with fellow artists to create many of the patterns for which she is known today. A pillow cover and a bed cover, designed by Gallenga around 1923 in collaboration with Italian costume designer Gino Carlo Sensani (1888 – 1947) and now in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s collection, show the successful marriage of historical and contemporary aesthetics and evidence Gallenga’s cooperative spirit (Fig. 2 and 3). This paper will contextualize these textiles through an exploration of Gallenga’s design processes, and a comparison of these textiles with other notable Gallenga artworks. The Cooper Hewitt purchased the pillow and bed covers in 1992. Both textiles are made from blue silk plain
weave and block printed with their ranks.3 Gallenga studied composites of stylized flowers in the history, literature and art from a shape of large drops. These designs young age. As a teenager, she are rendered in Gallenga’s signature became fascinated by the artworks blend of brass, copper and zinc of ancient, medieval and Renaispigments, with the pillow cover sance Italy, and in the nineteenfeaturing one drop design, and the teens, she began to re-interpret bed cover eight, with four drops in historic textile patterns and clothing the textile’s center and one in each styles from past centuries as corner. The front and back of each garments and domestic furnishings textile are affixed along their edges that would suit modern tastes and with silk blanket stitches. The pillow lifestyles.4 Gallenga’s designs and cover has three production processes Murano glass bead were influenced by fasteners at one end, the tenets of contemfixtures that are porary international typical of Gallenga’s art reform movework, and often ments, such as the found on her textiles British Arts and and costumes. Crafts movement and Although the designs its admiration for of the pillow and medieval, romantic bed covers are and folk decorations, known to have been and traditional conceived by Gino methods of Carlo Sensani, the craftsmanship.5 As Figure 2 bed cover bears Gallenga biographer Gallenga’s signature only, which Marianne Carlano describes it, reads “Maria Monaci Gallenga” in Gallenga’s studio was a “cottage metallic block print while the pillow industry” in the Arts and Crafts cover is unmarked. spirit: Gallenga would conceive of a Maria Monaci (later Gallenga) design and instruct her seamstress to was born in Rome to a family of make pattern pieces. Family and prominent intellectuals who played friends then printed the metallic an important role in the city’s designs on the pre-cut textiles and artistic and academic circles.2 Her set them outdoors to dry. Once father, Ernesto Monaci, trained as a dried, the textiles were returned to lawyer before becoming a leading the seamstress for completion.6 philologist and professor at UniverGallenga’s designs were sità della Sapienza. Her mother, marketed by her business manager, Emilia Guarnieri, was from an old Amato B. Amati; by his efforts, her Macerata family that counted many tea gowns and outerwear became religious and literary leaders among available throughout the United 70
modern woman left much to be States by the 1920s.7 Contemporary advertisements by leading American desired. The problem was extremely retailers make frequent mention of difficult and one not to be solved by Gallenga’s use of “Italy’s rich past the mere transportation of picturfor inspiration.”8 For example, New esque antique costumes to modern York department store Bonwit Teller surroundings…Set in a modern & Co. promoted Gallenga’s “handroom, a gown copied faithfully from some velvets painted in gold or silver ancient history is nothing more nor less than a masquerade costume. in the manner of rare Italian Señora Gallenga studied this medieval fabrics,”9 while the New problem and finally decided… to York branch of Wanamaker’s create costumes that would be department store publicized new modern in inspiraclothing designs by tion but which would Gallenga that were made in “the classic gather from the spirit of the antique all that is grandeur of Rome,” recognized as most including a robe beautiful in line and “medieval in color. Therefore from silhouette” and the Greek peplum manteaux named she borrowed the Boniface VIII, after graceful and simple the thirteenthlines, adapting them century Pope.10 to the exigencies of Amati celebrated the prevailing what was a marriage fashions; from the Figure 3 of classic and gorgeous paintings of contemporary aesthetics in the great Venetian masters, she took Gallenga’s designs in a 1916 the rich colors; and from the promotional article for Vogue primitive Italian painters she copied magazine, entitled “Ancient Art the delicate decorative designs.11 Meets Modern Fashion Half-Way”: While Amati’s article is admittedly A year or two ago, Señora Maria biased, Gallenga’s surviving clothing Monaci Gallenga, known in Rome designs substantiate his claims and as an artist of pre-Raphaelite reveal her remarkable ability to tendencies, gave serious thought to make antique elements seem the problem of woman’s dress. She modern, as seen in a Gallenga cape felt that, viewed from an artistic now in the collection of the Fine standpoint, great strides had been Arts Museums of San Francisco made in our surrounding and (Figure 1). The cape, formerly decoration, but that, from the same belonging to the prominent Bay point of view, the gowns of the Area philanthropist Beryl Hamilton 71
Buck (1896 – 1975), is named the “Cappa Siciliana” and appears in a ca. 1924 Gallenga company brochure.12 The cape’s silhouette is typical of the period’s fashionable outerwear, but its pattern of intertwined phoenixes and griffins with a decoratively inscribed banner evokes motifs found on Italian textiles of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.13 As her career continued, Gallenga was recognized for maintaining her use of historical models as inspiration14 and for her unique ability to renew her clothing and textile styles without changing them to conform to current fashion and artistic trends.15 In 1925, critic Marc Hélys echoed Amati’s early sentiments in a review of Gallenga’s prize-winning velvets and handbags featured at L'Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, writing, “[Gallenga’s] clothes are [not] reconstructions [of past fashions] but rather interpretations, adaptations of artistic discoveries in the essential lines of the current mode.”16 Hélys, like many contemporary critics, also praised Gallenga’s printing process, remarking in his review for Le Correspondant that Gallenga’s gold printed capes were, “made from supple velvet covered with gold print design that maintains a mellow sweetness. And the gold is nothing gleaming, nothing aggressive in its richness: it is simply a light reflection…with the transparency of crepe or mousseline.”17 Gallenga was one of many 72
talented artists and designers to emerge in Italy in the first decades of the twentieth century, coinciding with widespread interest in design reform throughout the country and indeed most of Europe.18 In contrast to such contemporaries as Mariano Fortuny (1871 – 1949) – who was also well-known for his luxurious fabrics printed with metallic pigments – Gallenga’s metallic motifs were not uniform in their tone, but were distinguished by subtle shimmers of silver, gold, rose-gold, copper, and other metallic hues.19 The richness of Gallenga’s metallic prints is evident in the costumes and textiles she made throughout her career, including the pillow and bed covers on which she collaborated with Sensani. Gino Carlo Sensani was one of the leading historical costumers in Italian cinema.20 Born in Siena in 1888, Sensani, like Gallenga, studied painting as well as woodcutting in Florence. After working in theater in Rome, he relocated to Florence in 1918, where he worked as a set and costume designer.21 By the 1930s, he was regularly designing costumes for period films whose fictional tales spanned the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Over the course of his cinematic career, which lasted from the 1930s until his death in 1947, his costume designs would appear in more than 80 films. Sensani believed that historical dramas should strive for high levels of visual accuracy – a viewpoint later adopted by a number of film directors in Italy in the second half
of the twentieth century.22 Like Gallenga, he was lauded for his ability to interpret traditional styles and create costumes that were historically accurate but did not appear as slavish copies of past designs. Sensani believed that successful costume designers did not base their costumes solely in history, but also in the imagination, and that costumes should offer the actor a skin through which they may live their character in their fictional environment.23 His costumes for the renowned historical epic The Iron Crown (1941) are noteworthy examples of this outlook. The film was set in thirteenth-century Italy, and the costumes loosely conform to popular notions of medieval dress –long tunics and capes, tall crowns and elaborate diadems – but they also reveal the influence of fifteenth-
and sixteenth-century textiles and costume, as seen in some of the leafy artichoke motifs that appear on several costumes in the film.24 The motifs found on the Cooper Hewitt’s pillow cover and bed cover also appear on costumes for Sogno di una Perla, a fantasy tale in three acts by Vincenzo Sorelli, which debuted at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence in the spring of 1924.25 Here Sensani’s motifs appear as alternating drops down the train of a sumptuous velvet mantle designed by Gallenga, and worn by Marchesa Maria Carolina Corsini in her role as the tale’s Duchess. The cape and its luminous designs emphasize the regal nature of the Marchesa’s role, and complement the fantastic and historically-inspired textiles seen elsewhere in the production. Scholars have noted that the Duchess’s costume reveals the influence of the Art Deco movement on Italian costume design – as seen in the use of lamé fabric for the Duchess’s dress and the layers of long strand pearls she wears as accessory26 – but the designs contained within the metallic drops, seen on the mantle and on the Cooper Hewitt’s textiles, also reveal the influence of Japanese art on Italian aesthetics. While Japanese art and culture had been of strong interest to Italy since the midnineteenth century, the wavy lines, flat backgrounds, lack of perspective, and freedom of composition characteristic of Japanese artworks had become even more popular in Italy with the development of the 73
Stile Floreale, or Italian Art Nouveau, an artistic and philosophical movement that emerged in Italy at the turn of the twentieth century and remained popular until the outbreak of World War I.27 Both Stile Floreale and Japanese aesthetics figured prominently in the artworks displayed at the 1902 International Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts in Turin, an important exposition that served as a catalyst for the reform of the decorative arts in Italy.28 The Stile Floreale appealed to contemporary tastes and needs through the use of imaginative decoration inspired by the natural world, to which traditional Japanese designs were sympathetic,29 and, as some scholars have argued, even inextricably linked.30 As seen in the designs on the Cooper Hewitt’s textiles, Italian artists continued to be inspired by Japanese aesthetics through the second decade of the twentieth century.31 Therefore, while the rich jewel-tone and drop forms seen on the Cooper Hewitt’s pillow cover and bed cover are evocative of the colors and patterns found in the many luxurious Italian textiles of the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries – arguably the pinnacle of Italian textile production – the stylized stenciled patterns found on these textiles are actually variations of Japanese forms, such as chrysanthemums, palm fronds and blossoms, and tulips. These patterns are in contrast to the pomegranate, palmetto, artichoke, and garland motifs typical of Renaissance Italian 74
textiles – motifs that one might expect Sensani and Gallenga to adapt for their designs.32 In fact, the drop motifs printed on the Cooper Hewitt textiles were not initially conceived by Sensani for the theatrical presentation (the cape worn by the Marchesa discussed earlier) but rather for Gallenga’s display at the Esposizione Internazionale delle Arti Decorative Monza in 1923 —where Gallenga’s textiles were exhibited in the Tuscan section and her velvets received a silver medal from the Chamber of Commerce of Florence.33 Gallenga had been an active proponent of Italian arts and crafts since the beginning of her career – perhaps best evidenced by her participation in the Secessioni Romane exhibitions between 1913 and 1916, which sought to make Rome an international art and cultural center34 – and her textiles from the late 1920s through the end of her career frequently featured designs provided by her contemporaries or inspired by their artworks.35 In such partnerships, the artists would supply the design, and Gallenga would determine its scale, color and the cloth on which it would be printed. Gallenga’s participation in the Arte moderna Italiana (AMI) spurred many collaborations like the one with Sensani. Established in 1920, AMI included representatives from the worlds of finance and the arts in Italy, and aimed to promote and disseminate Italian decorative arts abroad through exhibitions and
other initiatives.37 Not only would Gallenga work with her peers to create textile patterns, but - coinciding with AMI’s aims - she featured artworks by her contemporaries in her showcases at international expositions, as well as in boutiques she opened in Italy and Paris. Along with Sensani, Gallenga’s collaborators included artist and critic Antonio Maraini; designers Fides Stagni and her husband, architect and designer Carlo Vittorio Testi; and painter and glassmaker Vittorio Zecchin.38 While in many ways Gallenga’s design process and methods of collaboration were unique unto her, they were also the manifestation of the artistic and cultural zeitgeist and Gallenga’s role as a leader in Italy’s burgeoning cultural community in the early twentieth century. Gallenga and her contemporaries strove to celebrate Italy’s glorious past and at the same time to create new artworks that both expressed and suited modern life. Apparent in her surviving costume and textile designs – and particularly in such lustrous domestic furnishings as the pillow cover and bed cover in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt – is the successful marriage of historical and contemporary aesthetics and the collaborative spirit of the epoch.
Laura L. Camerlengo, MA History of Decorative Arts and Design (2010), is the Assistant Curator of Costume and Textile Arts with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She is a former Graduate Fellow with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s Textiles department, and the author of the Cooper Hewitt DesignFile e-book, The Miser’s Purse. Illustrations Figure 1: (Detail) Woman’s cape, ca. 1924, designed by Maria Monaci Gallenga. Silk velvet with metallic pigment printing and glass beads; satin lining with metallic pigment printing. Gift of Frankin L. Monroe, 1984.21. Collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Figure 2: Pillow Cover, ca. 1923, designed by Gino Carlo Sensani and Maria Monaci Gallenga, block printed silk plain weave, 55.2 x 44.1 cm (21 3/4 x 17 3/8 in.). Museum purchase from Sarah Cooper-Hewitt, Eleanor G. Hewitt and Au Panier Fleuri Funds and through bequest of Ida C. McNeil in memory of Lincoln C. McNeil and Catherine McNeil, 1992-155-3. Collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York. Figure 3: Bed Cover, ca. 1923, designed by Gino Carlo Sensani and Maria Monaci Gallenga, block printed silk plain weave. Museum purchase from Sarah CooperHewitt, Eleanor G. Hewitt and Au Panier Fleuri Funds and through bequest of Ida C. McNeil in memory of Lincoln C. McNeil and Catherine McNeil, 1992-155-2. Collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York. Figure 4: Beryl Hamilton Buck in an undated photograph, wearing a velvet cape by Maria Monaci Gallenga. The cape is today in the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Courtesy of The Marin Community Foundation.
Notes 1. Amato B. Amati, “Fashion: Ancient Art Meets Modern Fashion Half-Way,” Vogue, October 15, 1916, 51. 2. Nathalie de Haan, “The ‘Società Magna Grecia’ in Fascist Italy,” Anabases, no. 9 (2009): 118. 3. Marianne Carlano, “Maria Monaci Gallenga: A Biography,” Costume 27, no. 1 (January 1993): 61. 4. Carlano, “Maria Monaci Gallenga: A Biography,” 63. 5. Indeed, writer John Ruskin, artist William Morris, and other prominent members of the Arts and Crafts movement reached the height of their fame in Italy at the turn of the twentieth century. Carroll L. V. Meeks, “The Real Liberty of Italy: The Stile Floreale,” The Art Bulletin 43, No. 2 (June 1961): 119. 6. Carlano, “Maria Monaci Gallenga: A Biography,” 63 – 64. 7. Ibid., 68. 8. “Display Ad 22 – No Title,” New York Times, October 11, 1926, 22. 9. “Display Ad 4 – No Title,” New York Times, 5. 10.“Display Ad 22 – No Title,” 22. 11. Amati, “Fashion: Ancient Art Meets Modern Fashion Half-Way,” 51. 12. Carlano, “Maria Monaci Gallenga: A Biography,” 72. A blue velvet cape with this same design may be found in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1971-62-2). 13. Frank Monroe, Leonard and Beryl Buck: A Biographical Essay (Santa Rosa: Monroe Press, 1987), 29. 14. Gloria Raimondi, “Un’Italiana a Parigi: L’Avventura di Maria Monaci Gallenga,” Forme Moderne no. 3 (2009): 18 15. Frivoline, “L’Art de la mode,” L’Art et la mode no. 4 (January 22, 1927): 138.
decoratifs: Les industries féminines étrangères,” Le Correspondant 300 (10 Septembre 1925): 705. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are the author’s. 17. Hélys, “L’Exposition des arts decoratifs: Les industries féminines étrangères,” 706. 18. Gabriel P. Weinberg, Stile Floreale: The Cult of Nature in Italian Design (Miami: The Wolfsonian Foundation, 1988), 17. 19. As several scholars have noted, Gallenga was likely familiar with Fortuny’s work when she embarked on her career. Unlike Gallenga, Fortuny is not known for working collaboratively, although he did work closely with his wife, Henriette Negrin. Roberta Orsini Landini perhaps best describes Fortuny as the personification of “the individual genius," in contrast to Gallenga, who participated "in a fruitful exchange of ideas and skills". Roberta Orsini Landini, “Alle origini della grande moda italiana: Maria Monaci Gallenga,” in Moda femminile tra le due guerre, ed. Caterina Chiarelli (Livorno: Sillabe, 2000), 30 – 31. See also: Carlano, “Maria Monaci Gallenga: A Biography,” 63. 20. Stephen Gundle, “Film Stars and Society in Fascist Italy,” in Re-Viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922 – 1943, ed. Jacqueline Reich and Piero Garofalo (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 330. 21. Marco Pistoia, “SENSANI, Gino Carlo,” Enciclopedia del Cinema (2004), accessed January 17, 2016, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/ginocarlo-sensani_(Enciclopedia-del-Cinema)/ 22. Roderick Conway Morris, “The Costumes That Made Them Stars,” New York Times, August 10, 2009. 23. Bruna Niccoli, “‘Conoscere per conservare. Conservare per conoscere’: Omaggio a Donata Devoti,” Predella Anno VI, 22 (Gennaio 2008), accessed January 17, 2016, http://www.predella.it/predella/predella22/. 24. These garments were recently displayed by the Museo di Roma in the exhibition I Vestiti Dei Sogni at the Palazzo Braschi, Rome,
from January 1, 2015 through March 22, 2015. 25. Landini, “Alle origini della grande moda italiana: Maria Monaci Gallenga,” 36. 26. Francesca Cagianelli and Dario Matteoni, Déco: Arte in Italia, 1919 – 1939 (Milan: Silvana: 2009), 24. 27. Roberta Boglione, “Il Japonisme in Italia: Parte Seconda, 1900 – 1930,” Il Giappone 39 (1999): 15. 28. Weinberg, Stile Floreale: The Cult of Nature in Italian Design, 17. 29. Ibid. 30. Fabio Benzi, Liberty e Déco: Mezzo secolo di stile italiano (1890 – 1940) (Milan: F. Motta, 2007), 88. 31. Roberta Boglione, “Il Japonisme in Italia: Parte Seconda, 1900 – 1930,” 15. 32. It is important to note that similar patterns inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics were also adopted by many other Italian artists, such as Galileo Chini (1873–1956). Chini was a prominent member of the Stile Floreale movement. Weinberg features a 1910 Chini fireplace surround with patterns comparable to those found on the Gallenga and Sensani textiles. Weinberg, Stile Floreale: The Cult of Nature in Italian Design 90, 92. 33. Landini, “Alle origini della grande moda italiana: Maria Monaci Gallenga,” 36. 34. Mario Quesada and Shara Wasserman, “Letter from Rome,” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 3 (Winter 1987): 122. 35. Gino Sensani and Vittorio Zecchin (1878 – 1947), another Gallenga collaborator, also presented artworks in the Secessioni Romane. Landini, “Alle origini della grande moda italiana: Maria Monaci Gallenga,” 31. 36. Carlano, “Maria Monaci Gallenga: A Biography,” 74. A 1929 advertisement found in Vogue magazine mentions that some of the designs found in Gallenga linens came from unpublished artist drawings. It is unclear whether the motifs found on the Cooper Hewitt’s textiles came from unpublished
drawings by Sensani or another source. “Advertisement: La Boutique Italienne,” Vogue, August 1929, 20. 37. Gloria Raimondi, “MONACI, Maria,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 75 (2011), accessed January 18, 2016, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/mariamonaci_(Dizionario_Biografico)/. Gallenga also became a founding member of the Società Magna Grecia that same year. The Società, made up of prominent members of Italy’s cultural community, financed and initiated numerous excavations and restoration projects in Southern Italy focusing on the archeological remains of the Greeks and Byzantines. de Haan, “The ‘Società Magna Grecia’ in Fascist Italy,” 114. 38. While many of Gallenga’s domestic textiles, including those designed by Sensani, were made from silks with metallic pigments brushed or printed onto their luxurious weaves, others were made from lightweight, semi-sheer cotton or linen with white-work embroidery, such as a tablecover designed by Vittorio Zecchin, now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000-126-1). Like the Gallenga and Sensani collaboration, Gallenga and Zecchin’s partnership was a combination of traditional and modern aesthetics, as well as their own. As seen in the textile’s playful rendering of frolicking gazelles, Zecchin’s artworks were influenced by the decorative style of the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918), as well as the colorful Byzantine and medieval mosaics found in Venice, his hometown. Typical of Gallenga, the embroidered textile both evokes traditional Italian domestic textiles and, as a 1929 Lord & Taylor advertisement notes, “emphasizes the modern trend in flat embroidery on sheer organdy or linen.” See: “Display Ad 44 – No Title,” New York Times, October 21, 1929, 12; Doretta Davanzo Poli, Twentieth-Century Fabrics: European and American Designers and Manufacturers (Milan: Skira, 2007), 24; and Giuseppe Dell' Oro, “Venetian Mosaics,” East and West 4, no. 2 (JULY 1953): 136 – 137.
Theatrical Design in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Matthew J. Kennedy Playwright: Simon Stephens Director: Marianne Elliott Scenic & Costume Design: Bunny Christie Lighting Design: Paule Constable Video Design: Finn Ross Sound Design: Ian Dickinson for Autograph Time. Space. Now. These three words accompany intersecting lines projected onto a graphic and gridded black and white stage at the beginning of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The universality of the first two words and the immediacy of the third situate the viewer in a strange but scientifically logical place. Perhaps it is not often that we think of ourselves as points plotted on a grid (although, with Google Maps, maybe it is), but however you may think about yourself and the world, you are asked to think
about it in this way—highly quantifiable and conceptually justifiable—for approximately the next two hours and thirty-five minutes of this play because this is how its main character thinks about himself and our world. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (a production of the National Theater, which opened in London in August of 2012 and transferred to Broadway in October 2014) is based on Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel of the same name and follows 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone as he attempts to pinpoint the culprit in the murder of a neighborhood dog, a crime for which Christopher was falsely accused. What takes the story beyond your standard detective procedural is that Christopher has an unspecified mental condition (likely Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism), and the situation that surrounds him and the
truth of the dog’s demise are far from ordinary. Rather than being a story about man’s best friend, the play profoundly addresses the challenges of being mentally different in a complex, evolving, and relentless world whose circumstances do not always allow for precise and calculable solutions, despite what those intersecting lines on the gridded stage might suggest. The circumstance is instead a messy web of highly unquantifiable issues of family, immorality, sexuality, and mental anxiety—the discovery of which is all catalyzed by the search for truth around the dog. The show’s production has been much heralded for its “high-tech” qualities, but truthfully it employs the standard lighting, projection, and sound that grace most theatrical stages on a nightly basis. Its triumph is the implementation and integration of these devices with the story, fusing design, character, and narrative to make visible what is invisible: the mind. Initially, the set is sparse: a gridded, cube-like structure with dimly glowing beams outlining the space’s shape. Beyond these few delineating and distinguishing lines, it is minimalist and sanitized, as if it is a room prepped for surgery. What you come to learn is that this austere atmosphere reflects the ascetic and dutifully accurate visual scape of Christopher’s mind. As the play’s director Marianne Elliot describes, “Christopher’s got a very unique and wonderful and extraordinary and imaginative brain, and the light, the set, the projections, the music, and the sound are all supporting the fact that this is inside his view of the world.”1 The grid reinforces Christopher’s penchant for systems, precision, and routine that
aligns with his way of thinking. It aligns also with his aversion to touch, a sanitized diagram that supports his physical recoil from proximity to other humans. It is this world – Christopher’s world or the way he perceives the world—that is the visual and thematic precipice of this very curious and compelling incident. As rigid as it might initially seem, this set is also the mind of an energetic, endearing 15-year-old boy. Scenic designer Bunny Christie explained her thoughts on the space: “It needed to feel like a fun environment, more like a computer gaming room, or a club, or a nightclub, or something that had a kind of an energy or excitement to it. And I really felt like it should be a space where Christopher would feel at home.”2 What allows the set to truly come alive in a playful but meaningful way is that this box of lighting and projected images becomes a tool of space and perception. “Light can do a million different things,” said lighting designer Paule Constable, and in Curious Incident it is asked to be a determinant of space, thought, and emotion.3 Lights – not the famed theatrical spotlight or racing bulbs on a marquee, but rather flashing LEDs, beams, and screens – create an electrifying dynamism similar to that of a pinball machine or the virtual world of a video game. The simplicity of the gridded canvas of the stage allows a combination of light and projected images to create an imagined materiality consistent with Christopher’s very specific, constructed, and thoughtful world. A beam of light signifies a room in a house; a flood of projected graphics captures a busy train terminal; a moving line of LEDs chart
Christopher’s path of motion; a vast projection of stars becomes the universe of Christopher’s daydreams as he imagines being an astronaut. Beyond just designating space and location, like a map or blueprint, the lighting becomes a manifestation of Christopher’s thought process as well as his perception of his place in the world. “How [the environment is] perceived, how it’s brought to life is what the lighting designer does,” says Constable.4 In the early twentieth century, pioneering theatrical designer Adolphe Appia introduced this idea of light as an emotive force in the performance space. Rejecting nineteenth-century conventions of painted drops lit straight on, he favored light for its sculptural quality and employed architectonic sets (such as columns and staircases) to cast dramatic shadows, arguing: “Light is distinguished from visibility by virtue of its power to be expressive.”5 In light of Appia’s and Constable’s congruent theories, the lighting designer becomes an agent to perception; in Curious Incident, when perception, by the character or, by extension, the audience, is integral to the telling of the story, the lighting becomes a translator. Through the use of lighting and projected images, the space of the stage becomes an illustration of Christopher’s mind, a playing field that adapts as a surrounding on a thought-by-thought basis. Christie explains the emotional effect of this buffeting, this integration of thought and space: “At…times, as his energy levels and his anxiety tips out of control, the space can tip out of control as well so that the kind of neurons of his brain are going crazy and fizzing and the energy of that is
evident on the set as well.”6 The character’s internal anxiety is reflected in his (and our) external space. For example, Christopher has been taught to recite exponential numbers when he feels stressed to clear his mind of a disturbing social situation. As he recites, the numbers are projected around the stage. But as his anxiety builds in panic and the coping mechanism appears to fail, the numbers overlap into a dizzying, unintelligible mess of numerals while strobe lights flash. More than just seeing a human reaction, the audience is confronted with an overwhelming spectacle as the play’s visual presence is engulfed in Christopher’s struggle. In a more subdued but no less poignant moment, the near absence of lighting also tells the story. Christopher tries to sleep in a sleeping bag. He lays alone in a dimly lit square while his parents fight, yelling boisterously in total darkness. The darkness echoes Christopher’s lack of emotional understanding of the dramatic scene, with the shiny and slippery red material of his sleeping bag reflecting the dim light in a skewed, almost pixelated manner as he rocks or writhes uncomfortably. In scenes such as these, the lighting design makes clear, aided by the otherwise unobtrusive set, that, while other characters are not insignificant, we are with Christopher on his journey; we are inside his mind. It is through his understanding of his situation and the world—his “Now” from the opening projected linesthat we, in turn, learn to empathize with his struggle. In addition to lighting and projected images, the added element of sound further intensifies this interpretation of Christopher’s mind
and emotions. Composed primarily of electronic music and mechanical sounds such as trains and beeping, the sound is both an identification of the real world as well as an extrapolation of Christopher’s view of it. The gap between the real and the imaged is the result of technical nuance: “In a realistic setting, you cannot alter the pitch or the volume…without destroying the sense of reality. Yet by subtly altering the timing of the rhythm and the length when playing the cue, you can support the emotion of the character—anxiety, impatience, reluctance, happy anticipation, or foreboding.”7 In the case of Curious Incident, this use of sound confronts any emotional or physical vacancy in Christopher’s scientific world, provoking his reactions to cacophonous pounding or claustrophobic hums. Digitized beeping is sometimes melodious, but often not; sometimes it is a tool for precise timekeeping and sometimes just a frustrating flurry. The lighting, projections, and sound work in harmony to heighten Christopher’s world beyond its narrative reality to the perceived realm of his mind. Not only is the light- and soundinfused stage of Curious Incident a celebration of Christopher’s interest in science and technology, but it is also very much a representation of the brain for the modern mind. As Christie enumerated, “I was very keen that it had a sense of technology, and that it felt very contemporary and modern.”8 The set is so modern, perhaps, that it cleverly preys on our contemporary relationship with technology, using the entire space as a projection surface to manipulate our Digital-Age instinct to stare at any screen in our vision. It becomes a
space that is simultaneously euphoric, pleasing, distracting, and frustrating, mimicking the exhilaration of our contemporary congested and overstimulated brains, brains that constantly thirst for new information. Christopher’s world becomes an extreme reflection of our world. Societally, we have become so accustomed to being flooded with media through screens that witnessing someone’s brain treated as such feels almost plausible—until it becomes a challenge to handle, bordering on inhumane sensory assault. In the 1936 film Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin famously satirized the mechanical nature of modern man as a result of industrialization by treating the exaggerated cogs of a machine as crushing social creatures. Curious Incident similarly brings literally to mind our immersion into the modernized world, our gravitation to mechanical and digital technology, but this time a technology internalized in ways that cause the modern mind to implode. This is not to suggest Curious Incident as a cautionary tale, but rather one that accurately harnesses our modern habits in order to access the character’s extra-ordinary modern mind and its potential for obstruction. While the audience at Curious Incident sits in the dark, separated by the traditional proscenium, its design—its scenic, lighting, and sound design, that is—bring you through the imaginary membrane of the fourth wall, bypassing the boundary of the body and plunging you into the mind of the character. As Ben Brantley, chief theater critic for the New York Times, noted in his review of the Broadway production: “It forces you to adopt, wholesale, the point of view
of someone with whom you may initially feel you have little in common.”9 When you are seeing how Christopher John Francis Boone is thinking and feeling rather than just observing how he is behaving, Christopher becomes more relatable—not just as a human, but as a stream of thoughts and emotions that could very easily parallel our own, and might make each of us reflect on our own challenges and how they may intertwine with our brains’ functioning. As Elliott explains: “The audience feels like Christopher is them. He isn’t different from them, and he experiences things in a way that we all experience them.”10 Ultimately the set, lighting, projections, and sound invite you into the mind of someone with a mental disability who gets frustrated just as you get frustrated, who is sad just as you are sad, and who hopes to triumph just as you hope to triumph. Beyond the dazzling lights and intrigue of the canine mystery, Curious Incident is at its core a heart- and mind-wrenching drama about a troubled child and the parents who cannot (or will not) fully care for him. It is here that the design and technical elements overcome their dazzle to become essential rather than merely spectacular. Because what is design if not a tool to aid our navigation of the world, or, when possible, help with someone else’s? Matthew J. Kennedy, MA History of Decorative Arts and Design (2013), works in publications at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum assisting with print books and developing digital content for exhibitions, including the recent exhibition Pixar: The Design of Story. He writes freelance about design with a particular focus on the intersection of design, theater, and popular culture.
Endnotes 1. Curious Broadway, “Creating Christopher’s World,” YouTube video, 2:08, May 29, 2015, https: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gMH285LvbM. 2. Broadwaycom, “Design Broadway: Tony Winner Bunny Christie on A CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME,” YouTube video, 5:13, June 17, 2015, https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XQuxmYNpe4. 3. Meredith Lepore, “Women on Broadway: Paule Constable, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” accessed December 14, 2015, http://www.levo.com/articles/careeradvice/women-in- broadwaypaule-constablethe-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time. 4. Chris Shipman, “Listen: Paule Constable on the role of a Lighting Designer,” Royal Opera House, February 20, 2013, accessed December 14, 2015, Paule Constable, http://www.roh.org.uk/ news/listen-pauleconstable-on-the-role-of-a-lighting-designer. 5.Philip Butterworth and Joslin McKinney, Cambridge Introduction to Scenography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 15. 6. Broadwaycom, “Design Broadway: Tony Winner Bunny Christie on A CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME,” YouTube video, 5:13, June 17, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=6XQuxmYNpe4. 7. Deena Kaye and James LeBrecht, Sound and Music for the Theatre: The Art and Technique of Design (Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2013), 16. 8. Broadwaycom, “Design Broadway: Tony Winner Bunny Christie on A CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME,” YouTube video, 5:13, June 17, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=6XQuxmYNpe4. 9. Ben Brantley, “Plotting the Grid of Sensory Overload: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ Opens on Broadway,” New York Times, October 5, 2014, accessed December 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/theater/ the-curious incident-of-the-dog-in-the-nighttime-opens-on-broadway.html.
10. Curious Broadway, “Creating Christopher’s World,” YouTube video, 2:08, May 29, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=6gMH285LvbM.
Detroit’s landmark David Whitney Building, named for the influential lumber baron and resident of Detroit, reopened in December 2014 following a nearly $100 million renovation. Originally designed by the Chicago-based firm of renowned architect Daniel Burnham and completed in 1915, the 19-story skyscraper anchors the Grand Circus Park district north of downtown Detroit and was built to be an office building for professionals and also a shopping oasis. The historic tower had been shuttered since 1999; it has been reimagined now as an Aloft Hotel, a division of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and a luxury apartment development. The neo-classical façade of white terracotta and glazed brick, and the opulent interiors replete with gilded decoration have been restored to their original grandeur. Marblelined corridors that once led to the offices of doctors, dentists and Top: David Whitney Building in 1917, years after it opened.Opposite: Renovated lobby.
lawyers, now open onto hotel suites with colorful, contemporary décor. A sunlit, interior courtyard, which was a retail destination teeming with shoppers during its heyday in the 1920s, now features a spacious hotel lobby, event space, restaurant and bar to bring the contemporary populace of locals and hotel guests together to shop, drink, and be part of the city’s urban renewal. I returned to Detroit in 2015 to attend an auto show, having lived and worked in the Motor City as a PR manager for car manufacturers prior to taking my degree at the Cooper Hewitt Parsons MA program. I stayed at the Aloft Hotel during my visit and experienced the David Whitney Building as a striking and meaningful combination of past and present in design: revitalizing the past to encourage a future for Detroit. Wendi Parson, MA History of Decorative Arts and Design (2014), is currently Director of Communications & Marketing at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Prior to joining the Museum, she worked as a communications professional inside leading design and innovation organizations and automotive companies.
Perfume: The Essence of French Style and Luxury
Susan Teichman Perfume became an object of prestige when it was incorporated into French court life in the seventeenth century. Slow to embrace personal hygiene through bathing, covering up malodors was an essential part of life in France. French monarchs so encouraged its use that fragrance became a form of social self-expression.1 This interest in perfume only expanded over time: Louis XV’s court was famous for its use of scent, with courtiers changing their fragrances every day; and Marie Antoinette’s passion for fragrances was such that it led to the first major perfume house in Paris, Houbigant, in 1775.2 The French region of Grasse, known as “the world’s largest center of natural raw materials for perfumery and their derivatives,” played a major
role in the evolution of the perfume industry in France. Together with Paris, the world’s fashion capital, it seemed natural that it was in France that the relationship between perfume and fashion would be cemented during the twentieth century. French perfumes and scents have garnered a rich history as luxurious branded fashion commodities. Couturiers Paul Poiret and Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel prominently established Paris as a site for fashionbased perfumes. Poiret, always an artist at heart, applied a ‘total lifestyle’ or a fashionable aesthetic and luxurious sensibility to his fragrant scents. Chanel, with neither the artistic training nor the couturier experience that shaped Poiret, understood and marketed the allure 87
of perfume, believing that a modern woman’s scent should be as important as her style of dress. Although their fragrance styles were completely different, their fashion and market influences on perfume as a luxury commodity are equally important. In this paper, I compare the artistic style of Paul Poiret with the modernism of “Coco” Chanel to document how their luxurybranded perfumes have made an indelible contribution to the history and cachet of the French fragrance industry. It was during the nineteenth century that “the role of fragrance changed from being an accessory that enhanced luxury items like gloves and handkerchiefs, and became the object of desire itself.” During this period perfume products were transformed from being specialty items used by a limited consumer group to being a broadly distributed and widely consumed commodity. It was also the beginning of modern perfumery as perfume manufacturers benefited by using ground-breaking techniques for extracting raw materials used in fragrance. By 1880, when new synthetic fragrance compounds were discovered, productivity was increased, and production costs decreased. These innovations introduced new creative possibilities and allowed for a wider profit margin on perfume sales. Alongside these changes, marketing strategies developed to increase the value of these products by positioning them as luxury 88
goods.3 In specialty houses, perfumers made the transition from artisans to true artists or creators of scents. Perfumers themselves became much more visible in public life in the second half of the nineteenth century, functioning as both representatives of high-class society and as social arbiters. These men used their success and influence to brand themselves, thereby enhancing the value of their products. They learned that although technical innovation and a well-considered business plan were important, capitalizing on their names was the most expedient way to guarantee success and market dominance.4 Paul Poiret developed the first couturier perfume, Rosine, in 1911. Poiret had a strong artistic sensibility and everything he created—from clothes, to perfume, to decorative objects—reflected his ties to the art world. He was the first designer to align his fashions with perfume, cosmetics, and decorative arts. He promoted a concept he called ‘total lifestyle’ that allowed women to incorporate art and fashion into all areas of their lives. ‘Coco’ Chanel was the other major fashion designer of the early twentieth century to launch an important couturier perfume. Significantly, Chanel became the first designer to brand herself and market a luxury eponymous perfume. Her signature fragrance was complex and designed to defy the conventions of the time, which still leaned toward the nineteenth-century construct that defined acceptable perfume as
those with a single flower fragance.5 Although Chanel’s perfume was introduced in 1921, a decade after the first Rosine perfume, Chanel No. 5 was, and is, remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is its seductiveness and timelessness. Paul Poiret, born in 1879, rose to prominence during the first quarter of the twentieth century. He was university-educated with an active interest in drafting and design. His first job was working for an umbrella company, which left him frustrated by the lack of creative outlets. He eventually obtained a position in the fashion house of Jacques Doucet, a distinguished Paris couturier. It was under Doucet’s tutelage that Poiret honed his raw talent and learned the details of the fashion industry. To
his advantage, he learned how to develop the patronage of actresses to advertise his fashions both on and off the stage. After two years with Doucet, Poiret left to work at the prestigious House of Worth, where he stayed until he opened his own design house in 1903. As an independent couturier, Poiret continually looked to the fine and applied arts for inspiration. Between 1903 and 1911, he created dramatic, bold and modern fashions. He was the first designer to free women from bone corsets with the debut of his Directoire line in 1906, which promoted a highwaisted silhouette. By 1909, exoticism was the rage, and Poiret’s fashions took their cues from influences around the world: he debuted kimonos, harem pants and 89
split skirts, peasant costumes from Eastern Europe and garments with Greek designs inspired by Isadora Duncan.6 True to his “total lifestyle” philosophy, he marketed his designs as suited to all avenues of life, thus creating ‘an art of living.’ In 1911 Poiret established two subsidiary businesses to further this concept. The first enterprise, inspired by his 1910 visit to the Wiener Werkstätte, was a design school and interior design company called Atelier Martine. For his second venture, also in 1911, Poiret launched Les Parfums de Rosine, a luxury perfume company named for his oldest daughter. As a couturier perfumer, he created individual perfumes that were designed to capture the allure and drama of his high-end fashions; using the latest scientific processes and hiring the perfumers Henri Alméras, Emmanuel Boulet, and Maurice Schaller, Poiret recreated fragrances that were naturally produced by flowers. The first Rosine perfume was Toute la Forêt (1911) followed by Le Minaret (1913), Nuit de Chine (1913), Borgia (1914), Le Fruit Defendu (1915), Aladin (1919), Maharadjah (1921), Skaya Mouni (1922), and Arlequinade (1923). These are just the perfumes with an Eastern influence; Poiret eventually released thirty fragrances between 1910 and 1929. “Inspired by Persia, China, Japan and other faraway lands, these luxurious fragrances were created to be sumptuous fashions and daring, and he himself was instrumental in choosing their names, compositions 90
and bottle shapes.”7 The perfume bottles were designed by the artists of his Atelier Martine and were intended to be evocative of their names and scents. They were elegantly encased in lavish packaging, created by some of the notable graphic artists of the periodincluding Georges Lepape and Paul Iribe. Poiret understood the powerful connection that could exist between fashion and fragrance, and he was the first couturier to establish and market a luxury perfume line connecting the two. Often a scent was linked to a particular gown and designed based on Poiret’s notion of the ‘total work of art.’ Even though his luxury perfumes were twice the price of other perfumes, Poiret believed the cost reflected the quality of the perfume and all that went into them. These were truly luxury products—marketed with the idea that even if one could not afford couture, they could still own a piece of high-end fashion. After World War I, Poiret’s romantic fashion styles were no longer in vogue. Although his artistic sensibility was impeccable, he seemed incapable of adapting to the age of modernity. New designers, such as Chanel, were producing sleek, modern, elegant, and eminently wearable clothes from new materials. Poiret continued designing fashions and creating perfumes throughout the 1920s, but his fashion house eventually closed due to bankruptcy in 1929 and he ceased producing the luxury
perfumes of Les Parfums de Rosine. Only four years younger but coming from vastly different circumstances, ‘Coco’ Chanel rose to prominence during Poiret’s apogee. In just nine years, Chanel went from being a milliner in 1910 to opening a shop as a registered couturier in Paris on the rue Cambon in 1919. By the 1920s, she was an influential tastemaker in French fashion circles, and by 1927, she owned five properties on rue
Cambon, forming a complex of buildings between addresses 23 and 31 (her original site). Chanel keenly grasped the evolving modernism of the twentieth century that seemed to elude Poiret. She designed simple, sleek clothes using new materials, such as jersey, and constructing impeccably tailored clothing. Chanel understood the modern woman and aspired to create a luxury perfume that would complement her style. Her relationship with
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich was pivotal in her transformation into couturier perfumer. Pavlovich introduced Chanel to perfumer Ernest Beaux, who was the technical director for Rallet and Company, a relatively small luxury perfume house with its own line of marketable fragrances. Chanel asked Beaux to create a couture perfume with a unique, distinctively modern scent. Chanel specifically requested that Beaux create a “sultry freshness;” Beaux hesitated, because creating a scent for a couturier was something entirely new.8 (Of course, while it may have seemed novel for Beaux to create a couturier perfume, Poiret’s Les Parfums des Rosine had been issuing perfumes for a decade!) In the end, Beaux created No. 5, Chanel’s eponymous scent, a complex perfume whose elements were broken down into their simplest essences and reconstructed into something new and sophisticated. The perfume was layered with 80 ingredients. The scent captured elements that evoked significant memories from Chanel’s own life: her fondness for the smell of fresh scrubbed skin and soap, for example, developed after her years as a child in a convent at Aubazine; the single-note fragrances she associated with women of the upper classes—with which she was familiar as the mistress of wealthy men; and the heavy musk and jasmine scents of the demi-monde, mistresses, and prostitutes, remembered from her experience as a working woman. 92
Influenced by the abstract artists that lived near her home on the French Riviera, the name No. 5 is also a titular abstraction. Chanel chose a simple lab or pharmaceutical bottle for No. 5 which distinguished the perfume from the more highly ornate decorative bottles of the time and, in particular, from those of Poiret. The bottle flew in the face of the established industry, which relied on great artists, such as René Lalique, to design elaborate crystal creations. The clean, sharp lines of the bottle for No. 5 were characterized as ‘modern’ in 1921. The sophisticated use of bold, black lettering on a white ground surrounded by black borders was elegantly understated, as well as a nod to the machine age as, unlike the elaborate packaging and designs of other perfumes, it could be mechanically reproduced. Chanel’s signature scent, marketed ingeniously for the modern woman of luxury, became an instant commercial success. Inevitably, women’s fashion tastes changed; as the 1930s progressed, Chanel’s influence on fashion and her couture empire began to falter. The 1920s flapper look disappeared overnight, and Chanel, like Poiret before her, had difficulty adjusting to the demands of a new decade. In the 1930s, Chanel was eclipsed by her greatest rival, Elsa Schiaparelli, whose innovative designs, with their allusions to Surrealism, met with great critical acclaim and created a new fervor in the fashion world. Schiaparelli, along with Lucien
Lelong and Cristobal Balenciaga, were creating clothes that were the antithesis of Chanel style: hourglass shapes that emphasized womanly figures as opposed to the boyish cut of Chanel’s garments. (In 1937 Schiaparelli marketed Shocking, a blend of magnolia, patchouli, vetiver and musk in a bottle shaped like movie star Mae West’s figure.) While they both may have been eclipsed as tastes and trends evolved, couturier perfumers Poiret and Chanel changed the world of French fragrances. Poiret revolutionized the perfume industry by creating original and refined perfumes marketed in artistically designed bottles that could only be classified as a luxury good. Chanel transformed the French and global perfume industry by self-branding a complex fragrance that defied conventions, and making perfume into a branded icon of luxury. Although Poiret’s luxury fragrances have been lost to history, Chanel’s eponymous fragrance remains timeless. Without either of their contributions as fashion couturiers and entrepreneurial perfumers, the French fragrance and perfume scents of today would not have the inimitable cachet of luxury and prestige still sought after and marketed around the world. The French court remains aromatic indeed.
Notes 1. Eugenie Briot, "From Industry to Luxury: French Perfume in the Nineteenth Century," Business History Review 85, no. 2 (2011): 273-274. 2. Ibid. 3.Edmond Roundnitska, Edmond Roundnitsaka: Le Parfum, 6th ed. (Presses Universitaires de France, 2000): 58. Accessed October 5, 2014. ScentedPages.com 4. Briot, supra, 278 and 293-294. 5. “Chanel No. 5 – For the First Time,” Inside.Chanel.com, accessed December 1, 2014, http:chanel.com/en/no.5/video. 6. Francois Baudot, Poiret (New York: Assouline Publishing, 2006), 8. 7. Elisabeth de Feydeau, “The First Couturier-Perfumer: Paul Poiret (1879-1944)” in Paul Poiret: Couturier Perfumer, ed. Musée International de la Parfumerie (Paris: Somogy Editions d’Art, 2013), 60. 8. Tilar J. Mazzeo, The Secret of Chanel No. 5 (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010), 59.
Susan Teichman, MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design (expected 2016), is completing her thesis on Moorish Revival synagogues of the nineteenth century. 93
the Arts and Crafts movement; volumes written on the theory and practices of design reform; others on appropriate decoration of the home; and Aestheticism, a movement in worshipful support of sublime beauty and the imperative to surround oneself with possessions informed by such. An entrenched attachment to the tawdry and the frivolous stuck, however, and the British were and remain very much encumbered with “stuff“ of purported significance, for better or worse. Bruce Robinson’s 1987 film, Withnail and I, takes expert heed of the pitfalls of these stuffed British interiors and uses artifacts to suggest the motives and meanings behind what is a darkly hilarious story of two young, unemployed actors living in 1969 London who decide to take a Lake District holiday when the pressures and squalor of the city become too much to bear.2 In taking a close look at the film’s meticulously composed backdrops, evidence of ages’ worth of British cultural conflict and confusion emerge. Household Gods is a good book to have on hand to help sort out some of these matters. In this essay I consider aspects of British material culture, from the Georgian era to the late twentieth century, as used (and abused) in various settings from the film. Early on, Cohen quotes Henry Cole addressing a committee meeting at the governmental Schools of Design saying that: “to act upon the principle of ‘every one to his taste,’ would be as mischievous as ‘every one to his morals.’” Cohen continues by echoing the sentiments of Cole, who claimed that the 1851 Exhibition
“demonstrated the calamitous result of the notion of 'de gustibus': unchecked by principles, British manufacture had sunk to execrable levels of taste… The public's desire for objects that it could not afford had led to 'universal infidelity' to the principles of design. An avalanche of materialism threatened to bury correct taste all together.3 Cole and his design reform cohorts believed that the moral integrity of a household very much relied upon the possessions to be found within it; indeed, as a certain Reverend Boyd stated in his 1861 Recreations of a Country Parson: “We are all moral chameleons; and we take the colour of the objects among which we are placed.”4 Or, as a pamphleteer wrote in 1871, decrying such falsehoods as a fish-shaped pitcher or a wine cooler shaped like a sarcophagus, “If you are content to teach a lie in your belongings, you can hardly wonder at petty deceits being practiced in other ways.”5 I offer these nineteenthcentury examples as they lend depth and humor to consideration of the settings to be found in Withnail and I, all of which allude to earlier times while being dependent on objects to suggest both sentimentality and the self-conscious implication of certain degrees of refinement. Oscar Wilde’s infamous remark, “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china,” is thusly brought to mind. His statement is interpreted by Cohen as “both a more subtle and a more lethal joke than is often recognized. It at once mocked the virtue that Victorians had invested in their possessions—as we have seen, a key means by which prosperity and
Withnail and I (1987). ©1987, HandMade Films.
morality were reconciled—and also suggested that humans could fall short of the perfection of the material world in ways never imagined.” 6 The settings used in Withnail and I substantiate the complicated relationship that potentially exists between an Englishman and his things and, by further extrapolation, between an Englishman and his country. Withnail and I, written and directed by actor-turned-screenwriter Bruce Robinson, appeared first as a novel in 1969 and then as a film in 1987 after Robinson’s 1980 conversion of his book into a screenplay. It is closely autobiographical, and set in a period when Robinson was sharing a flat with a fellow actor called Vivian MacKerral. MacKerral was profoundly drunken
and dissolute, also a member of what Robinson then called “the drowning upper classes…[Vivian] was obsessed with wills, and always praying that some valetudinarian aunt would finally die and leave him a few thousand pounds.”7 Meeting as classmates at the Central School of Speech and Design in 1964, they shared a Camden Town flat similar to that seen in the film, with drug and alcohol abuse central to daily routine. They made a frequent habit of going to nearby Regent’s Park to visit the wolves in the zoo, a spot twice pivotal to the film. The character of Withnail is based on MacKerral, while the sensitive and sweet Marwood (“I”) is modeled on Robinson.
The film cost £ 1.1 million, with Robinson paid £80,000 for directing (his debut) and a token £1 for the script. Richard E. Grant (Withnail) and Paul McGann (“I”) were each paid £20,000. The film was produced by Handmade Films, specifically by George Harrison, who loved the script and was a frequent visitor to the set. It was shot in thirty days over the course of seven weeks.8 We meet Marwood first, sitting in abject, hung-over misery and surveying the state of the flat with redrimmed eyes. A swollen, jazzy version of Procul Harum’s ”A Whiter Shade of Pale” plays, casting lugubrious reference to the 1960s as we watch the poor boy try to collect himself enough to make a pot of tea. The setting looks oddly formal as the first objects shown are a molded, floral-painted nineteenth-century ceramic pitcher and a classical bust, both encased in a glazed mahogany cabinet. Further views of the flat reveal furnishings that might have been more at home in quarters such as those maintained by a contemporary of Wilde’s at Oxford: Grand Tour souvenirs; a Georgian silver tea urn (lid inverted); silver two-handled cups that look to be sporting trophies; a riband mahogany armchair and carved mahogany breakfast table; a dark-wood architectonic mantle clock; antique-looking ice skates; portraits in the style of Gainsborough; a mounted fawn (a hint, perhaps, of outdoor ineptitudes to come); and in one quick sweep by the camera, a draped Union Jack; an antique-looking globe on a stand; and an urn flanked on one side by a liquor bottle and on the other by a tawdry ceramic figure of a nude woman
converted into a lamp. Postcards haphazardly taped to the mirror above the mantle serve as cheap versions of what, at one time, might have been engravings carefully collected and brought home for display to establish both far-flung connoisseurship and antiquarian credentials. All of it seems to suggest homage to vaunted tradition and a claim on the fittings of upper-crust learning and rule, but we’re soon made certain that Marwood and Withnail are, in fact, dysfunctionally living in a miserable mess, their possessions ignored, mistreated, or misunderstood. Despite all the hints at genteel leisure afforded the young men, it becomes clear, particularly with the appearance of their scenestealing dealer, Danny, that their primary recreational activity is drug use. The flat’s kitchen is particularly disgusting, with scattered empty wine and liquor bottles and a sink overflowing with dishes and rotted food; a battered aluminum teakettle is seen sitting on a sputtering flame, in sad contrast to the disarrayed debris of the blurred backdrop; it is perhaps the only functionally useful thing in the house. Marwood locates a jar of instant coffee and is forced to have it out of a porcelain soup bowl, as all cups and mugs are broken or fouled, graciously using a silver soup spoon in accordance with traditional diningroom etiquette. In what is one of the funniest lines of the film, Withnail looks at the sink in horror and, believing it is infested by maggots and possibly a rat, shouts, “The pupa will bore through the glaze; we’ll never be able to use our dinner service
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out the living room. Monty’s furniture is groaning under the weight of objects primarily in the neo-gothic taste, a style initially touted as one of moral uplift when churchly objects for the home were once encouraged. However, by the Edwardian era, “religiously inflected furnishing had come to be seen as démodé, a musty relic of an earlier era,”11 an era in which Uncle Monty appears to be stuck. Paired with his neo-gothic furniture and overbearing yardage of fabrics, exoticism is honored in the form of non-Western bric-a-brac scattered among his Georgian silver and the vegetables within. This house, a scheme of depraved eclecticism, is a throwback to the time of Empire and the voracious collection of whatnot brought from far-flung corners of the realm. Uncle Monty appears victim to his ability to self-indulge every madness and whim, the details of which are spoken through his assemblage of upper-class markers and lurid eccentricities. His attention and affection are turned strictly to a time when “artistic furnishing was less a collection of particular furniture than a state of mind,”12 with his state of mind evidently one of delirious aestheticism. The role was written with the actor Griffiths in mind, and he revels in it.13 “Free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those that can't,” says Withnail in a blunt assertion of class privilege, as he holds up the antique skeleton key to the cottage, finally acquired just before they manage to escape from the hothouse realm of Uncle Monty to the cottage. Withnail and Marwood reach
Penrith, in the Lake District, after an arduous drive in Withnail’s dilapidated Jaguar and arrive at the cottage in a heavy downpour and late at night. The cottage is a shock to the boys, derelict and barely habitable with rain coming in at odd places, all manner of disrepair, and a formidable coating of grime. Arriving without food, wine, wood, coal, or proper boots, the boys begin smashing the furniture to burn for warmth, without hesitation or remorse, in the large stone hearth that is flanked by portraits of King George V and Queen Mary, ruling monarchs at the time of Monty’s birth. The interior appears as a mashup between agrarian utility (scattered farm tools and implements) and the bourgeois (moldy picture frames and bric-a-brac on the mantle). A filled and happy home at one time perhaps, but as found, one of broken neglect, seeming long abandoned, and at the mercy of the elements. Marwood has a peaceful walk of great scenic beauty early the first morning, and it seems he could become acclimated to rural traditions and know-how, but Withnail is hopeless. As film historian Kevin Jackson describes it, Withnail “has a truly Augustan disdain for the countryside, and regards it as a zone of chill, hunger, mud, psychotic peasantry and potentially lethal wildlife.”14 A trip to a local pub, described by Marwood as a “sulphur-stained, nicotine-yellow, fly-blown lung” minded by a “retired alcoholic with military pretensions and a complexion like the inside of a teapot,” reveals another interior of uniquely British stamp, this one sporting horse brasses
hung amok, souvenirs of wars and Empire, base-metal tankards, Staffordshire novelty pottery, pseudoarmorials painted on cheap shieldshaped boards, and numerous images of Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill. There is even a suspended crocodile behind the bar, presumably a reference to the barkeep’s beloved tank days in the Africa Corps. The scattered, referential trinkets and souvenirs in no way betray fine design, quality, or ennobled industry, and the pub, as do other interiors in the film, serves to back the claim that the British have long been guilty of “casting ‘love-sick glances’ at the past, [as] ‘bourgeois collectors’ sought to ‘live more or less with the generations which have gone before them.’”15 Uncle Monty makes a surprise appearance at the cottage to join the boys for the weekend, and it’s soon revealed that in order to wrangle the key to the cottage, Withnail told his glaringly homosexual uncle that Marwood was at ease with homosexual prostitution (a “toilet trader,” in the film’s slang), a fact duly tantalizing to Monty. Withnail defends himself to Marwood by saying that Uncle Monty’s showing up was a “calculated risk” worth taking and one to be tolerated thanks to use of the house and, more importantly, the abundance of superb wine and sundries brought along by Monty from London in his Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. With Monty’s presence in the home, an interior transformation begins making the cottage a better reflection of Monty’s blithe ease and material imagination. There is an immediate tidying and beautification of the cottage, though no apparent effort is
being made. Quality decorative objects begin to appear where none had been before, and the whole place takes on a certain order and functionality that was beyond the reach of the two boys on their own. Though any premise of moral stability has been surrendered, the interior morphs as if by magic into a vision of good, solid English taste—an intriguingly subversive reversal. Britain’s gracious traditions of design are now found only in the wake of the lewd buffoonery and bloated snobbery of Uncle Monty. Most striking is the revelation of an elegant dining room in which the damp and ill-equipped disrepair the boys found upon their arrival gives way to elaborate table settings with linen, stemware, a porcelain service, and silver flatware. The room itself is a lovely composite of French Empire and English Regency, with upholstered French furniture matching the soft rose hues of the wallpaper, and elaborate window treatments with valence and swag. There are assorted bourgeois misdemeanors committed, but Monty’s flair predominates and transforms the entire space into one of bonhomie and luxurious excess. It is as though a queering of the interior has taken place, a development that makes Marwood terribly nervous for obvious reasons, but not so Withnail, whose moral corruption leaves him unbothered so long as his own pleasure isn’t compromised. It is only when Monty (otherwise impeccable in his preparations and country outfitting) appears in a climactic scene to seduce Marwood in the middle of the night (while wearing a silk robe and garishly made up in crimson rouge
and lipstick) that the true sordidness of the situation is made plain.16 Monty is rebuffed by the panicked Marwood and leaves the cottage in disgrace, sneaking away before daybreak. Soon after, Marwood receives a telegram informing him that he has landed a role in a movie being shot in Manchester. The boys return to London, where Marwood prepares to move out of the Camden flat, which has been taken over in their absence by Danny, the dealer, and assorted hangers-on. On his final day in London we see Marwood in his bedroom, shown for the first time to be a tidy and surprisingly sophisticated room. His long curly hair has been cut short and his clothes, books, and script are neatly packed into a leather valise. In a canny material touch, the books he has packed are Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield and Joris-Karl Huysmans’s A Rebours, unmistakably linking Marwood to Copperfield, and Withnail to the debauched aesthete in Huysmans’s book, a favorite of Oscar Wilde’s and the ‘art-for-art’s-sake’ crowd.17 Marwood is now crisply and coldly beautiful, stoic and organized, going forward with purpose and occupation as Withnail remains in hapless free fall. Withnail sportingly attempts to accompany Marwood to the station for goodbyes, but is curtly left behind on their favored path by the wolf enclosure of the Regent’s Park Zoo. In pouring rain and drinking from a bottle of red wine stolen from Monty’s stash, Withnail is last seen performing Hamlet’s magnificent soliloquy from Scene II, Act II, for the wolves who mournfully bay in response. The film ends with
his lanky and soaked figure, still wearing his town coat, wandering aimlessly away from the camera with umbrella in one hand and wine bottle in the other.18 The sets in Withnail and I are expertly assembled to reveal a very strong and arguably debilitating relationship between action and object. Hints of Georgian refinement, a refinement debased by the Victorian habit and ability to mass-produce versions of such, pervades the film’s interiors whether the Camden Town flat, Uncle Monty’s Chelsea house, the Penrith cottage, or the shown public spaces. As Cohen states, “Few among the British middle classes were willing to forsake ornament…. By and large, the British middle classes did not wish to live in the modern way, in ‘a flat without a past,’ accompanied only by a cactus for comfort. Their homes remained important ways of making statements about who they were – clues not easily conveyed in cold steel. Frustrated modernists complained that the British clung mindlessly to the tried-and-tested styles of previous eras.” One Russian-born architect, active in Britain, referred to the phenomenon as a “‘retrospective stupor.’” Ian Baruma, in his 2000 book Anglomania: A European Love Affair, similarly described England as “soggy with historicism.”19 In Withnail and I, Bruce Robinson proves himself a shrewd political observer; at the time of filming he was a vocal critic of Thatcherism, then at its height. While overt reference is made to the excesses and exhaustion of the 1960s, quite a lot in the film references certain deficiencies of the 1980s. Historian Tony Judt’s Postwar, a
history of Europe since 1945, describes Thatcherism as standing for a variety of things: reduced taxes, the free market, free enterprise, privatization of industries and services, patriotic fervor, and, significantly, ‘Victorian values.’ Writes Judt: It all “came in the wake of a backlash against the libertarianism of the Sixties and doldrums of the 1970s. Margaret Thatcher and her party understood that the working- and lower-middle classes were uncomfortable with a progressive intelligentsia who had been dominant,”20 and a hardline conservatism based on moralizing and privatization prevailed with frequent nods to genteel tradition (much as it did in the United States under Reagan). Thatcher, of humble origins herself, proved to have what Judt refers to as “a soft spot for nouveau riche businessmen.” She was not liked by the country’s venerable and landed elite and “returned the sentiment with interest… Tories were shocked at her unsentimental scorn for tradition or past practice [and] at the height of the privatization craze, former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan accused her of selling the ‘family silver,’”21 a metaphor that, to many, would indicate sacrilegious behavior. Robinson takes advantage of ‘family silver’ sort of trappings throughout Withnail and I to scrutinize (and at times disparage) the sanctity of British traditions and their material equipage: sporting, love and command of the pastoral, Public School, pubs and publicans, love of animals, respect for authority, and the home. He also confronts questions of Empire and class, along with moral complexities related to homosexuality and race
(through an imposing African character, one of Danny’s contingent, introduced near the end of the film). Using the scattered trophies of conquest and the withering snobbery of the Withnails, Robinson frames ambivalent views of a past and present England while insisting that the Victorian and Thatcherian rot, both moral and material, were to some extent a cloak for self-interest, hypocrisy, and selfish pursuit. In Fred W. Burgess’s 1914 Chats on Household Curios, there are a number of claims made about the comforts of sentimental clutter. In the chapter “No Place Like Home,” Burgess claims, “It would be difficult to find greater delight than that which centres in those things that concern the home and home life. The love of the old homestead and the goods and chattels it contains is ingrained in the breast of every Britisher; and although families become scattered…they find the greatest delight in the objects with which they were familiar in years gone by, and venerate the relics of former generations—the household gods which have been handed on from father to son.”22 Bruce Robinson would no doubt agree with Mr. Burgess. While his film’s darkly comic intelligence upends many sentiments, the exactitude and care with which Robinson tends to his actors and his sets, unmistakably reveals an exceptional empathy and understanding for the material of British culture. Catherine Gale, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies (candidate), is a second-year student whose recent work has been focused on patriotic iconology and the writings of Herman Melville. Her current research examines invented traditions and reconsiders early American decorative arts in post-Gilded Age New York.
Notes 1. Deborah Cohen, Household Gods: The British and their Possessions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006). 2. “Withnail and I” (UK, 1987). Produced by Paul Heller and HandMade Films; written and directed by Bruce Robinson; distributed by HandMade Films (UK), Cineplex Odeon Films (US), and The Cannon Group (US). 3.Cohen, Household Gods, 17. 4.Ibid., 26. 5.Ibid., 18. 6.Ibid., 79. 7. Kevin Jackson, Withnail & I (London: British Film Institute, 2004), 17. 8.Thomas Hewitt-McManus, Withnail & I: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know but Were Too Drunk to Ask (Raleigh, NC: Lulu Press, 2006), 13. 9. Kevin Jackson's book concludes with the contact information for Andrea Galer, the film's costume designer, who offers gentlemen the opportunity to own a made-to-measure coat. Galer can also supply Withnailian shirts, scarves, and waistcoats. Jackson also details casting considerations, reporting that the role of Marwood was offered to Kenneth Branagh— shortly before his career took off — but Branagh refused it, because he was only interested in the part of Withnail. In response, Robinson is reputed to have said, 'I didn't want him to [play Withnail]. I didn't think he had enough nobility. Marvelous actor that he is, there's something about Ken that is the antithesis of Byronesque: he looks like a partially cooked doughnut. Richard looks like fucking Byron. (Jackson, Withnail & I, 40.) 10. Uncle Monty’s house is located on Glebe Place, near the Albert Embankment, and was (and is) owned by the fabric designer and one-time director of Liberty of London, Bernard Neville, whose taste mirrored that of Monty's so closely the set “needed little dressing apart from the silver-potted vegetables”. (Jackson, Withnail & I, 42.) 11. Cohen, Household Gods, 30.
12. Ibid, 66. 13. Jackson, Withnail & I, 44. 14.Ibid., 49. 15.Cohen, Household Gods, 154. 16. Robinson made clear his source for this scene's physical and spoken elements: “Much of the dialogue in the final scene between Monty and Marwood...is taken verbatim from Zeffirelli's unsuccessful wooing of Robinson [when he was in Rome playing the character of Benvolio in the 1968 Romeo and Juliet.] Monty accosts [Marwood] with Signore Zeffirelli's magnificent line: 'Are you a sponge or a stone?' To which Marwood replies with the hysterical blurt: 'I voted Conservative. (Jackson, Withnail & I, 69). 17. I have of late – but wherefore I know not – lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of theworld! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither... (William Shakespeare, Hamlet Ed. Sylvan Barnet (New York: Signet Classic Shakespeare, 1998), 50. 18. Cohen, Household Gods, 173. 19. Ian Buruma, Anglomania: A European Love Affair (New York: Vintage, 2000), 242. 20. Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (New York, Penguin, 2005), 540. 21. Ibid., 541. 22. Fred W. Burgess, Chats on Household Curios (London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1914), 22.
Special Thanks We would like to express our profound gratitude to all of those who have helped make this issue of Objective a success: Our dedicated faculty, Dr. Sarah E. Lawrence, Dean of the Art, Design, History and Theory graduate division of Parsons School of Design; Dr. Sarah A. Lichtman, Program Director, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies; Dr. Ethan Robey, Associate Program Director, MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies; and particularly Dr. Marilyn Cohen, Assistant Professor and Objective Faculty Advisor, Parsons School of Design, who devoted countless hours to this project, yet somehow retained her smile and faith in this endeavor. We are also thankful for the support provided by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and wish to single out the following individuals: Caroline Baumann, Director; Cara McCarthy, Curatorial Director; and Andrea Lipps, Assistant Curator, who graciously agreed to be interviewed in the midst of intensive preparations for the launch of the 2016 Design Triennial. We also appreciate the patience and dedication of Yim Lim, who made our lives easier by providing much needed administrative support. Of course, we were fortunate to have such a strong foundation to build upon, and for this we thank the editorial and design staff of the inaugural issue of Objective, especially Anna Rasche, former editor-in-chief, and Roi Baron, designer, for their continued involvement and welcome guidance. None of this would have been possible without the expertise and tireless efforts of our designer Bill Shaffer ably assisted by Alison Underwood, and our discerning copy editors: Penny Wolfson, chief copy editor; Samantha Wiley; Elizabeth Scheuer; Jeffery McCullough; and Anne Bailey. Thanks also to Derrick Gaiter for his help with editing. Finally, we thank our classmates and alumni of the Masterâ€™s Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies for their scholarly efforts and insights and for being an endless source of inspiration.