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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art (4-Volume Set) edited by Ann Landi (Gale Group) The past decade or so has seen a tremendous increase of interest in the visual arts. Museum attendance is steadily on the rise; galleries devoted to the art of our times and the art of the past are flourishing; and there are probably more artists of note today than at any other point in the history of humankind. In New York alone, it has been estimated that there are some 60,000 practicing artists. As the contemporary painter and sculptor Frank Stella noted recently, with some astonishment, "Until now, there weren't even 60,000 artists since the beginning of time."

Ours is also an increasingly visual culture, more and more dependent on signs and images instead of the written text. Television sets flicker for part of the day in most households; we cruise the Internet, encountering new forms of visual stimulus; our public spaces are littered with ever‑larger billboards and neon advertisements. What a pleasure it is, then, to walk into a gallery or museum, into the relative sanity and quiet, where the eye can feast on images by artists long‑gone or of the moment. And small wonder we are curious about the people who made these images, so many of which‑like Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Rodin's Thinker, or the woodblock prints of the eighteenth-century Japanese masters‑have become instantly recognizable as touchstones of our cultural past.

When I was a high school student, thirty‑some years ago, there was no comprehensive volume that offered easily accessible information on art and artists. The standard references were H. W. Janson's History of Art and E. H. Gombrich's The Story of Art, both excellent books and still fortunately very much in use. Janson's text is now in its sixth edition, published 2001; the sixteenth edition of The Story of Art was published in 1995. Neither, however, is in an encyclopedic form, and each has its biases. Gombrich, for instance, offers scant discussion of photography, which in the last 150 years has gained sufficient respectability as an art form to merit museum departments and prestigious exhibitions. Like Gombrich, Janson's history takes a European perspective that does not convey the sweep of Asian or African art. Nor was there a reference that handily defined the many terms that the average student (or adult!) reader runs across in discussions of art‑contrapposto, sfumato, impasto, cuneiform, apse, caryatid, and the like. One had to work with a glossary at the back or keep a dictionary of art terms within easy reach.

Because of the growth of interest in art history, scholars have started to reassess traditional ways of thinking about art and culture. What was once called "primitive" art is more carefully studied and weighed; the contributions of men and women outside the Western mainstream are increasingly recognized; and little‑known artists and schools of art are steadily being evaluated and re‑evaluated. Without losing perspective on what makes some artists great and many more worth the acquaintance, the contributors and editors of the Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art have kept abreast of new findings and incorporated them herein.

In addition to offering sophisticated and up‑to‑date information for the older student and the general reader, the Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art was designed to present information in an approachable A to Z format. The nearly 300 biographies focus on the kinds of facts and anecdotes that will be of interest to young and questing minds, while over 100 topical articles cover eras, movements, and genres. In particular, the historical overviews give a sense of what was happening in the culture at large‑the way war, politics, and religion played their roles in shaping the visual arts. The paintings, drawings, sculpture, architecture, and photography reproduced here, of course, speak for themselves.

Cross-referencing within entries is indicated by a special small capital typeface. This makes it easy for readers to look up separate entries on major periods, artists within the same schools or movements, artistic techniques, and formal and stylistic developments. Cross‑references that appear at the end of entries offer additional guidelines for the reader. Sidebars provide commentary on the unfolding story of art, including profiles of collectors, patrons, dealers, and critics; historical footnotes; and period highlights. Volumes one through three contain a volume‑specific index, while volume four includes a comprehensive index for the entire set. A list of "Suggested Resources" appears at the end of volume four, which offers readers a variety of sources to help them continue their exploration of art and culture.

Recommended for libraries with a younger clientele, high school and junior college level, which have need of a well-illustrated, easy-to-use, well-designed basic resource about art history. It is not a Eurocentric as many and is written with clear definitions in the margins. These volumes would make a fine single volume resource for a general audience, repackaged with a few more illustrations.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPARATIVE ICONOGRAPHY: Themes Depicted in Works of Art edited by Helene E. Roberts ($250.00, hardcover, b&w illustrations, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers; ISBN: 1579580092)

This useful intermediate reference work offers some fine introductory discussions of narrative themes in western art. It will be of use to docents and other students of western iconology. eastern and native conventions of iconology are only incidentally alluded to.

It is the purpose of this encyclopedia to show the variety of uses to which general narrative themes and plots have been imaged in the history of art and to discuss some of the changing interpretations as the themes pass through different ages, cultures, and forms. This encyclopedia orders iconographic narratives in particular biblical, mythological, and literary texts according to actions performed by the characters, to situations in which they find themselves, and to concepts relating to these situations and actions. Under the letter "A," for example, instead of relating the stories of Aaron, Aeneas, and Ariadne, as many iconographic dictionaries do, this encyclopedia treats the themes of abandonment, abduction, and adultery. The authors discuss the major relevant iconographic narratives incorporating the theme, mention other less known narratives, and discuss the historical background of themes. The authors also pay attention to differences in the visual presentation of a theme, in particular to differences between the biblical and mythological treatments of the theme. They also suggest how a theme has evolved through time.

The essays also discuss various personifications, allegories, gestures, characteristics, and other subjects that recur in works of art. Essays on themes such as abundance, caricature, communion, fools/folly, pointing/indicating, and upside down trace the various ways these themes have been given different form and how they have been used for different purposes in art through the ages.

There are many excellent volumes available that retell the mythological, religious, and literary narratives that provide the iconographic sources for works of art and even some although the number is fewer that list and discuss works of art related to these themes. Furthermore, there are many monographs and articles that treat individual subjects and the works of art that depict them in detail. Although these excellent and irreplaceable studies exist, (many of which are included in the lists of further reading in this encyclopedia), what is lacking are works that relate these various narratives and subjects to each other according to the similarities of their plots, situations, or imagery. Few existing reference books discuss how the descriptions relate to the works of art, and only a few of these existing studies discuss the differences in nuance and focus given to these subjects throughout history and in various cultures. There is, in fact, no reference volume that uses a comparative method to describe the use of iconography in art or that is organized from the point of view of actions, situations, or concepts, rather than by the personages in mythological, biblical, or literary narratives.

In many of these essays particular attention is paid to gestures, costumes, composition, and other techniques of visual expression associated with the themes. Many authors also include works of art by artists who have been neglected in the traditional histories of Western art. A list of "Selected Works of Art" that depict each theme and a "Further Reading" for each essay provide more sources of information about the themes and about the relevant works of art that depict them.

Because the telling of a narrative or relaying a description of a theme from a single source is like taking a snapshot in time, the collection of such narratives, themes, or snapshots from different ages, genres, and cultures forms a valuable album of photographs. From such an album one can compare, contrast, analyze, discover patterns, and make generalizations about how different artists and societies have appropriated narratives and themes. In fact, only through the comparison and analysis of many individual instances can patterns be isolated.

The contributors to this encyclopedia make several kinds of comparisons relevant to each theme. Several different narratives incorporating the theme are compared in essays. The sources of the narratives may range from ancient and classical mythology, to the great religions of the world, to literature, folktales, and popular culture. The essay on the theme of adultery, for example, compares the classical myths with the Arthurian legends, with the Christian narratives, and with secular themes. The contributors may also compare the story line of a narrative to the way it is visualized in a work of art. The comparative method may extend this difference to discuss the way a narrative or concept is treated in the different genres of literature and of art, with especial focus on the comic and the symbolic.

The essays also trace the various interpretations given to a theme during different periods and cultures to account for varying social and political beliefs. A people defines itself through the configurations of its literary, religious, and mythical narratives. When a society begins to see itself in a different light, that change is often announced by a recasting of favorite stories or the introduction of new ones. In the essay on abandonment, for example, the focus in the narrative of the abandonment of Ariadne by Theseus shifts from the Greeks, who, wishing to absolve their hero Theseus of any guilt, show him unwillingly being led from the sleeping Ariadne by imperious gods or goddesses, to the Victorians, who, obsessed with the victimized female, focus on the distress of the abandoned Ariadne.

Many of the authors compare the situation described in the narratives with the realities of history. This comparative analysis can reveal national aspirations and fears, changes in economic and political fortunes, as well as sources of present-day customs and conventions. The author of the essay on abduction, for example, traces the laws and mores of various cultures condoning or condemning abduction and shows how vestiges of some of the ancient practices are still retained in modern marriage rituals. The essay even alludes to twentieth-century humans who claim they have been abducted by aliens from outer space, which have been identified in one case with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Like the allusive reflections of historical memory in ancient mythology, even the more secular present can conflate fact and fiction into new myths, especially when it comes to powerful images.

Although every essay uses one or more of these comparative approaches such as narratives, styles and periods, interpretations, historical reality, few could all of them within the confines of the limited space.

Art historical studies have shifted from a concentration on attribution, style, and form to a concern with the context of a work of art and with the wider ramifications of its subject matter. Art historians have broken down the enclosed world of stylistic influence to study the relation of works of art to historic events and economic forces, to psychological phenomenon and sociological findings, and to linguistic analysis and philosophic theories. Because of these changes, many people are interested not only in the style and form of a work of art but also in the human dynamics of the narratives and themes and their permeations and permutations. Art historians now study the themes depicted in works of art in relation to such subjects as gender and sexuality, politics and power, ownership and possession, ceremony and ritual, legitimacy and authority.

Classical mythology, religious texts, and literary works provide such a rich imbroglio of relationships, situations, and associations that they have been appropriated for a variety of uses. The narratives describe instances of rape, ruination, empowerment, victimization, and inexplicable fortune, not to mention their descriptions of inescapable guilt, hubris, greed, pride, arrogance, passion, metamorphosis, sexual and gender ambiguities, courage, cowardice, and a host of other universal human predicaments. Each narrative is open to interpretation because of the shifting perspectives of diverse agendas. This encyclopedia is not a comprehensive guide to all narratives and all themes, but it presents some of the revealing comparisons that can be found in artistic depictions of these narratives. These comparisons, along with the "Selected Works of Art" and "Further Reading" that accompany each essay, suggest subject areas and directions for further research.

Each essay opens with a "title page" that lists the title and author of the essay and an outline of iconographic narratives, motifs, or periods covered. A black and white reproduction of a work of art that depicts the theme usually precedes the discussion.

The encyclopedia also provides seven extensive indexes. The "Index of Ancient Mythological and Historical Personages, Places, and Concepts" allows the user to find and identify all references in the essays to the ancient and classical world, including ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as well as ancient Greece and Rome. In this index the reader can find all the ancient gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines mentioned in the essays; places, real and imaginary; and personages. The indexes can also reveal the web of associations that characterize each narrative and concept.

In a similar fashion another index, the "Index of Judeo-Christian Personages, Places, and Concepts," lists the personages from the Old and New Testaments mentioned in the essays as well as places, saints, theological concepts, historical personages, and movements connected with the Jewish and Christian tradition.

The "Index of References to the Bible and Other Sacred Books" lists specific references to texts cited in the essays. The "Index of Other Cultures, Religions, and Mythologies" includes references to the names and terms of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, as well as those of the Aztec, African, Inuit, Celtic, Norse, and Native American cultures mentioned in the essays. This Encyclopedia only incidentally mentions nonwestern artistic motifs and in no way is useful as a reference to nonwestern iconology.

An "Index of Authors, Literary Texts, Composers, Filmmakers, and Folktales" includes such iconographic sources as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Ovid's Fasti and Metamorphoses, Shakespearean plays, and Wagnerian operas. One of the more extensive indexes lists the artists mentioned in the essays and the lists of "Selected Works of Art" that accompany each essay. Anonymous works of art as well as known artists are included.

The "Index of Other Names and Terms" concentrates on those names and topics that complement the themes of the essays but are not themselves mythological, religious, or literary entities included in the other indexes. The intent of this index is to concentrate on those terms and names with iconographic associations. Under "A," for example, the reader can find a list of objects, such as apple(s) or absinthe, that have been mentioned as bearing clues to the meaning of scenes, as well as concepts and activities (abyss and alchemy) that are themes with a whole panoply of iconographic import, but that could not be included in separate essays. The themes of the essays themselves are also included in this index so that a reader can find additional, related discussions. Also listed are persons whom the authors see as becoming icons because of the way an artist depicts them or because of the position they play in a cultural context. Genre terms (allegory) and artistic movements (abstract impressionism) are also included in this index.

A general reading list of reference books that cover the mythological, religious, or literary narratives are listed separately from the essays and can be used in connection with all the essays. In order to avoid duplication, the "Further Reading" that accompanies each essay includes only references relating to the particular theme under discussion and refers to works in the general bibliography only when particular citations are made.

Volume I Themes:

Abandonment by Helene E. Roberts Abduction Rape by Andrew Stephen Arbury Abundance by Liana De Girolami Cheney Adultery by Sarah S. Gibson Annunciation by Don Denny Apocalypse by Don Denny Apotheosis/Deification by Claire Lindgren Arms Raised by Dimitri Hazzikostas Artists/Art by Julie E Codell Ascent/Descent by Paul Grimley Kuntz and Lee Braver Automata by Karen Pinkus Avarice by Priscilla Baumann

Bacchanalia/Orgy by Sarah S. Gibson Baptism by Don Denny Bath/Bathing by Alicia Craig Faxon Beheading/Decapitation by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona Betrayal by Gina Strumwasser Birth/Childbirth by Beth S. GershNeiic

Calumny by Claire Lindgren Caricature/Cartoon by Margaret A. Sullivan Choice/Choosing by Elizabeth Powers Comic by Barry Wind Communion by Valerie (Hutchinson) Pennanen Crucifixion by Alicia Craig Faxon

Damned Souls by Alicia Craig Faxon and Nancy Frazier Dance/Dancers/Dancing by Alicia Craig Faxon DawnlDawning by Rudol(M. Bisanz Death by Elaine Shefer Destruction of City by Eugene Dwyer Devotion/Piety by Rudolf M. Bisanz Dreams/Visions by Elaine Shefer Drunkenness/Intoxication by Beth S. GershNeiic

Ecstasy by Valerie (Hutchinson) Pennanen Envy by Eugene Dwyer Evil Eye by Eugene Dwyer Excess by Eugene Dwyer Expulsion by Sarah S. Gibson and Paul Grimley Kuntz

Fame by Liana De Girolami Cheney Fatal Woman/Femme Fatale by Alicia Craig Faxon Female Beauty and Adornment by Elise Goodman Fools/Folly by Margaret A. Sullivan Fortune by Liana De Girolami Cheney, Paul Grimley Kuntz, and Lee Braver Funeral/Burial by Stephen Lamia

Gaze by Eugene Dwyer Grieving/Lamentation by Dimitri Hazzikostas

Hair/Haircutting by Alicia Craig Faxon Hanging by Janice McCullogb Harvesting by Brucia Wittboft Hermaphrodite/Androgyne by M. Ann Simmons Honor/Honoring by Liana De Girolami Cheney Humors by Zirka Zaremba Filipczak Hunting/Hunter/Huntress by Sarah S. Gibson

Imagination/Creativity by Liana De Girolarni Cheney

Journey/Flight by Sarah S. Gibson and Alicia Craig Faxon Judaism by Nancy Frazier judgment by Andrew Stephen Arbury justice by Gina Strumwasser

Kiss/Kissing by Alicia Craig Faxon

Labor/Trades/Occupations by Stephen Lamid Labyrinth/Maze by Priscilla Baumann Laughter by Andrew Stephen Arbury Light 1: The Lamp in the Niche by Erica Cruiksbank-Dodd Light 11: Divine, Natural, and Neon by Helene E. Roberts Logos/Word by Erica Cruikshank-Dodd Love and Death by Liana De Girolami Cheney Luxury by Eugene Dwyer

Volume 2

Madness by Fritz Laupicbler Margins/Outsiders by Priscilla Baumann Marriage/Betrothal by Brucia Wittboft Martyrdom by Alicia Craig Faxon Masks/Personae by Elaine Sbefer Melancholy by Corinne Mandel Metamorphosis by Alicia Craig Faxon Mirror/Reflection by Elaine Sbefer Misfortune by Fritz Laupicbler Money by Edward J. Nygren

Months by Shane Adler Music by Yona Pinson

Naked/Nude by Kathryn Moore Heleniak Night by Stephen Lamia Nightmare by Petra tenDoesscbate Chu

Offering by Erica CruiksbankDodd Order/Chaos by Paul Grimley Kuntz and Lee Braver

Path/Road/Crossroads by Christine M. Boeckl Patronage by Claire Lindgren Peace by Liana De Girolami Cheney Peasantry by Margaret A. Sullivan Penitence/Repentance by Christine M. Boeckl Physiognomy by Margaret A. Sullivan Plague/Pestilence by Christine M. Boeckl Pointing/Indicating by Fritz Laupicbler Pregnancy by Beth S. GersbNeic Protestantism by Christine M. Boeckl

Reading by Alicia Craig Faxon

Sacrifice by Alicia Craig Faxon Sanctuary by Claudia Hill Seasons by Shane Adler SelfPortraits 1: Men by Christine M. Boeckl SelfPortraits 11: Women by Fredrika Jacobs Serpent's Bite by Sarah S. Gibson Shepherds/Shepherdesses by Sarah S. Gibson Shipwreck by Alicia Craig Faxon Sin/Sinning by Christine M. Boeckl Sleep/Sleeping by Petra ten Doesschate Chu Sport by Karen Pinkus Sublime by David D. Nolta

Temptation by Alicia Craig Faxon Toilet Scenes by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona

Upside Down by Janice McCullogb

Vanity/Vanities by Liana De Girolami Cheney Vices/Deadly Sins by Liana De Girolami Cheney Virgin[Virginity by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona Virtue/Virtues by Liana De Girolami Cheney Visiting/Visitation by Alicia Craig Faxon Voyeurism by Eugene Dwyer

Whiteness by Shane Adler Widowhood by Karen Pinkus Witchcraft/Sorcery by Yona Pinson

Zodiac by Paul Grimley Kuntz

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