Table of Contents
December 2012, Volume 94 Number 4
The Judgment of Paris is one of a handful of extremely popular mythological narratives that dominate the corpus of extant Roman wall paintings. A recurring feature of the Roman compositions is a broad water channel that separates Paris from the goddesses. These intrusive channels, more than mere streams, can be seen as miniature, quasi-cartographic representations of the Hellespont, the famous strait that separates Europe from Asia. The arrangement may allude to the fact that the judgment indirectly caused the Trojan War, an event that in turn set in motion a permanent cycle of violence between East and West.
Filarete placed an unprecedented number of self-portraits and signatures on the bronze doors he made for St. Peter’s in the Vatican, including an enigmatic relief on the reverse depicting himself and his assistants celebrating their achievement. Recent scholars have assumed that the representation conceals allegorical or esoteric meaning. However, careful examination of the relief’s iconography, inscriptions, physical characteristics, and relation to the larger project suggests that Filarete, in the hope of increasing his social standing at the papal court, conceived the work as a clever play on rituals used by the contemporary elite to express status and honor.
Blood is one of the most powerful metaphors in art and literature. In his 1608 altarpiece for the Knights of Malta, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, Caravaggio signed his name “in the blood” of the executed saint. This witty and violent gesture, fruit of the predicament that had brought him to the island—murder, exile, and the chance for redemption—engages in a number of personal and political discourses, some inspired by his honorary knighthood. The signature, which builds on self-fashioning themes explored in Caravaggio’s earlier paintings, also makes a bold contribution to the poetics of concettismo.
In the 1680s, a painting representing Franciscan missions and indigenous peoples in Central America was sent to Madrid from Mexico as a tactic to lobby for continued royal support. The discovery of this historical circumstance provides a means to analyze this work in depth as an example of visual persuasion in a transatlantic context. Because it was meant to be viewed far from its place of production, the painting offers a unique opportunity to consider the interpretative model of connectedness (rather than influence) for the study of art in the Iberian Atlantic world.
The papers of the nineteenth-century connoisseur George Scharf preserved at the National Portrait Gallery, London, represent a remarkable repository of unpublished data relevant to hundreds of old master paintings. Scharf discovered many of them during an ambitious trawl of Great Britain, seeking works for the celebrated Art Treasures exhibition of 1857 held in Manchester. These included a group of paintings in international collections once owned by the dealer John Watkins Brett and the industrialist Abraham Darby IV, which toured the United States in the 1830s. These are relevant to efforts to found the first American national gallery.