Salon Archive

Issue: 20

SALON

SALON was to have appeared fortnightly during the summer but the flow of topical news has continued unabated, hence this extra edition.

Forthcoming meetings

The last meeting of the season will take the form of a Miscellany of Papers, to be presented at the Summer Soir�e on 20 June.

There will also be a Ballot, with exhibits, on Thursday 4 July.

The Statutes of the Society

A new and up-to-date version of the Statutes of the Society of Antiquaries has been produced, incorporating all the amendments that have been approved since the last time the Statutes were printed. In order to save money, the Statutes are available in photocopy form rather than being printed and bound, and will be sent only to Fellows who request a copy (contact Lisa Elliott at lelliott@sal.org.uk). A copy will also be available in the Library from the end of June.

The Measure of Ruins: Dilettanti in the Levant 1750�70

Fellows might like to know that the paper that Professor Redford gave to the Society in London on 23 May and to the meeting of the American Fellowship in Boston on 9 November 2001 (see the �Meeting programme� page of the Society�s website at www.sal.org.uk) will shortly be published in full in the Harvard Library Bulletin (Volume 13, No. 1).

Dr Frank Salmon has also asked us to correct any impression that we might have given in the report in SALON 18 that the views he put forward in his lecture to the Society on 9 May were diametrically opposed to those advanced by Professor Bruce Redford in his lecture on 23 May. With the exception of the reconstructions of Pompeii produced in the 1780s by Louis-Jean Desprez, the reconstructions of ancient Roman architecture shown by Dr Salmon were from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His lecture being about reconstructions drawn in perspective, he had only briefly commented on later eighteenth-century orthographical reconstructions of Greek and Roman architecture (the principal subject of Professor Redford's lecture) and had done so, in fact, to similar effect.

In the comments he made following Professor Redford's paper, Dr Salmon suggested that the great emphasis placed by the Dilettanti on their scientific approach was not always justified by inaccuracies in their work, and that it marginalized extensive British interest in the Picturesque. Equally, the Dilettanti's rhetorical emphasis on the picturesque aspect of the French approach overlooked the scientific character of Enlightenment France, seen especially in production of the Encyclopedie.

Birthday honours

Three Fellows were awarded OBEs in the Queen�s Birthday Honours List, published on 15 June 2002: Rosemary Dunhill, lately County Archivist, Hampshire Record Office, for services to archives, Richard Gem for services to the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, and William Oddy, lately Keeper of Conservation at the British Museum, for his contribution to museum conservation work. Melanie Barber, FSA, Deputy Librarian and Archivist, was awarded an MBE for services to Lambeth Palace Library.

Kelmscott Landscape Project (KELP) weekend conference

Make a note in your diary now if you want to attend the 2003 KELP Conference, which will take place at Rewley House, home of the Oxford Department for Continuing Education, on 9 to 11 May 2003. Entitled 'News from Somewhere: William Morris and the Kelmscott Landscape�, the weekend conference will describe the results of the Society�s research project exploring the making of the landscape that inspired Morris's poetry, prose, designs and conservation ideas. Speakers (who naturally include many Fellows) will present a preview of the results of their fieldwork, including the prehistoric and Roman topography of Kelmscott, the settlement history and population of Kelmscott, the vernacular architecture, the historical ecology, the graveyard, church and Manor. Further details will be announced as soon as booking forms are available.

Celebrating Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-83)

To mark the centenary of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's birth, the Penguin Collectors' Society have organized a two-day exhibition over the weekend of 29 and 30 June commemorating his life and work. The exhibition is being mounted at St Peter's Church, Clyffe Pypard, Wiltshire, where Sir Nikolaus and Lola Pevsner are buried.

Two weeks later, on 12 and 13 July, Birkbeck College, London will host a centenary conference entitled Reassessing Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, devoted to a celebration and a critical reassessment of Pevsner's many achievements in the field of art history. Details and bookings from Birkbeck on tel: 020 7631 6110, email: j.gough@bbk.ac.uk.

Historic Buildings/Urban Regeneration select committee inquiry

As a consequence of the changes taking place at the old DTLR following the resignation of Stephen Byers, the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Select Committee has decided not to proceed with its Historic Buildings/Urban Regeneration inquiry for the time being (although it is likely that the Committee will return to the inquiry once its structure and responsibilities have been confirmed). That means that the previous deadline of 21 June for submitting written evidence to the select committee no longer stands.

Planning Green Paper and the National Amenity Societies

A statement is expected from the reorganized Office of the Deputy Prime Minister before the start of the parliamentary recess (early July) about how the controversial proposals contained in the Planning Green Paper will be carried forward.

One of the most worrying proposals in the Green Paper has already been addressed, however. The threat to downgrade the role of the National Amenity Societies (the SPAB, the CBA, the Ancient Monuments Society, the Twentieth Century, Garden History and Victorian Societies, the Georgian Group and the Civic Trust) within the planning process was taken up by the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies who held a meeting with the Head of Planning at DTLR in May to put their case. As a result of that meeting, Lord Falconer wrote to the Joint Committee (just before he was moved from the post of Minister for Housing , Planning and Regeneration) to confirm that there would be no change in their role, and stating that I consider the work these societies do, often performed by volunteers, to be invaluable.

The shape of London�s skyline

One of the first decisions facing the new Planning Minister, Geoff Rooker, is the question of whether to allow the construction of the 37-storey Heron Tower at 110 Bishopsgate, in the City of London. The decision will be seen as an indication of the Government�s attitude to very tall buildings and a number of other schemes could follow in rapid succession if the Heron Tower is approved. They include the Swiss Re development on the Baltic Exchange site and the 66-storey tower, dubbed �The Shard�, proposed for London Bridge. If it is built, The Shard will be Europe�s tallest, and the world�s sixth tallest, building at 1,016 feet (310m).

Developers argue that such tall buildings are necessary to house international financial organizations if the City is to remain Europe�s leading financial centre. English Heritage and other conservation bodies are concerned at the potential impact of a plethora of tall buildings on the shape of London�s historic skyline and the sightlines of St Paul�s Cathedral and other landmark monuments.

Portrait of a Lady

Nicholas Hilliard�s Portrait of a Lady, featuring the unnamed wife of a London merchant and painted in the 1580s, sold at Sotheby�s last week for the sum of �223,750 (against an estimate of �25,000). Since the miniature measures a little under four inches square, that equates to a price of around �64 million for a four-foot square picture, placing it among the world�s most expensive paintings.

Newby Hall Venus

Another world record was set on 13 June when �8 million was paid by an anonymous bidder for the celebrated Newby Hall Venus, beating the previous world record for an antiquity reached in 1994 when the Assyrian Canford Relief was sold for �7.7 million.

The marble Venus was notorious for the enormous price paid for it in 1765 by the collector William Weddell, who acquired it from the dealer Thomas Jenkins after the statue was found forgotten in the cellars of the Barberini Palace in Rome. Contemporary commentators felt that Weddell had been gullible in acquiring a statue that had undergone substantial restoration, but the recent discovery that the sculptor who undertook the work was the celebrated Bartolomeo Cavaceppi probably helped to enhance its value.

Weddell installed the Venus in his family home at Newby Hall in a stuccoed sculpture gallery designed by Robert Adam, and art historians have regretted the removal of a sculpture that is so integral to its setting, together forming a perfect neo-classical ensemble. Weddell�s descendant, Richard Compton, sold the statue to pay for repairs to the house and stables.

Longleat auction

Another world record fell at Christie�s on 14 June when a manuscript of Virgil�s poetic works (the Aeneid, Georgics and Eclogues) sold for �1.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a Renaissance copy of a classical work. The manuscript was among a collection of books, silver and paintings that Lord Bath put up for sale, realising �27 million to be used to secure the future of Longleat. The J Paul Getty Museum bought a number of Meissen animal figures. A copy of the first book printed by William Caxton in English (Raoul Le Fevre�s Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, printed in Bruges in 1473-4) sold for �666,650.

Artprice launches auction price database

Artprice, the commercial organization that tracks auction prices, has launched a website whose database has more than three million records covering 270,000 artists from the fourth century AD to the present day, with details of their auction history. Subscriptions cost �490 (US$430), with a launch discount of three months' access for free. Further details at www.artprice.com.

The Wernher Collection at the Ranger�s House

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, officially reopened Ranger�s House, Blackheath, on 19 June, with its newly installed collection of artistic treasures from the Wernher Collection. Originally displayed at the now-demolished Bath House, Piccadilly, and Luton Hoo, in Bedfordshire, the collection includes carved ivories from the Byzantine and medieval periods, a large collection of Renaissance jewellery, Renaissance bronzes and paintings by Hans Memling (1430-94), and Filippino Lippi (1457-1504). The collection also includes classic English portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds and George Romney.

Acquired by millionaire philanthropist Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912), who made his fortune in the gold and diamond mines of South Africa, the 650 works of art in the Wernher Collection have been loaned to English Heritage for 125 years, and they have been displayed as they might have been in Wernher�s home at the turn of the century, with contrasting objects placed together, rather than by type or chronology.

London�s Roman amphitheatre

Virtual reality graphics have been used to recreate the appearance of London�s Roman amphitheatre, which last week opened to the public again for the first time in sixteen centuries. Originally built in AD 70 and still in use in the fourth century, the amphitheatre was Roman Britain�s biggest and most important sports stadium, able to seat a quarter of London�s population. Rediscovered in 1988 beneath Guildhall Yard, the surviving remains include wooden drains once used to clean the elliptical arena.

Conservation conference

De Montfort University is hosting a conference on 9 September 2002 called �Where Conservation Meets Conservation�, which will explore the interface between historic buildings and their contents by recognizing the inter-relationships between architectural and object conservation and the role of conservation science and technology in achieving appropriate and sustainable solutions. The emphasis will be on raising awareness at a practical interdisciplinary level and providing a platform for sharing knowledge and experience. The conference is endorsed by: ICOMOS-UK, re:source, the RICS Foundation, and UKIC. For registration forms and further information, contact Dr David Watt dswatt@dmu.ac.uk or Dr Belinda Colston bcolston@dmu.ac.uk.

Columbus�s print collection at the BM

Some good news from the BM for a change comes in the form of news that Mark McDonald, at the Department of Prints and Drawings, is hard at work reconstructing the print collection of Ferdinand Columbus. Ferdinand, who accompanied his father Christopher on his last voyage to the New World and who wrote the first published account of his father�s travels, subsequently became a diplomat in the service of the Habsburgs and travelled widely in Europe, buying prints and books wherever he went. By the time of his death in 1539, he owned 18,000 volumes and 3,204 prints, representing about one-third of all the books and prints ever published at that time.

The books went to Seville cathedral library but the print collection was lost and its content only known from a copy of the original inventory, made in 1880, and now in the British Museum. By first compiling a database of nearly every known print published up to 1539 Mark McDonald has succeeded in tracing copies of about half the prints listed in the inventory � around 400 of them surviving as single copies. Many others have been lost altogether. The project is due to be completed next year, when the results will be published on CD-ROM.

Donatello�s Blockhead back on show

One of the most celebrated sculptures of the early Renaissance, Donatello�s Habakkuk (known to irreverent Florentines as �lo Zuccone�, or �the blockhead�, because of the elongated shape of the prophet�s head) is back on show in the Museo dell�Opera del Duomo in Florence. Made for one of the niches in Giotto�s campanile, the statue features in every textbook on the development of Donatello�s highly expressive style, but has not been seen since the 1930s, because it was so heavily encrusted with carbon deposits from the coal-fired boiler that once heated the museum. The museum has used laser technology to clean the statue, and is now moving on to work on Jeremiah, which Donatello carved as Habbakuk�s companion.

Other projects in hand include the restoration of several pioneering works of the Renaissance sponsored by Florentine guilds and made for the external niches of Orsanmichele church, including Ghiberti�s St Matthew and his St Stephen and Giambologna�s St John the Evangelist.

Choughs in Cornwall

The weather this year has been duller even than is normal for an English June (the chances of seeing the solstice sunrise at Stonehenge on 21 June are very slight), and the papers are full of gloomy correspondence about the disappearance of swifts, swallows and house martins from our skies (following last year�s news that the sociable house sparrow is dying of depression because numbers have fallen to the point where they can no longer find friends). So hail one piece of very good news � the chough is back in Cornwall and is breeding again.

These characterful red-legged crows with downcurved red bill, renowned for their acrobatic flight, were once so common in the county that they feature on Cornwall�s coat of arms. They disappeared some fifty years ago, and the RSPB was about to embark on a captive breeding programme in an attempt to reintroduce the chough to the county. But ornithologists now report that five birds have taken up residence in a sea cave at a secret location in west Cornwall, and that two have bred, producing five juveniles. The likelihood is that the birds were blown off course from Brittany or Pembrokeshire, the source of the nearest colonies.

Some say the choughs� return is an ill-omen, since Arthur (whose spirit entered the bird after his death) promised to return to England�s aid at the hour of her greatest need. Cornish nationalists, on the other hand, say that the return of the emblematic bird is a sign that Cornwall is resurgent.

Vacancies

Chair in the History of Art, University College, Cork: for an informal discussion about this post, contact Professor A Rowan, a.rowan@ucc.ie. Full details from www.ucc.ie/appointments/vacancies1.html or email academicrecruitment@ucc.ie. Salary range: �83,726 to �107,734. Closing date 5 July 2002.

Lecturer in Environmental Management, Faculty of Continuing Education, Birkbeck College: Following the appointment of Dr Andy Tickle to a senior campaigning post with CPRE, Birkbeck College is seeking an energetic and innovative person able to develop programmes in environmental management, conservation, rural policy and related areas. This involves working with a small team, to share the management and development of a diverse and growing multidisciplinary programme, including an MSc, Certificates/ Diplomas, short courses and professional training. Further details from www.bbk.ac.uk or email: personnel@bbk.ac.uk (quoting ref FRF016). Richard Clarke r.clarke@cems.bbk.ac.uk and Dr Shani Gbaja s.gbaja@bbk.ac.uk are very happy to discuss the post with anyone interested. Salary range: �22,604 to �34,671. Closing date early July.

Lecturer in Museum, Gallery and Heritage Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne: to be involved primarily in postgraduate teaching on one of the three cultural MAs run from the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies. Further details from www.ncl.ac.uk/vacancies (quoting ref B222A). Salary range �20,470 to �32,537. Closing date 5 July 2002.

Education Officer, the Churches Conservation Trust: to be responsible for all education projects at Trust churches, for the provision of resources for teachers, and for developing the Trust�s educational activities. Further details from the Trust�s section of the website at www.visitchurches.org.uk. Starting salary �25,000. Closing date 1 July 2002.