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The Age of Albrecht Dürer : German Drawings from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris
The Age of Albrecht Dürer : German Drawings from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris
by Emmanuelle Brugerolles
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.81

4.0 out of 5 stars An abbreviated English language version., 31 July 2017
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In the last decade a number of exhibitions have been dedicated to both Italian and Northern renaissance draftsman and their drawings. One of the most accomplished of these artists was the German artist, Albrecht Dürer who proved himself an extremely prolific and talented artist in terms of his drawings, his paintings and possibly most of all his engravings.

Being of such exceptional talent it is perhaps not unsurprising that Dürer has been the subject of a number of excellent and fascinating exhibitions of late around the world, on both side of the Atlantic focussing not just on particular periods of his life but also his varying differing abilities.

In 2013 an excellent exhibition was held at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris of the drawings by Dürer and those around him. The accompanying catalogue was only released in French language and carried the same title as the French language release of this book (i.e. 'Durer et son temps')However, this exhibition catalogue was considerably thicker is size, illustrated with a different illustration on the cover, and with a different subtitle to qualify the show.

This book is, as the title of the review suggests, an abbreviated English language edition of the original French catalogue from 2013. To add further confusion, the French language release issued simultaneously with this edition - both in 2017 - is the same variant as this release, i.e. an abbreviated French language edition. Where the previous (larger, thicker) edition consisted of larger sized illustrations and considerably more text and information alongside each entry (as well as further accompanying information in the body of the book), this version contains short, concise and - at times considerably - truncated entries alongside the same drawings for basically the same exhibition as held previously several years earlier.

On its own merits, and being in English language, this book is a delightful, invaluable, and important catalogue for understanding the drawings of Dürer and his contemporaries. Hence the four stars. The reproductions are exquisite, bright, crisp, and accurate. The text is readable, interesting, and informed. Furthermore, unlike many exhibition catalogues, this book is not an expensive (but nonetheless worthy) purchase.

However, for those able to read in French language, and wishing to learn more, the original earlier French release from ENDBA is the superior purchase in terms of content. Otherwise one will end up doubling up on predominantly same book - just one with abbreviated facts and information - much like I did.

The Rock Tombs Of El Amarna: The Tombs Of Panehesy And Meryra Ii...
The Rock Tombs Of El Amarna: The Tombs Of Panehesy And Meryra Ii...
by Norman de Garis Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre anastatic reprint., 31 July 2017
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A more lengthy review of these series of anastatic reprints has been covered in that of 'The Tomb of Meryra'. The books all have the same pathetic production technique and the feedback can apply to all the books in this series.

Too many blank pages, appalling reproductions (only the inclusion of often omitted illustrations prevented this from getting one star), the copiers fingers intruded on some of the pages and an excessive price being charged.

Disappointing and expensive, for reference only.

The Rock Tombs Of El Amarna: The Tomb Of Meryra...
The Rock Tombs Of El Amarna: The Tomb Of Meryra...
by Norman de Garis Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Pathetic anastatic reprint of a rare, important work, 31 July 2017
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As with most anastatic reprints this edition is rather mediocre to say the least. There are too many pages which are simply blank and have bound into the book (which presumably is due the reverse of the illustrations/drawings of the reliefs within the tombs being not illustrated in the original books). The scans don't appear to be scanned but photo copies, and low resolution copies at that. To add final, further insult to injury, the fingers or parts of the fingers, are visible in some of the copies of the pages (!) which suggest poor quality control when these books were bound and put together.

For such a pathetic reproduction, as with most of these reprints of long out of print/copyright books, not just of this series of books published in the early 20th century, but of other academic books, the price is far too high. Yes, it is wonderful to have a reference copy of a book/series of books which might otherwise prove difficult to obtain, but given the quality of the paper used as much as the pathetic reproductions of the illustrations (I suppose I should be grateful for those as some these other dubious "publishers" choose to omit the illustrations - essential for a work as this series of books which draw upon the illustrations on a frequent basis.

Seek these books out secondhand as they are work maybe £5 per copy at best, and that is probably on the generous side. In short, I was delighted to have these copies to refer to but hugely disappointed at such pathetic quality of the reproduction and cost thereof. Not recommended.

This review is relevant to not just this release in the 'Rock Tombs' series by De Garis Davis but to all of them (which I own), all of which have similar faults, poor quality of reproductions and quality control, and are pricey mediocre editions. Disappointed !!

Titian: The Grimani - Risen Christ.  An early Masterpiece
Titian: The Grimani - Risen Christ. An early Masterpiece
by Artur Rosenauer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Oversized, over-priced, and underwhelming..., 15 Aug. 2016
In September 2013, an early work by the great 16th century Venetian master, Titian, was announced as having been rediscovered after many years as an unknown, as opposed to lost, masterpiece. The picture had been held in a private collection in Europe for many years and in the middle of the last century ended up in Uruguay where it was bought by its current owners. The picture shows a majestic image of Christ in the glory of his resurrection, bearing a standard and standing atop his tomb against a dramatic sky.

The work was announced in the esteemed art publication, the Burlington Magazine, as being a lost Titian, by the author of this book, Artur Rosenauer and since the publication has travelled and was on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art between February and May 2016. The work under review was produced by German publishing house, Hirmer, to accompany the exhibition.

Fascinating though the work is, the book itself is rather disappointing to say the least. It is large in size with large reproductions of the work other comparable works by both Titian and other (mostly) Venetian artists of the period. However, the number of pages are few, and the text is rather scant to say the least. The book, in short didn’t need to be as large as it is, and is not as illuminating as, say, the smaller (and cheaper) monographs by the Getty on some of the treasures which are in their own collection. There are a lot of unnecessary details and lots of white paper which makes the book even less value for money and decidedly costly for not very much.

Another book which is significantly more expensive but which is apparently accompanied by more illustrations and articles might be more accessible and better value for money given the negligible amount that is included herein. Certainly this book is, at only 64 pages, unacceptable and most unsatisfactory. It is wonderful to find a readily available book on this lost masterpiece published so soon after its “discovery”, and certainly it deserves to be in anyone who appreciates Titian and/or Venetian painting but it makes for very light reading with little information given in the text. Disappointing!

Best to wait for copies to be remaindered as the price is, in short, excessive for so very little on such a fascinating discovery.

Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Catalogue Raisonne
Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman: Catalogue Raisonne
by Matthijs Ilsink
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £90.00

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crowning Bosch's achievements in a slipcase., 20 May 2016
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2016 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of one of the the great geniuses of Early Netherlandish painting - Hieronymus Bosch. To commemorate this anniversary, an exhibition is being held in his home town of 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, and thereafter at the Prado in Madrid, Spain. The exhibition itself has achieved praise far and wide for having secured 20 of 25 surviving panels by Bosch.

Accompanying the exhibition, the Bosch Research and Conservation Project have produced three English language books published through Yale and Mercatorfonds. There is 'Hieronymous Bosch: Visions of Genius'; an inexpensive paperback exhibition catalogue, and is considerably smaller than either of the other two major works - the one reviewed here and the other being the 'Technical Studies', a similarly large tome to this. The inexpensive paperback catalogue is lavishly illustrated with the works that appear in the show. It is also testament to the marvellous organisation and work of the couriers in producing what appears to be a dazzling show. The essays therein are short, but thorough, clear and to the point - discussing the paintings themselves as well as Bosch's life and approach to painting.

This work under review, however, is nothing short of splendid. A beautifully produced and fascinating catalogue raisonné in the truest sense of the word. After just shy of a hundred pages introducing the artist and being a fuller, more thorough series of essays touched upon in the exhibition guide mentioned above, the catalogue launches into the paintings and drawings themselves. The body of the catalogue contains extensive and lengthy entries for all the known works by Bosch, as well as those by his studio and those of his followers. The language used by the authors is intelligent, yet approachable, without being patronising (I smiled when I read the description of one of Bosch's dogs not being a "mutt", and some of the knives being seen as "Bollock daggers" - truly a first in art historical terms!). The book is full and thorough information about the subject or subjects of the painting, accompanied by an excellent bibliography of sources by each picture, and an extensive discussion, and thorough assessment of the painting or drawing in question. There is an absence of specific technical information such as the framing, the mounting, etc but that level of technical detail would appear to covered in significant depth of the accompanying 'Technical Studies' (which I have only scanned through). Colours in the book appear true and accurate; in addition, there are lots of close ups of important relevant details of the paintings discussed in the work. This is rather than having to look for them with a strong magnifying glass - always a good thing in any book of paintings which contain such a magnicent wealth of detail.

The book is large and heavy in weight. It is also protected by a strong reinforced slipcase to protect it. To be sure, this is no lightweight work - psysically nor mentally. But, it is a superlative work - one of the best on the artist (who has had numerous books over the years), and is certainly one of the best "complete works" over the last few decades. The scholarship and writing is serious and has been compiled by recognised experts of Bosch, rather than in-house authors. This is demonstrated by the high level, and high standard, of contributors who are from various institutions around the world.

To conclude, this work is certainly for the discerning Bosch enthusiast and/or scholar, if bought alongside Larry Silver's splendid monograph on Bosch (still in print as of May 2016) published by Abbeville, so if these two books together, they should be sufficient for most private libraries. Certainly, short of another Bosch being discovered in the future, it is unlikely that between these two works one will ever need to buy another book on Bosch ever again. Even for the beginner or somebody just starting to dip into the strange universe Bosch created, this book is an excellent choice. Finally, on a personal note, I feel that this work should set the standards by how catalogues raisonné should be produced from here on, on all artists, and at a more than reasonable and acceptable price given the high standard of work, research and writing not to mention reproductions of the works inside.

A masterful work indeed on a fascinating, extraordinary, complex and complicated artist. A bold but exciting step forward in art scholarship, as can be seen in the continued high standard of catalogues raisonné produced by Yale on this and other artists (Pompeo BAtoni, etc) . Also it is without question one of the best books so far on Renaissance (including the Northern Renaissance) in 2016 - recommended most strongly and highly !!

Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino and Medici Florence
Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino and Medici Florence
by Bastian Eclercy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.25

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maniera, the Medici and Magnificence in Florence., 9 May 2016
In the 1520s a new style of painting emerged in Renaissance Italy during the High Renaissance (later to spread northwards and eastwards) and which was to last around sixty years until the birth of the Baroque which replaced it in the 1580s. The term Mannerism is in itself confusing (as is discussed in the essays within the catalogue) hence this show in Germany has been named 'Maniera', and been subject to many different interpretations over the years. Over the centuries, this style of painting was condemned, criticised and even reviled by many of its critics who disliked the distortion on the subjects being painted, as well as perceived imbalence and neurosis by the painters creating these works. Artists such as Pontormo, Bronzino, Andrea del Sarto and perhaps the most well known being Michelangelo took this new style to more extreme limits so much that it extended (no pun intended) into sculpture and architecture in equal measure. Taking the lead from John Shearman, who was one of the first modern exponents of Mannerism, and dubbed the style of painting ('maniera' meaning 'style' in Italian), this exhibition in Germany marks the first exhibition for many years in a German speaking country. Other exhibitions in the last ten years have been held in America ('The Drawings of Bronzino'), in Italy ('Carlo Portelli'), and in France ('Florence Portraits at the Court of the Medici in Florence), etc.

Unlike the lousy catalogue produced by the Royal Academy in London of the contemporaneous exhibition 'In the Age of Giorgione' (an exhibition equally dedicated the magnificent use of colour deployed by its artists), the Stadel has put together a marvellous catalogue of a fabulous exhibition (held from February 2016 to May 2016) with plentiful loans from many collections from all around the world, making the Royal Academy's show look meagre and insignificant by harsh contrast when it could have, nay should have, shone. The 'Maniera' catalogue (published both in German and English) is a vibrant, lush and beautifully put together book. Although reproductions on paper will never possess the luminescence of the original works of art, one can truly appreciate the paintings herein illustrated where the colours resonate from the pages unlike those in the Royal Academy catalogue which look dull, muted and dark (whereas the works themselves are not, and in certain instances explode with colour). A wide range of artists are covered not just Pontormo and Bronzino as the title of the book suggests but others such as Perino del Vaga, Parmigianino, Rosso Fiorentino, and Allori. Where the painted glories of 16th century Venice are not evident in the Royal Academy's book, those of Florence are blindingly apparent and obvious here.

The book is accompanied by intelligent and well thought out essays at the start of the book which suggest that the reader has an interest and a degree of knowledge in the period which he or she is reading about. The essays, originally written in German, have been well translated into English and do not read as leaden, heavy (and obvious) translations but possess a fluidity and style to them - again unlike the naive, A-level standard writing to be found in the Royal Academy catalogue discussed above. Ideas are suggested and reasoned, and thoughts explained. Also the text which accompanies the pictures is well written allowing the reader to understand the artist and his subjects.

One of the best written (in English) exhibition catalogues published in Western Europe on this particular period of Renaissance art in the last ten years. The book is bright and intelligently written; an example of how exhibition catalogues should be produced. Excellent value for money to celebrate as much as to understand a marvellous exhibition. In short, Bravo !! This book comes highly recommended for anyone interested in 16th century European art - not just the 'maniera', and not just Florence. Buy it before it goes out of print and commands high prices secondhand !!

Lyon Renaissance: Arts et Humanisme
Lyon Renaissance: Arts et Humanisme
by Sylvie Ramond
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The glories of Lyon in 1500 on paper, 18 Mar. 2016
When the historian focuses on the Renaissance the shift is often towards Italy (Florence, Venice, Rome), towards the court of Henry VIII in England, or towards the early Netherlandish masters such as Memling, van der Weyden, Breugel and others. Yet France has had comparitively little interest in its artistic culture during the 15th and 16th centuries, with the predominant interest focussing on the splendours of Louis XIV, or the French Revolution, and beyond. There has been some literature on Francois I and the paintings by the Clouets as well. However, finally, France would appear to be waking up to realising some of the glories which were produced in the 16th century with three exhibitions held thus far since 2010 which has identified various centres of artistic excellence in France at the start of the 1500's. The first two were on Paris (an exhibition called 'France 1500: Entre Moyen Age et Renaissance)' and at Tours (simply called 'Tours 1500'). The most recent exhibition was held in Lyon at the musée des Beaux-Arts between October 2015 and January 2016.

The exhibition is accompanied by this beautiful catalogue, beautifully produced by French publishing house Somogy. Only available in paperback (minor quibble), this is a wonderfully produced work, vibrant, colourful and brings the exhibition as much as the town to life. Objects and paintings are well reproduced and even for the non-French reader this is a lovely book for anyone fascinated by Renaissance Europe in the 16th century. I spent the first three times when first receiving the book simply looking through it and admiring the beautiful photographs.

The content of the book is equally interesting, as this is not merely just a picture book to an exhibition with bland captions but full of scholarly and informative essays about Lyon, the architecture of the town and the history of portraiture by engravers and by Corneille de Lyon - all of which are written well and in an understandable format which treats the reader with respect rather than dumbing down and infantalising history. A well written, well produced, and well researched book; truly an excellent introduction to 16th century France without being overly complicated, but a pleasure to behold visually as well. An excellent catalogue !

Bartholomaus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague (Metropolitan Museum of Art (Hardcover))
Bartholomaus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague (Metropolitan Museum of Art (Hardcover))
by Sally Metzler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £45.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Capturing the works of a renowned artist in 16th century Prague., 18 Mar. 2016
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Towards the end of the 16th century, Prague was an intellectual and artistic paradise. The Renaissance had spread into central Europe, and Rudolph II, Holy Roman emperor and king, attracted an unparellelled milieu of thinkers, painters, alchemists and astronomers and many others to his court. The circle of these individuals which surrounded the king were modern in their outlook, and embraced new ideas and concepts, and were free to express without fear of ridicule, or contempt, by their peers elsewhere in Europe. This golden age which was marks a coda to the Renaissance before the birth of the Baroque was bright, colourful, and vibrant as well as enigmatic, sensual, and erotic. Painting was no longer constricted to the tight rigidity of the early Renaissance but embraced the distorted beauty of Michelangelo, of Bronzino, and of Pontormo in a style termed Mannerism.

This exhibition is the first in North America devoted to the Flemish artist, Bartolomeus Spranger. Spranger was Flemish born, and had travelled far from his birth town of Antwerp, studying with landscape artists venturing south into France and Italy, gathering ideas and influences along the way before finally arriving at the Habsburg court in Prague. There, he no longer painted landscapes or occasional religious works, but focussed on works of sensual eroticism, beautifully drawn as much as painted, focussing on mythological themes rather than devout religious works or of pious patrons which was expected and commonplace in Rome, in Paris, and to the west of Prague.

The age of reason was beginning to diminish the need for faith to have such a hold. Rudolph II was a bright, intelligent and forward thinking man who clearly enjoyed the beauty of ideas as much as beautiful buildings, objects and paintings. The author suggests that Spranger was painting works which encouraged its viewers to think and understand, employing motifs from alchemy and mythology, thus reflecting the interests of his patron. The Bible had been translated into German, English, French and could be read, interpretted and understood by many more people so there was not as much need for the religious beliefs to be hammered home as previously. Also, it would appear that Rudolph had an enquiring mind and a curiousity but in equal quota and a regal sense of splendour which he enjoyed living in. This exhibition captures perfectly that feel through the display of a fantastic selection of his paintings and drawings.

This catalogue is a joy to behold. The works of the artist are reproduced and are bright, vibrant and convey the wonders of Spranger's craft. Detailed descriptions of the pictures and drawings are given, and are all held together with well written, approachable and fascinating essays. For those unfamiliar with Sprangers works or who might have looked down their nose at Mannerism, which has often been the case in the past, seeing the majestic work of a fascinating, curious and hugely talented artist might encourage the reader to think again. The book is also beautiful produced, and may well be the nearest which we will see in terms of a catalogue raisonné for a number of years, not least in English.

A must have - this book must have for anyone interested in the Northern Renaissance, in Prague, in the magical court of Rudolph II, or even just in Mannerism - which will inspire and fascinate its reader. Highly recommended !!

Lizard In A Woman's Skin [DVD]
Lizard In A Woman's Skin [DVD]
Dvd ~ Florinda Bolkan
Price: £10.00

2.0 out of 5 stars A Skinless Lizard., 14 Mar. 2016
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At time of release this was the longest version of the film available and in a sparkling bright print. However the release was disappointing in that it is completely devoid of any bonus materials to accompany such an important release. If you have a blu-ray player, go out and buy the release by Mondo Macabro which jam packed with extras and looks A M A Z I N G !!

In the Age of Giorgione
In the Age of Giorgione
by Simone Facchinetti
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Venetian painting 1500 - 1510, 14 Mar. 2016
This exhibition marks the first exhibition dedicated to a period spanning just over a decade in the sixteenth century in one of the world's most magical cities: Venice. And a period which produced a master who, despite having relatively few (surviving) works attributed to him with absolute certainty, he was to achieve fame in his lifetime and have a profound influence upon Western art. His genius and fame may have been eclipsed in Venice, following his death in 1510, by other great (and longer living) painters, such as Titian (who may have studied with or under him) and Tiepolo. Nonetheless, his name is still remembered, still considered important - and lends itself to the title of this exhibition, opening in March 2016 in London. His name was Zorzo da Castelfranco, better known to the world under his more common monicker of Giorgione.

The catalogue opens with an enticing sounding essay: The Biography of a Myth. The essay is interspersed with illustrations which makes it briefer than the less than ten pages within the catalogue it actually covers. The title is more promising than the text. The text, though interesting, covers little new ground and is written a rather bland fashion which although not bland, is rather dry and doesn't invite the reader to whet his or her curiousity further and wish to learn more about this acclaimed, much interpreted Venetian master.

Better presented and laid out than a previous show at the Royal Academy focussing on a sixteenth century master, Moroni, which divided the exhibition catalogue into an essay filled with reproductions of differing sizes of the paintings on show - followed by snippets of scholarship on each picture afterwards, this catalogue has large full page reproductions of all the works on display and the accompanying scholarship to the left of the image. The scholarship is thorough, mainly discussing the history of the picture rather than a distilled history of the sitter (where information if any is known) or of the artist (as a fair number of the pictures divide scholars, or have been "attributed to".) The paintings however are not well reproduced in the book sadly as the colours often appear darker than they are, and certainly considerably more matted in appearance doing little justice to the splendid use of colour by the artists in exhibition. For example, Bellini's "Virgin and Child with Saints Peter and Mark, and a Donor" is vibrant with colour, and yet in the catalogue appears subdued, and almost gloomy. Had the book been printed on shiny, glossy paper then some of the glory of the artists on display might well have been more apparant to those unfamiliar with their works - and not disappointing to those who have enjoyed the exhibition already.

Another disappointment of the book is that it highlights the lack of actual paintings in the show which have indeed been largely, firmly attributed to Giorgione. Indeed the proportion of "actual" Giorgione works in contrast to other artists is almost laughable. For the reader (and visitor) one feels like one is visiting a cake shop full of delicious delights, and being told that the pictures on display of some of the more sumptuous looking cakes are in fact not there to buy and be enjoyed, but simply as a tantalising tease of what the shop might have been able to sell were the right ingredients available. Admittedly, this is not the fault of the book nor its authors, but it does allow for a sense of disappointment that the Royal Academy was not able to borrow works such as Laura, the Dresden Venus, the Three Philosophers, etc - and has only been able to reproduce them in the context of their catalogue. Also lacking in the context of the book are essays by some of the leading scholars of Venetian Renaissance painting discussing the artist, his works, the city he lived in, and which would indeed have made the book a fascinating read. It would also allow the specialist or scholar to perhaps learn something new or see a different viewpoint, rather than feel rather short changed.

One final quibble, purely in design of the book (dark and badly reproduced plates aside) is that the book has been printed with a mustard yellow spine (!) on the dust jacket. Stylish and modern this may be, but such colours fade quickly on the shelves unless curtains are permanantly kept shut to prevent bleaching by sunlight. Yellow and reds are prone to fade faster in sunlight than dark blues or blacks, A black spine with letters would have suited the choice of painting to illustrate the cover of the book, and certainly would have been less jarring.

The Royal Adademy have produced some wonderful catalogues in times past, and for future reference might consider looking at those produced in America by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where paintings are beutifully reproduced, and there is plentiful scholarship and essays contained in the body of the book). In conclusion, an average catalogue giving a rundown of a show that could have been, should have been, much better.
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