Behind the Image: The Art of Reading Paintings

Federico Zeri, Author St. Martin's Press $40 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-04724-5
A cosmopolitan art critic who towers above most formalists and deconstructionists, Italian art historian Zeri serves up a feast for the mind and eye in these delightfully informal, erudite essays. He rediscovers meanings widely understood in their day but fallen into oblivion: for example, an intentionally obscured skull confirms a famous portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger to be a memento mori. Zeri explores certain ``international'' styles--art deco, 1930s neoclassicism, Gothic, rococo, mannerism. Pegging art to its social context, he shows, for instance, how the color black, once a sign of poverty, became the standard for formal wear in high society under King Phillip II of Spain. Zeri is equally at home discussing Pompeianstet frescoes, Michelangelo, forgeries, Egyptian Coptic textiles or a king's treasures unearthed at the Sutton Hoo tumulus in eastern England. These superbly illustrated discourses have the intimate feel of conversations with a cultured friend. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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