The Princely collections - a place to pause and reflect
Jan 27, 2010
"In the unique setting of the Liechtenstein palace, visitors are surrounded by a composition of paintings, sculpture, precious objects and furniture and are transported into the breathtaking world of the Baroque." Like New York's eclectic and stunningly gorgeous Frick Museum but distinctly unlike its larger and much more ostentatious cousins such as the Louvre in Paris or New York's Metropolitan Museum, Vienna's Liechtenstein Museum is a collection of galleries that can be lovingly viewed in its entirety, piece by piece, in the span of only two to three hours.
What is probably the world's most important still extant privately owned art collection has been returned to its original historical location and displayed with a personal character that distinguishes it from other less interesting museums. "The sober clinical impression of a collection assembled on scientific criteria was deliberately avoided. The interior was enlivened and made less austere by the diversity of the art objects on show. The mixture of furniture, tapestries, craft objects, sculpture and paintings created the refined warm atmosphere of a family house that set the Liechtenstein Gallery apart ...".
This book is a brilliant and visually beautiful guide to the collection that will take interested but naïve and uninformed art lovers like myself through the history of the artists and the individual pieces. Short, thoughtful essays on virtually every piece in the collection, be it sacred or secular, somber or lighthearted, discuss theme and style as well as placing the artist, the individual painting or sculpture as well as its subject into the broader context of European history and geography.
Consider this single example that discusses Jean Valentin de Boulogne's "Cheerful Company with Fortune Teller" painted in 1631. This particular painting was shown as a fine example of one of the great Italian Baroque schools, the naturalism of the Caravaggists:
"The fortune teller is surrounded by musicians, quarrelling boon companions and other tavern folk. In works such as this, the painters also wanted to stir the viewer and gratify the senses. Boulogne exercised great care with the light effects in his pictures. He handled light and shadow with particular care so as to achieve striking contrasts. Such modeling of figures and objects by means of light is termed `chiaroscuro'."
Sturdy heavyweight, high gloss paper, a high quality binding and beautiful colour reproductions that do ample justice to the beauty of their subjects make this a wonderful souvenir of a visit to the museum or a fantastic way to prepare for a visit in advance. No matter how you choose to digest the book - one painting at a time, read it from cover to cover, open it anywhere and sample a piece at random - you'll return to this book time and time again. And, every time you do, your breath will be taken away by the beauty to which it will treat you.
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