This week: Roman busts, Arabic and Spanish music, Newport cottages, Riverside Drive & more.

The Severan Tondo, Tempera on wood, ca. 199–211 A.D., Altes Museum, Berlin. The panel depicts the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, his wife Julia Domna, and their two sons.


Imperial Colors: The Roman Portrait Busts of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, by Julie Van Voorhis and Mark Abbe, with Juliet Graver Istrabadi (Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art in association with D. Giles Limited): Edward Gibbon did not look kindly on Septimius Severus, the brutal African-born emperor from Leptis Magna, now Libya, who expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest extent. “His daring ambition was never diverted from its steady course by the allurements of pleasure, the apprehension of danger, or the feelings of humanity,” Gibbon writes in  Decline and Fall. While the adventurism of Septimius debased the Roman currency, setting up a tax-and-spend spiral for the late empire, his legacy nevertheless set the stage for the Severan dynasty, due in no small part to the power of his widow, Julia Domna. These two together are now the subject of  Imperial Colors, a survey of their portrait busts in the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University. Written by Julie Van Voorhis, Mark Abbe, and Juliet Graver Istrabadi and published by D. Giles Limited, the illustrated book looks in part to the remnant polychromy of the sculptures to help shed light, and color, on these two imperial figures. JP


Fatma Said and Rafael Aguirre. Photo: Josef Fischnaller / Warner Classics & Liz Isles / European Music Foundation.

Fatma Said and Rafael Aguirre at Carnegie Hall (April 4): The Egyptian soprano Fatma Said has made a name for herself as an ambassador for the cosmopolitan art music of the Middle East. Her concert on Tuesday at Carnegie Hall will feature two such compositions from the midcentury: Gamal Abdel-Rahim’s “I Am the Sultan’s Daughter,” an Egyptian art song with both melismatic Arabic and modernist inflections, and a setting of Kahlil Gibran by the Lebanese composer Najib Hankash. Ms. Said also has an affinity for the music of Spain, which, when one ponders it, is part of a broader continuum with Sephardic, Moorish, and Arabic music that spans the southern littoral of the Mediterranean. Thus, the poet García Lorca’s own settings of four folk songs will join a new setting of three works by the Egyptian poet Amal Donqul, along with songs from Falla, Rodrigo, Palomo, Serrano, Tárrega, and Obradors. The Spanish guitarist Rafael Aguirre will accompany for this Mediterranean evening at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. —IS


Newport Cottages 1835–1890: The Summer Villas Before the Vanderbilt Era, by Michael C. Kathrens (Bauer and Dean Publishers): The British broadcaster Alistair Cooke got it wrong when he declared that “One hundred years after the Declaration that ‘all men are created equal,’ there began to gather in Newport a colony of the rich, determined to show that some Americans were conspicuously more equal than others.” But then Cooke was a lefty, so expecting accurate social history from him would be a bit much. In fact, Newport’s development as an exclusive summer resort dates to a mere sixty years after American independence, when Southerners and New Yorkers, escaping intemperate summers, began to build shingled “cottages” near the sea. Though now overshadowed by the luxurious European-inspired mansions of what Michael C. Kathrens terms the “Vanderbilt Era,” the original cottages are a window into a simpler, though still fortunate, period in American history. Kathrens’s stunning new book, Newport Cottages 1835–1890, published by Bauer and Dean in association with the Preservation Society of Newport County, is enlivened by new and archival photography to help tell the story of Newport’s first flourishing. BR


Cyrus Clark mansion on Riverside Drive at W 90th Street, New York City, 1890. Robert L. Bracklow Photograph Collection 1882–1918, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library.

“Walking Tour: Mansions of Riverside Drive,” led by the New-York Historical Society (April 8): In our March issue, my colleague James Panero wrote about the marvels of Riverside Drive, the gem of urban development that, tucked away on New York’s Upper West Side, “now seems as foreign to us as the product of another civilization.” Out-of-towners have the consolation of Stephanie Azzarone’s delightfully illustrated monograph  Heaven on the Hudson, but readers in the Big Apple can take advantage of a walking tour offered by the New-York Historical Society this Saturday exploring many of the neighborhood’s lavish homes. The meeting location is provided upon ticket purchase. —RE


“Adam Kirsch & James Panero in conversation; a reading by Brian Brodeur.” Adam Kirsch & James Panero discuss the April poetry issue, the New Criterion Poetry Prize, and more. Brian Brodeur reads selections from his winning book, Some Problems with Autobiography.

From the Archives:

“Who was Wyndham Lewis?” by Victor M. Cassidy (June 1993). On the mysterious and jumbled oeuvre of Wyndham Lewis.


“At a loss for words” by Joshua T. Katz. On The New York Times’s reporting on the shooting in Nashville.

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