On Italian art battles, atomic bombs, mourning Chippendale & more.
Recent links of note:
“Italy revokes export licence for the Frick Collection’s princely portrait by Gérard”
Nancy Kenney, The Art Newspaper
You’d think someone in the Italian government would have noticed that they were selling a precious piece of their cultural heritage before signing it off to the Frick Collection last year. Apparently, no one did. But it appears the culture ministry in Rome has realized its mistake, and it is now refusing to marry off a portrait of Prince Camillo Borghèse to the New York museum. The portrait boasts both a famous subject and artist: Borghèse was a brother-in-law to Napoleon, and François Gérard was one of the eminent French painters of the eighteenth century, known for his portraits of the Bonaparte family, including one of Napoleon himself. When the Frick bought the painting in December, they announced that it was their most significant purchase in thirty years. The word from Italy is that the gallery did not even bother to mention the name of the portrait’s subject in the export application. But the proof is on the painting: Borghèse’s name is written right on the back of the canvas. Italy’s attempt to keep Borghèse from crossing the Atlantic escalates a trend of protecting its “national patrimony” with demanding export restrictions and repatriation campaigns.
“The Bombs of August”
Victor Davis Hanson, National Review
More than seventy years after the end of World War II, the dropping of the atomic bomb is more of a controversial decision than ever: was it a necessary military operation or an atrocity? Victor Davis Hanson writes that this isn’t quite the moral calculus President Truman used as he considered targeting Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Truman and his advisors, the alternatives looked much worse, with Japan vowing to fight to the death and Russia preparing to swoop in and seize a weakened Japan and its colonies for itself. With huge numbers of civilian casualties, the bombing campaigns of August 1945 are by no means military victories worth rejoicing over, but they did prevent what seemed to be on the horizon: a escalating war of attrition with no foreseeable end. For more on World War II from Hanson, read his 2017 book The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won (reviewed in The New Criterion by Conrad Black).
“Where did all the Chippendales go?”
Benjamin Riley, Spectator USA
The furniture designer Thomas Chippendale (1718–79) could once boast that his ornate creations graced the homes of some of the greatest figures in Britain and colonial America. But the Chippendale trend didn’t last long. Soon after his death, the designs were seen as outmoded, and aspiring disciples unwittingly produced parodies of the real thing. Now, three centuries after its creator’s birth, Chippendale furniture is often seen as fussy and overcomplicated; following twentieth-century trends toward the sleek, the shiny, and the metallic, it is often said that “brown furniture” is dead. It is perhaps telling, then, that the style’s legacy lives on in the broken pediment flourish of New York’s infamous AT&T building, which was designed by Philip Johnson, the father of a postmodernist movement that “installed the giggle into architecture.” To decide whether Chippendale merits the mockery, visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition “Chippendale’s Director: The Designs and Legacy of a Furniture Maker,” on view through January 27, 2019. Our own Benjamin Riley reviews the show for Spectator USA.
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