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How to Read European Decorative Arts

Kisluk-Grosheide, Daniëlle
168 pages
141 illustrations
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Spanning three centuries of creativity, this volume in The Met’s How to Read series provides a peek into daily lives across Europe—from England, Spain, and France to Germany, Denmark, and Russia—through 40 exemplary objects. The featured furniture, tableware, utilitarian items, articles of personal adornment, devotional objects, and display pieces cover many aspects of European society and lifestyles, from the modest to the fabulously wealthy.

The book considers the contributions of renowned masters, such as the Dutch cabinetmaker Jan van Mekeren and the Italian goldsmith Andrea Boucheron, as well as talented amateurs, among them the anonymous young Englishwoman who embroidered an enchanting chest with scenes from the Story of Esther. The works selected include both masterpieces and less familiar examples, some of them previously unpublished, and are discussed not only in light of their art-historical importance but also with regard to the social issues relevant to each, such as the impact of colonial slavery or the changing status of women artists.

Met Art in Publication

Pair of candlesticks (flambeaux or chandeliers), Juste Aurèle Meissonnier  French, Gilt bronze, French, Paris
Decorative ewer, Carved alder wood, probably Flemish
probably Flemish
first half 18th century
Armchair (Fauteuil à la reine) (one of a pair) (part of a set), Georges Jacob  French, Carved and gilded walnut; embroidered silk satin, French, Paris
ca. 1780–85
Casket (cassetta), Molded gesso on partly gilt wood (pastiglia), Italian, Ferrara
Italian, Ferrara
late 15th century
Cabinet, Herman Doomer  Dutch, Oak veneered with ebony, snakewood, rosewood, kingwood, cedar and other woods; mother-of-pearl, ivory, green stained bone, Dutch, Amsterdam
Multiple artists/makers
ca. 1640–50
Cupboard (Beeldenkast), Oak, Dutch, Amsterdam
Dutch, Amsterdam
Holy-water stoup with relief of Mary of Egypt, Giovanni Giardini  Italian, Lapis lazuli, silver, and gilded bronze, Italian, Rome
ca. 1702
Sideboard dish, Lewis Mettayer  British, Silver gilt, British, London
Celestial globe, Willem Jansz Blaeu  Dutch, Paper, brass, oak and stained, light-colored wood, Dutch, Amsterdam
after 1621
Figure of a European Merchant, Amoy Chinqua  Chinese, Polychrome unfired clay and wood, Chinese, Canton
Plate with Monogram of the Dutch East India Company, Underglaze blue (Arita ware), Japan
ca. 1660
Coffeepot, François Thomas Germain  French, Silver with ebony handle, French, Paris
Interior view of the Hoentschel Collection at 58 Boulevard Flandrin, Paris, Léopold Stevens  French, Oil on canvas; mounted on a carved wood stretcher and framed with carved gilt wood Louis XV frame, French, Paris
ca. 1903–06
Pietra dura table top, Hardstones, alabaster, and marble (pietra dura); marble frame and walnut stand (replacement), Italian, Rome
Italian, Rome
late 16th or early 17th century
Cabinet on stand, Jan van Mekeren  Dutch, Oak veneered with rosewood, olivewood, ebony, holly, tulipwood, barberry and other partly green-stained marquetry woods, Dutch, Amsterdam
ca. 1700–1710
Barberini Cabinet, Galleria dei Lavori, Florence, Oak and poplar veneered with various exotic hardwoods, with ebony moldings and plaques of marble, slate (paragon); pietre dure work consisting of colored marbles, rock crystal, and various hardstones, Italian, Florence
ca. 1606–23
Secretary cabinet, Oak, pine, and walnut decorated in red, gold, and silver japanning; brass; mirror glass, British
ca. 1735
Jar with Mythical Qilin, Porcelain painted with colored enamels over transparent glaze (Jingdezhen ware), China
mid-17th century
Pair of two-light wall brackets, Gilt bronze, French
ca. 1750
Commode, Pietro Piffetti  Italian, Marquetry of ebony, boxwood, walnut, and fruitwood; poplar (alberone) carcass; gilt-bronze mounts; iron locks, Italian, Turin
Multiple artists/makers
ca. 1760
Showing 20 of 72

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Kisluk-Grosheide, Daniëlle O. 2023. How to Read European Decorative Arts. How to Read / Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.