Leonardo's Nephew: Essays in the History of Art and Artists by James Fenton
Over the past few years, James Fenton has published a series of long essays on art history in The New York Review of Books. This book brings the pieces together along with numerous black-and-white illustrations, providing a fascinating sideways look at painting and sculpture. Displaying an enviable depth of interest and knowledge, Fenton's pieces range from a controversial essay on Egyptian funerary portraits -- he questions whether in fact they were death portraits at all -- and an intriguing piece on Leonardo's virtually unknown but extremely talented nephew Pierino da Vinci, to essays on Degas, Picasso, and the American painter Thomas Jones, among others. An unexpected reference or forgotten bit of history is often Fenton's entree into his subject: he approaches Jasper Johns via the patriotic sculptors of the turn of the century; Joseph Cornell through the history of the European Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities; and the nature of the statue through an examination of Freud's attachment to his startlingly large collection of antique statuettes. Endlessly illuminating and packed with suggestive detail, Leonardo's Nephew opens doors on the back rooms and shadowy passageways of art history.
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.
ISBN: 9780374185053. 283 pp.
Hardcover. Very good in a very good jacket.