Old Masters

JULY 2012

Lalibela: Wonder of Ethiopia: The Monolithic Churches and their Treasures

344 pages, hardback, 300 x 240 mm, 290 colour illustrations
PRICE: £40.00
ISBN: 978 1 907372 19 3

 

Customers in the US or Canada, CLICK HERE

Jacques Mercier and Claude Lepage

The Unesco World Heritage site of Lalibela in Ethiopia is one of the most extraordinary places in the world. It contains eleven churches, all of them hewn from the native rock in imitation of buildings. However, Lalibela and the Ethiopian kingdom remained unknown in the West until the account of the first Portugese embassy to Ethiopia was published in the 16th century.

The site has traditionally been dated to the 12th or 13th century, with the legend attributing its founding to King Lalibala, ruler of a newly united kingdom a number of centuries after the fall of the sacred capital Aksum, which had converted to Christianity in the 4th century. More recently, dates as early at the 7th century or as late as the 15th century have also been proposed by academics. However, nothing of its accepted or assumed history can be regarded as certain.

In order to arrive at some certitude, the authors of this book dissected and thoroughly analyzed the architectural evidence, extending their study to the decorations, mural paintings and sculptures, church furnishings, manuscripts and crosses associated with the site. This was a daunting task, requiring a knowledge of Ethiopian culture and its languages as well as that of the surrounding cultures that the authors are rare in possessing.The reader's understanding progresses through a multiplication of the themes and perspectives, making this book a fascinating detective story!

After this gradual revelation of fact-finding, the churches are dated and attributed to a single founder, whose politico-religious project is identified. The original functions of the various monolithic buildings – churches and palaces – are sketched with verisimilitude; a mystical programme rooted in the most sacred components of the churches is highlighted and explained. Lalibela thus appears well integrated into the environment and local and international history, while retaining its originality. The designers of the site and their theological advisors, while addressing issues debated in Byzantium, gave them visual expressions unique in the Christian world. These are unveiled and explained in this book for the first time.

Both Jacques Mercier and Claude Lepage are distinguished scholars of Ethiopia. Claude Lepage is Emeritus Professor, Chair of Byzantine Art, at the École Practique des Hautes-Etudes, Paris, co-author with Jacques Mercier of Art éthiopien: Les églises historiques du Tigray. Jacques Mercier is honorary Researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris, and author of Vierges d'Éthiopie. Portraits de Marie dans la peinture éthiopienne and L'Arche éthiopienne. Art chrétien d'Éthiopie. In 2009 he edited Ethiopian Church – Treasures and Faith for the Ethiopian Othordox Twahido Church.

"This truly breathtaking book is the first to focus on this extraordinary site in all its many dimensions – historical and cultural, archaelogical, architectural, art historical and documentary. It is complimented by some astounding and evocative photographs." Church Building and Heritage, September – October 2012

"... Mercier's and Lepage's Lalibela remains a book wholly worthy of its subject." The Spectator, 22 September 2012 


French Bronzes in the Wallace Collection

OUT OF STOCK: The group of about one hundred French bronzes in the Wallace Collection is justly considered one of the finest such collections in the world. Fifty-one of the best are featured in this book, the first in-depth study of the subject in English. More

Masters and Pupils: The Artistic Succession from Perugino to Manet 1480–1880

This book is about a family tree: the line of descent that can be traced from Perugino in Italy in the fifteenth century to Edouard Manet in France in the nineteenth. It is not the usual kind of genealogy, of those connected by blood, more an ‘apostolic succession’, following the way in which art in Europe was taught, from one generation to the next, from 1480 to 1880. More

The Noble Art of the Sword: Fashion and Fencing in Renaissance Europe 1520–1630

Since the early Bronze Age the sword has been a sign of wealth, status and the power of divine right. Yet, before the sixteenth century the sword was almost never carried on the person in everyday life. It was a rare, noble weapon, carried into battle by the aristocratic warrior class but set aside in time of peace. However, the increasing prominence of the Renaissance middle classes brought a fundamental change to the sword's place in society. Now large numbers of non-noble but often wealthy and upwardly mobile people could also afford rich things like fine clothes, jewelry and weapons. More

Condition: The Ageing of Art

Anyone writing about a work of art needs to establish at the outset how much it has changed since it was first made. This simple, informative and practical book, full of fascinating and revelatory photography, will take the reader through both the techniques and media of art and the techniques and media of its investigation and restoration. More

Catalogue of Paintings at the Wellington Museum, Apsley House

Seldom has there been a gift of equal magnificence. In 1947 the 7th Duke of Wellington presented to the nation his London residence – Apsley House – together with a large part of its contents, the collection of the 1st Duke. Among the paintings are some of the finest canvases from the Spanish Royal Collection, captured by the 1st Duke of Wellington from Joseph Bonaparte in 1813. There are also important seventeenth-century Dutch paintings bought by the 1st Duke himself, as well as a series of French and British portraits of his illustrious contemporaries and depictions of battle scenes, which provide a visual record of the Napoleonic period. More

My Highest Pleasure: William Hunter's Art Collection

Celebrating the 250th anniversary of the opening of the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow in 2007, this book provides a full study both of William Hunter - the many-faceted surgeon/connoisseur - and of his collection of art, which not only contains a number of outstanding masterpieces, such as a Rembrandt, but also provides a revealing snapshot of the taste of the period. While illuminating this crucial transitional period in British art, the book is at the same time a catalogue of the Hunterian collection. More

Giovanni Bellini's Dudley Madonna

The Madonna and Child, also known as the 'Dudley Madonna', was painted in c. 1508 by Giovanni Bellini (Venice, c. 1430–1516), one of the most celebrated of Italian artists. Recognised as an important composition by Bellini in the early 20th century, for a hundred years until its sale at auction in 2012 this picture had hardly ever been seen. This book places the painting within Bellini's career and development even though he was over 75 years old when he painted it. More

Masters of Indian Painting, 1100–1900 OUT OF PRINT

OUT OF PRINT: Accompanying an exhibition that promises to be the most comprehensive survey of Indian painting that the West has ever seen, this beautiful two volume catalogue spans 800 years of Indian painting, and some 240 masterpieces by more than 40 artists. These great Indian masters are unquestionably the equals of Dürer, Michelangelo or Vermeer. More

The Harold Samuel Collection: A Guide to the Dutch and Flemish Pictures at the Mansion House

The Harold Samuel Collection is a unique collection of 17th-century paintings from Holland’s Golden Age. Bequeathed to the City of London in 1987 by Lord Samuel of Wych Cross (1912-1987), a wealthy property developer and philanthropist, this remarkable collection of 84 works – the finest collection of Dutch and Flemish art assembled privately in the UK in the last hundred years – enriches the splendour of the interior of the Mansion House, residence of the Lord Mayor of London. More

Samuel Beckett: A Passion for Paintings

Celebrating the Beckett Centenary. Awarded third prize by The Art Newspaper/Axa Art Prize for best catalogue of the year published in the UK - "admired for the quantity of new material it presented about Beckett himself and the worlds of literature and visual arts". More

Bruegel in Black and White: Three Grisailles Reunited

Accompanying a focused display at The Courtauld Gallery that will bring together for the first time Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s only three known grisaille paintings, this book will examine the sources, function and reception of these three exquisite masterpieces. The panels will be complemented by prints and contemporary replicas, as well by other independent grisailles in order to shed light on the development of this genre in Northern Europe. More