Gold Boxes: The Wrightsman Collection/D0712P by N. Y.) Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York

By N. Y.) Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York

The Wrightsman assortment showcases the various most interesting bins made in western Europe within the eighteenth century.

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He was by turns a scholar, an historian, an anti-papist, an economic moralist, a poet, a botanist and a geologist, and through his charming and learned discourse he attracted even the most resistant Englishmen to the idea of beauty. All of the winding paths in his historical promenade brought them inevitably to the same point, which was the social mission of art and its supremacy over all other things. This is the man who would protest against railways because they were ugly, who would forgive popes because they loved beauty, who would found aesthetic festivals in convents and museums in working-class neighbourhoods, and who would resurrect the guilds of the Middle Ages because they were picturesque.

Qxp Dante Gabriel Rossetti, How Sir Galahad, Sir Bors and Sir Percival Were Fed with the Sanct Grael; but Sir Percival’s Sister Died by the Way, 1864. 9 cm. Tate Britain, London. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sir Galahad at the Ruined Chapel, 1859. 9 cm. Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Birmingham. qxp 2/16/2008 12:18 PM Page 43 carried authority. However, this authority was only honorary; he was listened to but not followed. To create a revolution in painting, even the most eloquent criticism is not sufficient: one needs painters to do the job.

I will send it to you,” he responded, and a short while later she found a cart at her doorstep containing an enormous paving stone. She was not astonished, and began meticulously studying this stone. Besides this anecdote, there are many other examples of the punctuality with which the prescriptions of this sovereign of aesthetics were followed. Indeed, a tourist who follows the injunctions of Mornings in Florence when visiting the city of Savonarola could leave the banks of the Arno having seen neither the Tribune, nor the Palazzo Pitti, nor the Palazzo Vecchio, nor the Loggia, nor San Marco, nor most of the other things for which one generally visits Florence.

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