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Ingrid R. Vermeulen on Kristel Smentek, Mariette and the Science of the Connoisseur in Eighteenth-Century Europe, Ashgate 2014

25 March 2017

Pierre-Jean Mariette, enlightened art connoisseur and scholar of art history

Review of:

Mariette and the Science of the Connoisseur in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Kristel Smentek, Farnham: Ashgate, 2014, 303 pp., 20 col. plates, 39 b.& w. illus., £75.00, ISBN 978 1 4724 3802 7

Ingrid R. Vermeulen 16/IV1

Abstract: In her book Smentek brings back to life the rich scope of economic and scholarly activities and social ambitions employed by the art dealer and collector of European renown, Jean-Pierre Mariette (1694-1774). By concentrating on the various artistic media in which he was primarily involved, she each time singles out an aspect of Mariette’s expertise. Economic and social shrewdness in the case of printmaking, the very core of his art connoisseurship in the case of drawing, and his art-historical scholarship in the case of gem engraving. In spite of the diverse connections she here creates between artistic medium and expertise, Smentek makes abundantly clear that the scientific method of art connoisseurship was underlying the employment of all these artistic media, which favoured empirical analysis in the historical understanding of art. She thereby makes a highly convincing case of the ways in which Mariette’s practices changed the terms in which the artistic past was scrutinized. On this basis it seems only logical to further research the impact of Mariette’s practices on art-scholarly projects initiated elsewhere in Europe and the ways it contributed to the emergence of art history as a modern discipline.

Key words: Mariette, connoisseurship, collecting, prints and drawings, dealing, art scholarship


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