Vistas has been restructured at the top. Sir Nicholas Penny, Nick to all who know him, has become President of the Board of Trustees.

Nick has been a passionate supporter of Vistas since its conception.  Nick’s presidency is a clear signal of the seriousness and significance of Vistas’ mission.

Recently, he has seen our operation at closer range.  Our third publication is a revised and extended edition of Taste and the Antique. Because we want his approval at each step, he’s become very aware of the care with which we’re proceeding.  Our insistence on quality has great appeal for a scholar like Nick, who is both profound in his thinking and meticulous in his attention to detail.

We hope that all of our friends… private patrons, foundations, dealers, collectors… will share the enthusiasm of Nick’s endorsement.   We need the financial support of all sectors!

We are making progress on Taste & the Antique

We have some real progress to report on Taste & the Antique.  Our photographers, James Stevenson and Ken Watson, of Cultural Heritage Digitization, are now well into photographing the sculptures in the Louvre that will be included in the book and on the web.  I’ve seen the preliminary shots, on which the post production has not yet been done, and I’m very pleased so far.  These photographers have a very professional attitude, which makes it a delight to work with them.

Another big plus is that the staff of the Louvre, from the Direction down through the ranks, have all been extraordinarily helpful and cooperative.  Of course that makes a huge difference.  I trust we’ll find that sort of cooperation everywhere, since so many director and curators studied Taste & the Antique early in their careers.  They understand the importance of this book.

Soon the photographs will be moving on to Italy.  This will be somewhat more complicated, since we’re talking about multiple museums in four different cities!  But if the same good attitude prevails, that will be great.

One more Vistas author

It’s not only our first author and our editorial/production people who are in the news this month.   April Calahan, our administrator, is an up and coming fashion historian.   She had two books published last month: Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style (Yale Univeristy Press) and Fashion and the Art of Pochoir (Thames & Hudson), which have received coverage in the December issues of Vogue and the UK edition of Harper’s Bazaar.

The books are available at Rizzoli, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Frick bookshops and, of course, Amazon.

Brava, April.

Why is it taking so darned long?

Many of our Vistas community are getting impatient about the updated and extended edition of Taste and the Antique.  So are we!  But this is too important for us to cut any corners.   I promise I’ll send frequent updates, like this one.

The publication of this book in 1982 opened an entirely new field of study, creating an incredible amount of material.   Just so you’ll understand what’s going on, here’s just one example.   This is one of our shorter entries (yes, shorter!).  I won’t include the bibliography or footnotes, because it would be too long for a blog.   The black print is the original.  The bold is the new material.


2. The Dying Alexander



Height: 0.72 m (0.42 m excluding modern bust)

Also known as: Achilles (Baretti, p. 27)

Literature: Monaco 2007; CensusID 156427

The earliest evidence of the presence of the Dying Alexander in the Medici collection in Florence has recently been recognized in a note of July 1586 stating that the head had been adapted to a cuirassed bust by Giovanni Battista Caccini.[i] This appears to clash with the previous assumption that the head had to be identified with one restored by Giambologna in 1595.[ii] The Dying Alexander has been in the Uffizi since at least the end of the seventeenth century, but probably longer,[iii] since the sculpture appears to be mentioned not only in the Uffizi inventory of 1676 but also in a less detailed list compiled in 1638.[iv] Drawings of what is almost certainly the same head appear in the sketchbook of Girolamo da Carpi made in Rome between 1549 and 1553,[v] and it is probable that the Uffizi head was acquired by the Medici in Rome and is the head of Alexander which Aldrovandi, in a publication of 1556 (based on notes made in Rome six years earlier) described as in the collection of Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi in the palace in Campo Marzio.[vi] This collection was dispersed soon after his death in 1564.[vii] However, it has been noted that the head is not listed in two inventories of the Carpi collection drawn up soon after the cardinal’s death and it has been proposed to identify the sculpture with “an ancient head of Alexander the Great” which Cardinal Rodolfo donated to Pius IV in October 1560 along with other three portraits, sculptures that the Pope had in mind to send to Philip IV in Spain.[viii] It is not possible to ascertain when precisely the head passed from the possessions of the Pope to the Medici.

The influence of this sculpture has been detected, convincingly, in early sixteenth-century art and was later the model for numerous ecstatic or inspired figures[ix] – Winckelmann, in fact, noted its influence on Domenichino’s celebrated fresco of St. John the Evangelist (in one of the pendentives of the dome of S. Andrea della Valle).[x] The earliest replica is probably one in porphyry made in the late sixteenth century by Francesco Ferruci del Tadda (d. 1585) and kept in the villa Poggio Imperiale (probably identical with the one today displayed in the Museo dell’Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence);[xi] a reduced copy in porphyry, reversed, attributable to Matteo Ferruci del Tadda, Francesco’s nephew, is adapted to an alabaster cuirassed bust and appears to testify Caccini’s restoration.[xii] The head with its pleading look also Queen Christina of Sweden who commissioned a bronze copy from Soldani requested permission to have the marble moulded in 1681.[xiii] A plaster cast was amongst those in the Antikensaal at Mannheim opened by the Elector Karl Theodor in 1767,[xiv] and by 1781 there was one in the Royal Academy in London (where it was considered by some to be head of Achilles).[xv] There were also numerous marble copies, many of which were made in the eighteenth century[xvi] when the bust was admired in rapturous terms by almost all the visitors of the Uffizi.[xvii]

The identification of this upturned head as a portrait of Alexander the Great probably stemmed from Plutarch’s statement that Lysippus, who alone among contemporary sculptors was permitted to take the likeness of the Conqueror, portrayed him with leonine hair and melting eyes, looking up to the heavens.[xviii] Lomazzo, writing in 1590, claimed that fragments of the statue by Lysippus were known and that the head was recognised by the ‘intendenti’ to be the most rare and artful in existence, with a hollowing of the eyes and ‘quadratura’ of the nose which Polidoro, Michelangelo and Raphael had imitated.[xix] But (assuming that this was the head that had been in Pio da Carpi’s collection) Aldrovandi had accounted for the intense expression by stating that it showed Alexander on his deathbed permitting his soldiers to kiss his hand.[xx] Aldrovandi must have had in mind how Alexander, too weak to speak, raised his head with difficulty and greeted with a look each of his officers as they filed through his tent.[xxi] Later accounts of the head after its installation in the Uffizi suggest that the Emperor had been shown wounded (as he was believed by some of the blood he lost in battle with the Oxydracae;[xxii] or feverish after bathing in the icy waters of the Cydnus;[xxiii] or lamenting that there were no more worlds to conquer;[xxiv] or in agonies of remorse for killing Clitus, a warrior who had saved his life, during a quarrel at a banquet (‘a personal memorial … of the terrible effects of intemperance and midnight hours’).[xxv] The Dying Alexander remained, however, the most popular title. The various interpretations not only reflected the desire to find in ancient sculpture illustrations of ancient history, but also the recognition of that the movement and the expression of this head were more dramatic than one would expect in a portrait – even in a portrait by Lysippus. The head is now in fact believed to be a fragment of some heroic narrative group.

Although the head was clearly admired for its expression, and not simply as the likeness of Alexander, once that likeness was disputed, the celebrity of the sculpture did slowly decline. Bianchi was not certain that it was a portrait of Alexander[xxvi] and the discovery of the inscribed herm portrait at Tivoli in 1779 (‘the Azara Herm’ presented to Bonaparte and today in the Louvre)[xxvii] convinced most scholars that it was not.[xxviii] All the same, it was till popularly known as the ‘Dying Alexander’ a century later, and some scholars still believed it might represent Alexander.[xxix] But Amelung, aware of the Altar of Zeus excavated at Pergamon and displayed in Berlin, proposed that it was a copy of a work of the Pergamene school and labelled it as a ‘dying giant’[xxx] – a view which is adhered to in Mansuelli’s catalogue.[xxxi] Such interpretation, however, was first questioned by Becatti who proposed to identify the sculpture with Helios;[xxxii] accepting this hypothesis, Saladino put forward to date the head to the late Hellenistic age.[xxxiii] More recently Monaco has suggested to identifying the head with a Triton, perhaps deriving from a famous marine thiasos created by Scopas in the mid fourth century B.C.[xxxiv] 

Restorations:[xxxv] early interventions, datable to the mid sixteenth century, concern some locks of hair; the head was adapted to an alabaster bust by Caccini in the late sixteenth century; the groove encircling the head may be the result of a modern intervention since it is not registered in the quite faithful, mid seventeenth-century marble copy of the Alexander now in Palazzo Lancellotti, Rome.[xxxvi] In 1784 Giuseppe Belli substituted the cuirassed bust with the actual naked one and enhanced the inclination of the head.

[i] Poggio Imperiale, 1979, p. 75; Monaco, 2007, p. 179.

[ii] Monaco, 2007, pp. 179, 191-2; for the reference to Giambologna’s restoration see Lanciani, 1989-2002, III, p. 122.

[iii] Mansuelli, I, pp. 94-5.

[iv] Monaco, 2007, p. 178.

[v] Canedy, 1976, pp. 102, 116, 118 (T109, T161, T173); Monaco, 2007, pp. 182 figs.7-9, 183.

[vi] Aldrovandi, 1556, p. 205; for the collection see Gasparri, 2004, pp. 49-60.

[vii] Lanciani, 1902-12, III, p. 185.

[viii] Monaco, 2007, p. 183.

[ix] Schwarzenberg, pp. 399-400. For instance, Rubens used the head as a model for heads of martyrs, such as At Lawrence (Munich, Alte Pinakothek, c. 1613-5), St John Evangelist (Malines), St George (Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and St Sebastian (Berlin, Staatliche Museen); the Alexander is also recognizable in his Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Washington, National Gallery) and the head of the Consul in the Death of Decius Mus (Vaduz, Liechtenstein Collection), see Van der Meuleun, 1994-5, p. 145.

[x] Winckelmann, 1968, p. 151 (Erinnerung); for the fresco see Bernardini, 2003, fig. 2.

[xi] Bencivenni Pelli, I, p. 139, note; Schwarzenberg, pp. 400-1; Martelli, pp. 20-1; Monaco, 2007, pp. 179, 180 fig. 5.

[xii]Florence, Museo del Bargello, inv. 187, see Monaco, 2007, pp. 179-80, 181 fig. 6. Perhaps referable to the same workshop is a third porphiry copy which in the late ninenteenth century was in Hamilton Palace, Lanarkshire, see Michaelis, 1882, p. 300 no. 3; Monaco, 2007, p. 180.

[xiii] Lankheit, pp. 259-60 (doc. 169); Schwarzenberg, p. 401.

[xiv] Schiller, XX, p. 105; for the antiquarian collection assembled by Karl Theodor see Stupperich, 2003.

[xv] Baretti, p. 27.

[xvi] Lani, 1910-11, I, p. 64; Schwarzenberg, pp. 400-1. A marble copy now in Palazzo Lancellotti, Rome, is datable to the mid seventeenth century, see Monaco, 2007, pp. 188-9, 191 figs. 16, 17; another reduced copy, datable to the eighteenth century, is today in the villa Poggio Imperiale, see Poggio Imperiale, 1979, pp. 74-5 no. 24, pl. XXXV,3.

[xvii] E.g. Addison, pp. 412-13; Cochin, II, p. 45; Corke and Orrey, pp. 159-64; Dupaty, I, p. 134; Beckford, I, p. 166; Caylus, 1914, p. 314; Burney, p. 109.

[xviii] Plutarch, On the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander, II,2; The Life of Alexander, IV, 1.

[xix] Lomazzo, p. 15.

[xx] Aldrovandi, 1556, p. 205.

[xxi] Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri, VII, 26.

[xxii] Bianchi, pp. 134-6; Bencivenni Pelli, I, p. 141; Smollett, p. 235 (letter XXVIII); Arrian explains that the battle over the city of the Mallians was often said to be a battle with the Oxydracae – Anabasis Alexandri, VI, 9; see also Plutarch, The Life of Alexander, LXIII.

[xxiii] Bianchi, Bencivenni Pelli, Smollet (as in Note 17) thinking of Plutarch, The Life of Alexander, XIX.

[xxiv] Addison, pp. 412-13 (taking the idea from the elder Binachi according to Bianchi, p. 136); [Jameson], pp. 96-7; Burney, p. 109. This idea probably came from the epigram quoted by Plutarch (On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander, II, 2).

[xxv] Corke and Orrey, pp. 159-64; Moore, II, pp. 261-2 (thinking of Plutarch, The Life of Alexander, L-LII).

[xxvi] Bianchi, pp. 137-8.

[xxvii] Inv. MA 436, see Erme tiburtine, 1992, pp. 187-90 no. 1 (B. Cacciotti).

[xxviii] Carlo Fea in his edition of Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst of 1820, vol. II, p. 253, note A; Visconti (Iconografia Greca), II, plate II; for the ancient iconography of Alexander the Great see Moreno, 2010; Trofimova, 2013, pp. 15-32. For a census of preserved Alexander portraits see Stewart, 1993, pp. 421-37.

[xxix] Perry, W.C., p. 484.

[xxx] Amelung, 1897, p. 96.

[xxxi] Mansuelli, I, pp. 94-6; Bieber, pp. 119-20. For an overview of the interpretations of the head see Monaco, 2007, pp. 199-203.

[xxxii] Becatti, 1954, p. 91, pl. XXXIII.2.

[xxxiii] Saladino, 1983, p. 74.

[xxxiv] Monaco, 2007, pp. 203-5; the sculptural group is mentioned in Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, XXXVI, 26. The identification with the Giant Alcyoneus, however, is still defended in Trofimova, 2013, p. 129.

[xxxv] Monaco, 2007, pp. 188-93.

[xxxvi] See Note 16.

Book number four…coming up.

Spencer 21-v 2mb


We’re not resting on our laurels.   At Vistas we’re now announcing our fourth book – our first on a Flemish subject!

Vistas is very happy to bring out Drawing Netherlandish Sculpture:  The Spencer Album by Ethan Matt Kavaler (U. of Toronto) and Krista de Jonghe (U.of Leeuwen).  The probable publication date is late in 2016.

This is all about an unpublished manuscript that’s in the collection of the New York Public Library.  Originally, it was an album for a cultured nobleman of the 16th century to leaf through for his pleasure, looking at the architecture or sculpture.  Think of a 16th century equivalent of Architectural Digest or Dwell.    It’s more like a model book than working drawings.

We’ll produce two volumes.   The first is a facsimile of the original.   The second includes an essay by the authors (about 100 pages) and many photographs of buildings and sculptures that represent the styles and ideas seen in the Album.

Almost all the photography is by Matt Kavaler.   Those of you who have his Renaissance Gothic on your bookshelves know what a great photographer he is.

Tullio Lombardo book reviewed by Apollo magazine

It’s really hard to get serious art books reviewed in a timely way.   Many don’t get reviewed at all; others a year or two after they come out. Our book on Tullio Lombardo by Anne Markham Schulz is already starting to get some attention in the art press. David Ekserdjian reviewed it in Apollo, headlined “New Vistas.” I wish I could give you a link, but their online presence is all by subscription, so I can’t.

If you’re a subscriber, please be sure to read it.   But for everyone else, here are the last two sentences:

“What is more, this is the first volume in a series of publications under the aegis of VISTAS…which also offers a truly breathtaking free access online component that allows works to be seen in exceptional and zoomable detail ( In both guises, The Sculpture of Tullio Lombardo represents a wonderful beginning to what promises to be a revelatory series of publications.”

Vistas celebrates The Neptune Fountain in Bologna

Vistas may not seem like much of a party animal, but we might have surprised you the third week of March – hosting two parties.

They were both to introduce our second book, The Neptune Fountain in Bologna: Bronze, Marble and Water in the Making of a Papal City. Richard J. Tuttle left the manuscript when he met his untimely death. Last year, two art historians, Nadja Aksamija and Francesco Ceccarelli, transformed the manuscript into a book.

The book is about the great sculpture by Giambologna and also the amazingly innovative hydraulic system designed by Tomaso Laureti.   Fascinating text and great illustrations! And a remarkably low introductory price for such a beautifully produced book.

We gave a cocktail party at TEFAF, the great art fair in Maastricht, on March 13th. The cream of the sculpture world turned out – scholars and dealers – all eager to see and talk about the book.

Then on March 19th, we gave an Italian-style book presentation in a gorgeous period room in the Archiginnasio in Bologna. Besides the two editors, three distinguished scholars came to talk: Francesco Caglioti, Andrea Bacchi and Richard Schofield. We had a full house – 120 seats – and then gave a reception afterwards.   Both the talks and the book were very well received by our audience.

We made some fairly rude remarks about the fact that the fountain wasn’t working and should be repaired.   We hadn’t thought of being activists in even a small degree, but the Italian papers jumped on it. That was a surprise.

Are we proud? You bet! Proud of bringing out our second book in way less than two years! Proud of the quality of scholarship, writing, photography and production, and especially of our groundbreaking special website, free to all comers,, filled with high-res, zoomable photographs for all to see.

Advisory Council Member Wins Book of the Year Award

VISTAS would like to congratulate Advisory Council member, Jeremy Warren.  His book, Medieval and Renaissance Sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, was recently awarded the 2014 Apollo Award for Book of the Year.  Published as a three volume set (Sculptures in Metal, Sculptures in Stone, Clay, Ivory, Bone and Wood, and Plaquettes) the book focuses on the Museum’s holdings of European sculpture from c. 1200-1540 and features beautiful photographs of more than 500 pieces.  Bravo!

Coming Home to Bologna

Naturally, lots of people in Bologna are very proud of their beautiful city. So they’re really interested in our second book. The Neptune Fountain in Bologna by Richard J. Tuttle is coming out in March, 2015. It’s about the remarkable engineering of the fountain as well as the beautiful Giambologna sculpture. VISTAS is subsidizing a revised and extended edition, prepared by Francesco Ceccarelli and Nadja Aksmija.

The Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio is being incredibly generous. They’re inviting VISTAS to sponsor a book presentation in the Stabat Mater hall of the Archiginnasio. It will be held on March 19, 2015 from 5 – 7:30 PM.

This room is beautiful as well as historic. It’s in one of the most gorgeous buildings of the Renaissance, built in the 16th century.  You might want to google it.

The end of Richard Tuttle’s life was shocking, since he died unexpectedly and too young. It was also sad that that this fascinating work was not ready to be published. Now Francesco Ceccarelli and Nadja Aksamija have done a wonderful job of turning a manuscript into a book.

So it comes full circle. A carefully revised edition is coming out and will be presented by Andrea Bacchi, Francesco Caglioti and Richard Schofield with the two editors in a beautiful room in Bologna, a city that Tuttle studied and loved all his life.


Taste and the Antique is a foundational work for the study of Renaissance sculpture. It was very significant in its time and it still is. Larissa Haskell and Nicholas Penny have been incredibly generous. They’ve given VISTAS the right to bring out a revised and extended edition of this important book. This will be a sensation in the scholarly world.


Two excellent young scholars are working on it. Eloisa Dodero is an archaeologist, Adriano Aymonino an art historian, so each of them brings different skills to the table.  Eloisa has studied Roman sculpture, collections of antiquities in Rome and the Farnese Collection in Naples. Her four years of work on the Cassiano del Pozzo Project have expanded her knowledge of seventeenth-century antiquarianism and early archaeology. Adriano has a very impressive c.v.   His research interest covers the reception of the classical tradition. He is currently curating an exhibition on the role of classical sculpture in artists’ workshops and academies, which will open at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London and at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem in 2015.

Additional bibliography is a must, because the original publication inspired so much scholarly work. Entries will be revised only when necessary. The great thing is this will be published with all new photography! The online component will provide a lot of zoomable images.

The publication date? Hard to say. We’ll post updates on this blog from time to time.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this pending publication!