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Guide to Research in Classical Art and Mythology.

The past several decades have seen the publication of a wide range of important reference guides to the art historical literature. These fall into several categories beginning with such all-inclusive compendia as the Mary W. Chamberlin Guide to Art Reference Books (1959) and the text by Etta Arntzen and Robert Rainwater (1980). To the growing list of such titles, which includes such idiosyncratic "how to" books as the Art History: Its Use and Abuse by W. McAllister Johnson (1988), one may now add the carefully researched an intelligently organized guide by van Keuren to the vast literature on the arts of ancient Greece and Rome.

Minor reservations aside, the van Keuren publication is a well written and extremely useful guide for undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students to the vast literature of most categories of antique art from "Mythology" though the various aspects of "Media Studies" which includes all of the major as well as the minor arts such as vases, mirrors, gems, coins and furniture. The literature in English, French, German and Italian, is reviewed in a thought-provoking manner, with the author providing lucid indications of the limitations of various studies that add meat to the factual descriptions of contents. Thus for example the section on Ancient and Engraved Gems opens with a general discussion based on the key text by Gisela Richter. The organization of her text is carefully described. Its limitations, its failure to take into account Bronze Age gems, are highlighted by introducing a range of additional texts under the section entitled "Complementary References." This is followed by a long section on other "Handbooks," text such as the Broadman study on the Ionides collection. Finally, and under "supplementary sources," the even more specialized literature is accounted for.

Needless to say, in an undertaking of such magnitude there will always be omissions. In the section just described no mention is made, for example, of the two major studies on antique gems in the Museo Archeologico in Florence (Giuliano, 1989; Tondo, 1990). Both, however, probably appeared just as van Keuren was finalizing her typescript. They will doubtless be included in the updated version that one hopes will appear in a decade or so since research in this field proceeds at a breathtaking pace.

Keuren's text is all-inclusive in its handling of the bibliographies on most categories of ancient art. The references to texts dealing with the use made of these categories by Renaissance and Baroque artists are incidental to the main thrust of the publication. They are included or excluded on a seemingly arbitrary basis. Thus for example on page 200 and under "Ancient Engraved Gems-- Supplementary Sources" reference is made to the van der Meulen study on Petrus Paulus Rubens Antiquarius: Collector and Copyist of Antique Gems. To have been more all-inclusive and representative should not such a publication as the Il tesoro di Lorenzo il Magnifico: Le gemme also have been mentioned? If van der Meulen's study was given a full paragraph should not the same treatment have been afforded to Bober and Rubinstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture: A Handbook of Sources (1986). On the other hand, and under "Classical Mythology in Art after Antiquities," Keuren gives due attention to such major research sources as those by Pigler and Tervarent.

The van Keuren Guide to Research in Classical Art and Mythology is a major research tool primarily directed to undergraduate and graduate students but also containing useful hints for more senior researchers.

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Author:Brown, Clifford Malcolm
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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