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Louisa C. Matthew and Lars R. Jones, eds. Coming About ... a Festschrift for John Shearman.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 2001. xxiv + 389 pp. $95. illus. ISBN: 1-891771-11-6.

This volume publishes fifty-two brief articles in honor of John Shearman. Their subjects range chronologically from the Gothic to the early twentieth century, although more than half of them deal with Cinquecento art. This emphasis and the broad scope of the remaining essays reflect the focused as well as the expansive interests of the honoree. The contributions cover a variety of media and methodologies, from documentary analysis, as in Margaret Haines, "Ghiberti's Trip to Venice" (57-63) to cultural meaning and reception theory, as in Cathleen Sara Hoeniger, "The Reception of Correggio's Loves of Jupiter" (191-97) and explore patronage, stylistic connections, techniques, and other topics along the way.

The consistently high quality of scholarship in all of the essays is as breathtaking as the range of subjects and approaches. Reading the volume as a whole is almost a graduate education in itself. A brief review cannot touch on the content of so many contributions. Special mention, however, should go to the last section, entitled "Historiography, Pedagogy, and Analytic Method," which includes the most unusual articles. Among its studies, Meredith Gill writes on her students' responses to works of art (367-73) and Lisa Pon with Craigen Bowen examines "Using Digital Images to Compare States of a Print" (387-89). It is also touching to discover Christopher D. H. Rows essay on the churches designed by Shearman's own grandfather in London (349-55).

The excellence of the scholarship in the volume is a powerful tribute to Shearman. Some of the authors express their gratitude to him as a teacher directly in their opening paragraphs or notes. Others imply a debt by citing his publications, particularly his influential Only Connect... Art and the Spectator in the Italian Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). From such references within some of the individual articles, the reader catches glimpses of Shearman as an inspiring teacher and as a scholar with knowledge broad enough to send some of his students into the archives, others into scientific analysis, and still others into more theoretical considerations.

The editors of the festschrift have assured that each article makes a significant contribution, from Adrian W. B. Randolph's analysis of Pope Leo X's use of leonine imagery (11-18) to Mary-Ann Winkelmes' thoughts on the acoustics of Renaissance churches (307-12). One can also sense other unstated editorial decisions in such features as the almost uniform length of the articles and the apparent restrictions on numbers of photographs. It is unfortunate that, perhaps for financial reasons, a noticeable number of objects that are discussed at some length are not illustrated. Row's article on churches built by Shearman's grandfather, for example, does not show any photographs of the particular church named in its title.

Perhaps because the essays are of such uniformly great interest, it would have enriched the book even further to have a narrative overview of Shearman's contribution and importance as a scholar and an explanation of the reasons for compiling the collection. While Shearman's contribution can be inferred from the lengthy list of his publications (xix-xxiv), his place in the discipline could be described more completely. The supportive material provided is brief, including only a short acknowledgments page devoted primarily to thanking financial supporters. It does reveal that the interesting title refers to Shearman's "passion for sailing and the different tacks his extraordinary career has taken" (xv), and it seems to indicate that the essays are exclusively by Shearman's students, and therefore presumably not by contemporaries, friends, or colleagues who did not happen to study with him. Many festschrifts take on the responsibility of explaining themselves and their honorees. Self and History: A Tribute to Linda Nochlin (London: Thames and Hudson, 2001), for example, has three separate essays about Nochlin's life and work. ShopTalk: Studies in Honor of Seymour Slive (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Art Museums, 1995), a close parallel to the present volume, has a preface that, although brief, brings Seymour vividly to life. Surely John Shearman, whose generations of students have become the legacy of knowledge and skill demonstrated by these essays, deserves to be introduced more-comprehensively to the public who will benefit from the volume published in his honor.


Canisius College

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Author:Dunkelman, Martha Levine
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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