Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Tag: sculpture

739: Faberge’s Eggs by Tony Faber


739.2092: Faber, Tony. Faberge’s Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire. New York: Random House, 2008. 241 pp. ISBN 978-1-58836-707-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts and Recreation
  • 730: Plastic arts and sculpture
  • 739: Art metalwork
  • 739.2: Works in precious metals
  • 739.2092: Biography and special persons

Eggs are very plain things. But when Russian jeweler Carl Gustavovitch Faberge realized a design around them, they turned into the most sought-after pieces in modern art history. Tony Faber’s Faberge’s Eggs is not only a look into the history of the bejeweled eggs, but also a history of Russia proper. From Czar Nicholas II’s coronation in 1894 to his abdication in 1917, the eggs chronicle the czar’s relationships with his mother, his wife, his children, and his country.

Faberge’s workshop, over the course of its lifetime in Moscow, produced 69 beautifully jeweled eggs, but only 50 are considered imperial eggs. These are the pieces ordered by the czar to be given at first from Czar Alexander II to his wife Maria Fedorovna each Easter. Upon Alexander’s death, Nicholas continued the tradition, first giving them just to his mother and then to both his mother and his wife. Each egg presented had special meaning and a special name, starting with the Jeweled Hen Egg (1885) and ending with the sadly unfinished and unpresented Constellation Egg (1917). Faber not only follows the creation and presentation of each egg, but also the saga of their respective ownerships to the present day.

There are times when Faber’s writing gets bogged down with names, places, dates, and politics, but they are few and far between. Luckily, several helpful appendices are added on, including an extended royal family tree, a condensed chronology of the eggs, and a basic Russian term glossary. A few lovely color pictures in the middle of the book highlight the beauty of the eggs, and overall, this was a very pleasant read.

733: The Elgin Affair by Theodore Vrettos


733.309385: Vrettos, Theodore. The Elgin Affair: The True Story of the Greatest Theft in History. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2011. 212 pp. ISBN 1-6114-5315-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts and Recreation
  • 730: Plastic arts and sculpture
  • 733: Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sculpture
  • 733.3: Greek (Hellenic) sculpture
  • +09385: Ancient Attica to 323 CE

From 1801 to 1812, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, acquired some of the greatest sculptures in the Western world. His agents loaded priceless pieces of art onto barges and boats so that he could sell them to the British Museum for safekeeping. By 1812, he had removed 17 statues, 15 metope panels, 247 feet of frieze, and several other pieces of the Parthenon from Greece. Needless to say, this was all highly suspect and entirely illegal. Theodore Vrettos’s The Elgin Affair chronicles the history of the displacement and how the selfishness of a single 19th century official can lead to strained relations two hundred years later.

Read the rest of this entry »

730: The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis by Henderson & Henderson


730.92: Henderson, Harry & Albert Henderson. The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis: A Narrative Biography. Milford, CT: Esquiline Hill Press, 2012. Approx. 550 pp. ISBN 978-1-58863-451-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts
  • 730: Plastic arts and sculpture
  • +92: Biography

Mary Edmonida Lewis was born July 4, 1844 (or so she says) in Greenbush, New York (now Rensselaer). She grew up with many of the adversities befitting her station in life, but eventually went to college and became a world renowned sculptor. Her works were displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition and she was even commissioned to do a bust of President Ulysses S. Grant. All of this would have remarkable had she been solely a woman in 19th century America. But she had one other major hurdle to overcome which speaks to both her perseverence and her skill—she was both Native American and African-American. Written by the father-son team of Harry and Albert Henderson, The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis is the culmination of decades of research on this long-forgotten artist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dewey Double-Dip: DDC 735 & 300

Last weekend I was in New York while my wife attended a conference. Her schedule of talks, poster sessions, and symposia gave me ample time to scurry off to the Manhattan Public Library and see if I couldn’t find a few books to help tick off some sections.

Since I had quite a bit of time, I was able to get two books read. Granted, they aren’t very exciting or one-of-a-kind finds, it was still a thrill to read in a historical building.

Read the rest of this entry »

738: The Arcanum by Janet Gleeson

738.092243214: Gleeson, Janet. The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story. New York: Warner Books, 1998. 301 pp. ISBN 0-446-67484-2.

Dewey Construction:

  • 700: The arts
  • 730: Plastics arts; sculpture
  • 738: Ceramic arts
  • +0922: Collected persons treatment
  • +43: Central Europe
  • +2: Saxony and Thuringia
  • +14: Dresden District

Once trade relations were in earnest between Central Europe and the Far East by the seventeenth century, new and wondrous artifacts made their way to Europe. Figurines, paintings, and other objets d’art were prized by collectors and kings. The most highly sought of those collectibles was Chinese porcelain. Until the early 1700s, no craftsman in Europe could duplicate the both the translucent wonder and alarming hardness of true porcelain. No one, that is, until an alchemist named Johann Frederich Boettger came along.

Read the rest of this entry »

709: The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas

709.044: Nicholas, Lynn H. The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Vintage, 1995. 444 pp. ISBN 0-679-75686-8.

The 700s are the fine arts, everything from architecture to city planning to sculpture to painting to dancing to acting. Most art history books focus just on painting or just on sculpture, so they tend to fall into 759 or the 730s respectively. It’s a big field, and when you write a book on differing facets of art from a historical perspective, you get the distinction of having a work in DDC 709–all the way on top.

Lynn H. Nicholas’ Rape of Europa is as heartbreaking as it is scholarly. When Hitler issued the order to begin conquering Europe in September 1939, it was not to be just a military annihilation but a cultural one as well. His goal was to redefine the Germanic people and its culture by gathering together all the works with a legitimate German heritage in one great nation and destroy or exploit all other works by “degenerate” races. From reading this book, you would think that the whole war was about art. The broad bureaucracy put in place by the SS to acquire and steal works of art from other countries is astounding.

Read the rest of this entry »