Michael Baxandall

Michael Baxandall, Reader in the History of the Classical Tradition at the Warburg Institute, is the author of South German Sculpture 1480-1530 in the Victoria and Albert Museum and of The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany.

Hand and Mind

Michael Baxandall, 17 March 1983

Both these books are art books in the particular sense that the main reason for paying quite large sums for them would be their illustrations. This is not to say their texts are bad. Both are by distinguished Dürer scholars and both offer tidy brief versions of the academic consensus without any eccentricities. Anzelewsky proceeds chronologically: after a first short chapter on Nuremberg he works through Dürer’s career in ten uncontroversial phases, Strieder goes by topic: ‘personality’, writings, ambience, influences, subject-matters, techniques – he was director of the great quincentenary Dürer exhibition in Nuremberg in 1971, and the arrangement reminds one a little of that. Anzelewsky has the more enterprising bibliography. Strieder offers two appendices by other hands, one a short technical analysis of the facture of the Four Apostles in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the other a good explanation of Dürer’s use of systematic linear perspective. Both Anzelewsky and Strieder are quite all right, but neither is comparable – for fullness, denseness and communicated struggle to engage and fathom – with Erwin Panofsky’s Albrecht Dürer of 1943, still the best book.

City Life

Michael Baxandall, 15 July 1982

The first point to make about this book, which is that it is an event, should not muffle the second point, which is that it is enjoyable. But it is an event. Though there are good recent studies of details, this (as Hitchcock himself points out) is the first comprehensive book on the subject in any language since a clutch in the 1920s. What Hitchcock does not say, but someone else can, is that those books of the 1920s are diversely repellent – paper or pictures, baffling allusiveness – and only to be addressed on days of high vitality and bright sun. The one attractive book on German Renaissance architecture as a whole has previously been K.A.O. Fritsch’s Denkmäler Deutscher Renaissance of 1882-91, this for its 300 big, velvety plates of buildings, many now lost or spoilt by over-polishing, as they were a century ago. But that is a largefolio giant in four volumes, only in libraries, and its range is narrower than here.


Peter Campbell, 30 November 1995

Powdering one’s nose is a strategy for controlling the effects of light. The powder changes the reflectivity of the surface of the skin. Oily skin acts as a mirror which bounces light off...

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Grope or Cuddle

Peter Campbell, 12 January 1995

‘Tiepolo,’ Svetlana Alpers and Michael Baxandall write, ‘is not a difficult painter. He is accessible and easy to like.’ Well, up to a point. For example, while I did not...

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Momentary Substances

Nicholas Penny, 21 November 1985

In the middle of his new book Michael Baxandall wonders whether the ‘complex Newtonian-Lockean sense of how we see’, which he has just expertly expounded, provides any...

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Image-Makers and Image-Buyers

Bob Scribner, 17 July 1980

The half-century before 1525 saw the blossoming in south Germany of a remarkable school of limewood sculpture, largely devoted to the retable altarpiece, which is an altarpiece placed behind the...

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