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History in Review

Music in Art

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Music in Art
By Alberto Ausoni. Translated by Stephen Sartarelli. Guide to Imagery series. (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum: 2009. Pg. 384. 400 Color Illustrations.) ISBN: 978-0-89236-965-2

Reviewed by Herbert White - November 2, 2009

Music in Art is the latest edition to the J. Paul Getty Museum's outstanding Guide to Imagery series. As the book's introduction states, "This Guide to Imagery seeks to illustrate through a range of pictures relating in a variety of ways to the musical world, the links that have always existed between the art of music and the history of civilization." Concentrating primarily on Western art, this guide strives to explore music in art through a detailed and informative study of the symbols and allegories found in paintings and relating them to mythology and history of the world. This work also looks at how paintings have aided musical scholarship by not only illustrating various musical instruments, but also by showing how they were used in performances throughout time.

This handy guide is divided into five sections, dealing with symbols and allegories and the role of music in language, the relationship of music with mythology, the role that music played in illustrating religious themes, musical performances, and lastly, the depiction of musical instruments. In addition, this guidebook is enhanced by the inclusion of 400 color plates depicting various forms of artwork in which music plays a key role. While the bulk of these illustrations depict paintings, a few examples of engravings, sculptures, and drawings are also included. This handy guidebook measures only 5 1/4" X 7 3/4" making it a perfect size for carrying along with you when visiting a museum to view these works in person.

The information provided in this guidebook is presented in short 'mini-chapters' that are devoted to a single theme, such as the Fall of Jericho, the god Pan, the harpsichord, marital harmony, or court music. Within each chapter you will find an assortment of illustrations depicting paintings related to the theme, along with a point-by-point analysis of each painting, as well as a descriptive narrative section that discusses the topic in question. The paintings depicted in this guidebook are drawn from both ancient and contemporary sources, and highlight artists ranging from Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall to Giovanni Cariani and Thomas Gainsborough.

This information will not only provide you with a wealth of information about the role that music has, and continues to play in art, but will also make you a more informed museum patron and art afficionado. This handy guidebook is a 'must have' for anyone interested in art history, musicology, or in simply becoming a more informed patron of the arts.

Other books in this series include:
Related Reviews:

Nature and Its Symbols, by Lucia Impelluso.
The fifth book in the Guide to Imagery series, this book looks at the symbolism of various plants and animals found in Medieval and Renaissance paintings and tapestries.

Saints in Art, By Rosa Giorgi.
A handy reference guide to the over 100 Saints commonly depicted in Western religous artwork.

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