Book Library Blog

New Temporary Display at the V&A: Research on Paintings: Technical Art History & Connoisseurship

Wednesday, 13 March, 2013 by Eleanor Keane

17 December 2012 – 22 September 2013

The Embarkation of St Helena to the Holy Land. Tintoretto

The Embarkation of St Helena to the Holy Land; Oil painting, Tintoretto Tintoretto (1519-1594) Venice Ca. 1555 (c)Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The following exhibition may be of interest to Courtauld students, especially those in the Conservation and Technology Department. The V&A is holding a temporary display looking at recent research on some of the Museum’s European paintings- in particular 11 Italian, French and Netherlandish paintings created between the early 15th and early 19th centuries- including work by Tintoretto. During a recent research programme that lasted 2 years, 200 of the museum’s paintings, were, as they say on their site, re-attributed or re-identified.

The culmination of this research is this display, which goes into detail on the methods and techniques used by researchers to examine the oil paintings, connoisseurship (i.e. close examination,) ‘documentary research and technical analysis.’ The 11 paintings featured act as case studies to provide a ‘step-by-step’ introduction to technical art history and conservation. Interestingly, the paintings will also be displayed with X-radiographs and infra-red photographs. This display is free and open to all. It is held in the Julie and Robert Breckman Prints & Drawings Gallery, Room 90. Please see for more information.

Other useful links

V&A Conservation Journal Online

(The most recent issue can be found here:

Preserving intangible integrity

The conservation and technical examination of Bernadino Fungai’s Virgin and Child with Two Saints

Oil Painting: Materials and Techniques

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New Art History Resources Online

Monday, 25 February, 2013 by Nick Brown

Several resources of art historical interest have recently become available online, with a special relevance to those studying British art history.

The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition catalogues from 1870 to 1939 have been digitised and are now available on the Royal Academy of Arts Collections website. When the Royal Academy moved from Somerset House (the same premises now occupied by the Courtauld Institute of Art) to its current home in Burlington House it initiated the series of winter loan exhibitions to complement the already well-established summer exhibition. It was these winter exhibitions that would eventually grow into the current blockbuster exhibition programme.

The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition Catalogues website

Browsing this online resource allows you to see the evolution of the catalogues from simple lists of works to fully illustrated publications with scholarly introductory essays as well as sometimes fascinatingly of-their-era advertisements.  The interface is intuitive and you can search the full text of each catalogue, cross-search all the catalogues at once or consult the cumulative indices. The Courtauld Book Library also has a large number of the original exhibition catalogues in hard copy.

The cover of the 1919-20 winter exhibition catalogue


The Walpole Society have recently published their guide to British Art History Resources. The guide spans both well know resources, such as the Burlington Magazine online index, and the more obscure, such as a blog about British picture frames. While not comprehensive, the guide is a useful starting point which gives a clear and well-structured overview of a range of important sites for individual artists, thematic research, collections, sales catalogues or aids for finding primary materials, such as archives of art historical interest. The guide includes only resources that are freely available on the internet so does not cover some of the Courtauld’s relevant subscription resources, such as the Bibliography of British and Irish History or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Understanding British Portraits website


One of the resources highlighted by the guide is the newly launched Understanding British Portraits website, the product of a research network of professionals working in the field. Among the most useful sections are a selection of toolkits giving guidance on interpretation and how to research portraits as well as providing guidance for museum professionals on developing learning and participation programmes. Other features include a blog, events news, and research funding opportunities as well as an enquiry service where users can upload an image and receive expert advice as to attribution, sitter identity and provenance. The ability to browse through previous enquiries as well as the inclusion of links to case studies and research papers make this a valuable addition for researchers at all levels.

These and other freely available resources that may be of interest to Courtauld staff and students are listed on our useful links page. If you’d like to make a suggestion please send it to serials (at) Courtauld (dot) ac (dot) uk.

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Good news for Raphael lovers…

Tuesday, 22 January, 2013 by Erica Foden-Lenahan


Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838, plate 1

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838, plate 1

The cataloguing of the John Shearman library is proceeding apace and a jewel of the library is his Raphael collection. The Raphael books number just over 250 volumes and are, except for the occasional stray volume, fully catalogued. The collection encompasses second copies of many of the books we already have but, more importantly, there are a lot of titles for which I was unable to find other copies in the UK and, in very rare cases, was not able to find other copies anywhere.


There are multiple editions in English, French, Italian and German of staple 19th-century Raphael biographies by Quatremère de Quincy, Passavant, Müntz, and Crowe & Cavalcaselle. There are early copies of Carl Ruland’s catalogue of Raphael works in the Royal Collection, as well as an 18th-century catalogue of engravings after the Raphael cartoons also in the Royal Collection.


Bellori’s 1695 Descrizzione delle imagini dipinte da Rafaelle d’Urbino nelle camere del Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano has an interesting provenance, having been part of the libraries of two reknowned 19th-century bibliophiles, Gustavo Galletti and Baron Horace de Landau at Villa-Landau-Finaly, both in Florence.

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838 title page

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838 title page

And the Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, published in 1838 in Rome, bears the evidence of provenance by at least 4 art historians – A.E. Popham, Jim Byam Shaw, John Gere and, of course, John Shearman. What a pedigree!

Shearman Raffaello Sanzio 1838 provenance markings

Shearman Raffaello Sanzio 1838 provenance markings

About 20% of the Raphael books were published before 1900, including my favourite paper binding, on the Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829, which complement our later editions and reprints. We are able to see how the views of scholars have changed and how earlier scholars’ own works have been reinterpreted in the 20th-century, gaining a fuller picture of Raphael scholarship almost right up to the present.


Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829 binding

Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829 binding

Where a Shearman book is a duplicate of reference books we have on the open shelves, we are making the open shelves copies available for loan, so some important texts can be taken home now, but we still have a reference copy in the Special Collections.

This collection is already being used, judging from the number of slips for books waiting to be reshelved and we hope it complements all our material on the artist and for the broader study of Renaissance art. If you are interested in viewing the records for the John Shearman’s Raphael collection on the library catalogue, you need to select the multi-field search option and use the drop-down menus to isolate search words such as Collection code – SPECL and Former owner, provenance – Shearman, and combine them with Raphael in the Any words field (see search below). Once you know the books you would like to see, you can complete request forms at the issue desk.

Searching the catalogue

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections Librarian
Shearman Project cataloguer

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Benezit Dictionary of Artists Online

Wednesday, 2 January, 2013 by Nick Brown

We are pleased to announce our subscription to the online version of the Benezit Dictionary of Artists.

Benezit Dictionary of Artists


Benezit comprises approximately 170,000 artist entries. In addition to biographical information, many records also includes signatures, auction records, holding institutions and exhibition history. While Benezit aspires to universal coverage, it is especially strong on 19th and 20th century artists.

Only available in English since 2006, it is newly available online. Since its original publication in 1911 Emmanuel Bénézit’s Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs has been continuously updated and now includes biographies of artists working in all media. It is also noteworthy for its coverage of East Asian Art. As well as offsite access, advantages of the online edition include the availability of advanced search options, such as searching by gender, museum holdings or image searches for signatures and stamps of sale.

Claude Monet's signature

A sample signature from Benezit. Used with permission.

The site also includes thematic guides to subjects such as British Visual Satire, however these are much less numerous than the biographical articles.

Benezit complements our existing subscription to Grove Art Online (formerly the Grove / Macmillan Dictionary of Art). As Benezit is part of Oxford Art Online it is possible to cross-search it concurrently with Grove.

Please note that both French and English language print editions are also available in our reference section at Z40 BEN along with other major reference works such as The Dictionary of Art (ed. Jane Turner, Z31 TUR) and Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (Z40 ALL).


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Happy Holidays

Friday, 14 December, 2012 by Book Library Team

The staff of the Courtauld Book Library wish you happy holidays.

Christmas Opening Hours
Thursday 13th December 2012 to Friday the 4th of January 2013

Monday – Friday 10.30am – 5.30pm

We are closed from Tuesday 25th of December 2012 to Tuesday the 1st of January 2013 inclusive.

We resume term time opening hours on January the 7th of December.


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New Book Display

Wednesday, 7 November, 2012 by Eleanor Keane

Over the summer there has been a wealth of new and exciting exhibitions in and around London and internationally, and this is reflected in the recent acquisitions on show in our New Book Display. There is a variety of material on view, ranging from bold psychedelic art in the Sixties (Electrical Banana), a comprehensive collection of talks by well-known art historians, artists, curators and critics (The Secession Talks: Exhibitions in Conversation 1998 – 2010) with brilliant orange-red edged pages,to works on Warhol and Picasso.  Some of the highlights include:

Catalogue cover of Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

Catalogue cover of Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

The catalogue for the Courtauld Gallery’s current exhibition, Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision is on the UK Exhibitions stand. This exhibition is an opportunity to see some of the most rare and enigmatic paintings of 17th century England, and will be on until the 13th of January. It looks at the early work of Peter Lely, (1618-1680) the celebrated portraitist. Lely was Charles II’s Principal Painter, but this exhibition looks instead at Lely’s early work- allegorical paintings of lush idyllic landscapes, shepherds, nymphs and musicians, painted after the turmoil of the Civil War. These works illustrate Lely’s initial ambition to become a painter of narrative scenes, yet they proved unpopular with his patrons, and he produced only thirty. The book jacket shows Lely’s The Concert, arguably one of Lely’s most personal and intriguing works, as the musician seated in the centre of the composition could well be Lely himself. Lely was influenced by artists such as Titian, and by the time of his death had a rich collection of Italian 16th and 17th drawings. A catalogue pertaining to this collection, dating from 1758, is available in our CABS (Closed Access Book Store) section.

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

The current exhibition at Tate Britain, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, brings to the fore some of the best-known and most iconic work of the Pre-Raphaelites, a self-styled ‘brotherhood’ of painters- led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt-whose work revolutionized fine art with their heady use of symbolism, colour, and controversial subject matter such as poverty and prostitution. The book delves into the history and impact of the Pre-Raphaelites, from their work’s poor initial reception-  after viewing Millais’s Christ in the House of His Parents, (1849-50)Charles Dickens dismissed the figure of Mary as ‘horrible in her ugliness’-to their present-day status as arguably  highly influential artists.

Illustrated throughout with some of their most well-known works- such as John Everett Milliais’ Ophelia- the exhibition cataloguefocuses on the Pre-Raphaelites’ revolutionary techniques and ideas, their role in the Arts and Crafts movement, and their impact on society and art. It also includes essays by Diane Waggoner (author of The Pre-Raphaelite Lens, 2010, Z5020 WAS NAT) and Elizabeth Prettejohn (author of Art of the Pre-Raphaelites, 2000, D467 PRE.) We have a wide range of other material on both the Pre-Raphaelites and Peter Lely in our collections.

There are also new exhibition catalogues for exhibitions based in Liverpool, work on Hong Kong artists, Korean art and other interesting current exhibitions, so please take a look the next time you’re in the Book Library.

Useful links:

About the exhibition: Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

The Courtauld Gallery Blog (which includes additional information on The Concert and on curating the exhibition)

About the Tate Britain’s exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

Blog for Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (which includes an interesting ‘drawing/painting of the week’ feature)

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Preraphaelites Online Resource

The world’s largest Preraphaelite online collection: the extensive digital collection of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (over 3000 images) has been digitised, allowing users detailed access to their images and full record information.

-Eleanor Keane, Graduate Trainee Assistant.

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Welcome to the new Courtauld Book Library Blog

Wednesday, 22 August, 2012 by Book Library Team

Welcome to the new home of The Courtauld Book Library Blog. We have been busy over the summer moving books in the main collection and in CABS, binding journals and having a general spring (summer) clean. We are getting ready to welcome the new Graduate Trainees when we reopen and you will see them around the library from the 3rd September. All of our previous blog posts are still available to you within the WordPress blog and you will see new posts over the coming months. Find contact details for each department and member of staff in the Contact us page and put a face to the name in our Meet the Staff page. We hope you are looking forward to the new academic year and look forward to seeing you at the beginning of term.

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Special Collections Projects Underway

Wednesday, 4 April, 2012 by Hannah Thomas

2012 is proving to be a big year for the Special Collections at the Courtauld Book Library. We now have two dedicated Special Collections Librarians – Erica Foden-Lenahan (Tues & Sat) and Hannah Thomas (Weds-Fri) – who will be working hard on a couple of big projects as well as being your day to day contact for all things Special Collections.

Erica, who has been at the Book Library for three years now, is working on The Shearman Collection. In 2004, the Book Library received the collection of the late Professor John Shearman, an eminent academic and former Deputy Director of The Courtauld. A leading scholar of Italian Renaissance and a Raphael expert, his library contains about 4000 items, including many off-prints, covering Renaissance and Baroque art.

Hannah, who started here in October 2011 and has experience working for the British Library and the National Trust, will be concentrating on The Seilern Collection. Received in 1978, the collection consists of Count Antoine Seilern’s extensive Rubens holdings; catalogues of private collections and sales; works on Tiepolo, Lorrain and Poussin; and extensive material on Dutch art of the Renaissance. There is a lot of material – well over 4000 volumes – some of which was added to the library’s computer system as part of a previous cataloguing project.

Thanks to generous funding from the Foyle Foundation, Erica and Hannah will be making these fascinating collections accessible to the Courtauld community and researchers all over the world.

The collections will be catalogued and united with the already rich and unique Special Collections of the Courtauld Book Library, including the libraries of Antony Blunt and Johannes Wilde. Ultimately this will create an unrivalled Renaissance and Baroque study collection available for students, scholars and visitors for generations to come. It also tells the story of the development of art history as an academic discipline in the UK and the network of art historians, as well as highlighting the contributions made by European émigrés to the subject. These libraries also often yield more personal insights like the note from one of John Shearman’s daughters found as a bookmark.

Erica and Hannah hope to keep us all updated on their progress via the Book Library blog but in the meantime if you have any questions about any aspects of our Special Collections then please contact them at


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Provenance help with a bookplate

Friday, 6 January, 2012 by Erica Foden-Lenahan

Descrizzione delle imagini dipinte da Rafaelle d’Urbino nelle camere del Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano, a work by Giovanni Pietro Bellori.

We are fortunate to have two copies of this work and the copy that was part of the John Shearman bequest bears the bookplate to the left and we would like to make reference to it in the catalogue record.

This volume was once owned by the bibliophile Gustavo Camillo Galletti and bears its stamp on the title page.

Can anyone recognize the bookplate and identify whether it is another provenance marking for the Biblioteca Galletti, or if it is one used by another library or collector? Any help would be appreciated.

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections



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Book cleaning CABS book of the month – November

Saturday, 26 November, 2011 by Book Library Team

As a conservator you know why it is important to clean books, but sometimes it feels like you are not making any appreciable difference. Until you take a photograph half way through a cleaning job and you see the value of a whole day with a smoke sponge …

This is a book from CABS – Nouveau traité de toute l’architecture : ou l’art de bastir ; utile aux entrepreneurs et aux ouvriers, by Jean-Louis de Cordemoy, 1714 – that is being prepared to have its back board re-attached.

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections

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