400 years ago last January a precious gift from Bishop Bernard Maciejowski of Kraków reached Shah Abbas I of Persia. It was a magnificent picture Bible, apparently intended to warm Abbas’ heart for the Christian faith.The manuscript, now in the Morgan LIbrary, unites contributions from Jewish, Christian and Muslim civilization. As a talisman, it has not yet done its work.
An Australian-Dutch art historian who lives on Malta has produced a classic edition of one of the great cultural monuments of the island. Dane Munro’s book on the tombstone inscriptions of the Hospitaller knights of St. John is a book that transports you into another world – no, two other worlds.
Fleeing the offensive hypocrisy of the Olympics, Schwartz and Loekie travel to Wörlitz in Saxony-Anhalt, to the miraculous 18th-century Garden Kingdom of Prince Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817). There they discover that Wörlitz is touted as the place where the Olympic Games were first revived, in the 1770s. They keep their cool, and are rewarded, when they find the mysterious site, with an unforgettable experience.
A good provenance is not supposed to add to the value of a work of art, but it does. The information that an object was once owned by someone with famous good taste is worth money on the auction block. A collection mainly of Dutch 18th-century drawings that partakes of this quality, coming up at Sotheby’s Amsterdam on 19 May, is the Unicorno Collection, accumulated over the past 50 years by Saam and Lily Nijstad.