The History of an Idea
Publication Year: 2008
The notion of retrieving a bit of the past-by owning a material piece of it-has always appealed to humans. Often our most prized possessions are those that have had a long history before they came into our hands. Part of the pleasure we gain from the encounter with antiques stems from the palpable age and the assumed (sometimes imaginary) cultural resonances of the particular object. But precisely what is it about these objects that creates this attraction? What common characteristics do they share and why and how do these traits affect us as they do?
In Antiques: The History of an Idea, Leon Rosenstein, a distinguished philosopher who has also been an antiques dealer for more than twenty years, offers a sweeping and lively account of the origin and development of the antique as both a cultural concept and an aesthetic category. He shows that the appeal of antiques is multifaceted: it concerns their value as commodities, their age and historical and cultural associations, their uniqueness, their sensuous and tactile values, their beauty. Exploring how the idea of antiques evolved over time, Rosenstein chronicles the history of antique collecting and connoisseurship. He describes changing conceptions of the past in different epochs as evidenced by preservations, restorations, and renascences; examines shifting attitudes toward foreign cultures as revealed in stylistic borrowings and the importation of artifacts; and investigates varying understandings of and meanings assigned to their traits and functions as historical objects.
While relying on the past for his evidence, Rosenstein approaches antiques from an entirely original perspective, setting history within a philosophical framework. He begins by providing a working definition of antiques that distinguishes them from other artifacts in general and, more distinctly, both from works of fine art and from the collectible detritus of popular culture. He then establishes a novel set of criteria for determining when an artifact is an antique: ten traits that an object must possess in order to elicit the aesthetic response that is unique to antiques. Concluding with a provocative discussion of the relation between antiques and civilization, this engaging and thought-provoking book helps explain the enduring appeal of owning a piece of the past.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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This book represents in many respects a culmination of more thanforty-five years’ involvement with my subject. That is the periodbetween my very first encounter with the philosophy of art (in acourse called “History of Aesthetics” during my freshman year at Co-lumbia University in 1961) and the present time. The book stems moredirectly from an article I published in the Journal of Aesthetics and ArtCriticism several years ago entitled “The Aesthetic of the Antique.” My...
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At minimum, an antique is something that has endured over time:it carries some of the past into our present and has a story to tell.In fact, an antique usually has many stories to tell. Before sayinganything definitive about antiques, let’s begin by looking at one antique’sconnoisseur publications, The Magazine Antiques (U.S.) and The An-tique Collector (British), we find a display advertisement announcing theupcoming November sale in New York by Sotheby’s auctioneers of “Im-...
twoAn Archeology of Antiques
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Oh, my poor friend, I must leave all this! Farewell dear paintingsI know not how it is, but I never sent a gentleman in public capacityThe idea of antiques and the development of the ability to regardthem as objects of a unique aesthetic appreciation are bound upwith the history of connoisseurship and development of a “taste”for them. The idea of antiques is also bound up with the history of theidea of art in general, with the advent of historical consciousness, and...
threeThe Ten Criteria of Antiques
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As promised in chapter 1, I now propose ten (3 × 3 + 1) criteria forthe connoisseurship and collecting of antiques. They have simplybeen extracted from the archeology of chapter 2 and are in-tended to amplify the definition of the antique given in chapter 1. Unlikeour account there, which was concerned with meaning and interpreta-tion, here we will emphasize and focus on pragmatics, on evaluativejudgments and appraisals of antiques, making use of many concrete ex-...
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It has often been asked: Where are the goods of the civilizations thatexisted among them? ...It is civilization that through human laborthem ...passed on by inheritance or transferred through trade orwar so that they moved from one to another, and from one dynastyto another, in accordance with the purposes they were to serve and...
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2008