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Scala at Sotheby's NOVEMBER 2016

The launch of Chinese Ivory Carvings: The Sir Victor Sassoon Collection

We were proud to be able to launch our latest stunning publication, Chinese Ivory Carvings: The Sir Victor Sassoon Collectionat Sotheby’s earlier this month as part of Asian Art in London. The event marked the start of a week-long series of auctions, displays and talks all focusing on the various arts of Asia – from ceramics and jades to prints and jewellery.

This lavish hardback is the work of Rose Kerr, former Keeper of the Far Eastern Department at the V&A, Phillip Allen, Secretary of the Sir Victor Sassoon Chinese Ivories Trust, and Shi Ching-fei, Associate Professor at National Taiwan University. Each of them has written a brief introductory essay exploring the history and context of the ivories, looking at the time and place in which they were produced, the markets they were made for and the extraordinary life of Sir Victor Sassoon, who acquired the bulk of the collection between 1915 and 1927. The rest of the book is a catalogue of 350 of the most exquisite examples from the collection, arranged by theme: vessels, implements and adornments, scholars’ items, figures and ivories for export. 

The event was a huge success, with dozens of people queuing to have their books signed by Rose and to share their enthusiasm for the subject. Some of the ivories were on display, and it was a thrill to see them in real life at last. It was an exciting and memorable evening, and a fitting celebration for a book that has been 20 years in the making.  

Ancient Trees of the National Trust SEPTEMBER 2016

Old trees, new publication

Amidst the properties of the National Trust are oak trees that support entire ecosystems, yew trees that were fully grown before the Romans arrived in Britain, and woodland that has remained virtually unchanged since the last ice age. It is possible to stand under the yew tree that witnessed the sealing of Magna Carta and to picnic near the tree that changed scientific history by dropping an apple on the young Isaac Newton.  

Ancient Trees of the National Trust is a love letter to Britain’s venerable trees. The authors are highly commended nature photographers and experts on historic woodland, and this enchanting book explores the historical and cultural associations of ancient trees and their biological importance, as well as their sheer beauty. It encourages us to pause and appreciate these silent witnesses, which have remained constant as the centuries have passed and the world around them has changed. 

Sea Creatures in Glass AUGUST 2016

The Blaschka Marine Animals at Harvard

This week we are celebrating the release of Sea Creatures in Glass: The Blaschka Marine Animals at Harvard; a book as beautiful and unusual as its subject. Published to accompany a new permanent display, breathtaking new photography captures 60 of the Harvard Museum of Contemporary Zoology’s most exquisite glass marine models together in a catalogue for the first time.

Here you’ll find bright corals and anemones, delicate jellyfish and squid, and bizarre soft-bodied sea creatures meticulously recreated in glass – so life-like that Museum staff have been asked how they have managed to preserve their specimens for so long. 

But why

Father and son artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka began creating their extraordinary marine creatures in 1865, which were purchased for display and then for educational purposes. The pair achieved a remarkable level of realism through studying living organisms both in the workshop and in the field, and developing extremely sophisticated techniques that few, if any, other glass artists have achieved.

It was this attention to detail that led universities and museums throughout the world to commission Blaschka invertebrate models as teaching models for students of natural science and marine life. This was a time when the rise of evolutionary theory had sparked new interest in the development of living beings, their behaviour and their environments, and these models represented possibly the easiest and best way to study such a wide array of aquatic species up close. It is easy for us to forget, in this age of wildlife documentaries, underwater photography and public aquariums, just how remote and mysterious ocean life had been for scholars of the time. 

Glass may seem like a strange medium for such a purpose, but when one sees the array of shapes, colours and textures that the Blaschkas created, and how the translucence of the glass captures the fragility and delicacy of the subjects, it is impossible to imagine any other medium attaining such a degree of realism. Undoubtedly also the artistry involved has played a large part in the collection’s enduring popularity – models are often used as visual aids for teaching, but these are unique in their status as works of art as well as scientific objects.

Full of stunning photography, this elegant book will be a must for all those interested in marine biology, the delicate art of glass craftsmanship, the history of science, and the quiet beauty of the natural world.

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