Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars

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Overview

WIth full-color illustrations throughout

From the best-selling author of Sexual Personae and Break, Blow, Burn and one of our most acclaimed cultural critics, here is an enthralling journey through Western art’s defining moments, from the ancient Egyptian tomb of Queen Nefertari to George Lucas’s volcano planet duel in Revenge of the Sith.

America’s premier intellectual provocateur returns to the subject that...

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Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars

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Overview

WIth full-color illustrations throughout

From the best-selling author of Sexual Personae and Break, Blow, Burn and one of our most acclaimed cultural critics, here is an enthralling journey through Western art’s defining moments, from the ancient Egyptian tomb of Queen Nefertari to George Lucas’s volcano planet duel in Revenge of the Sith.

America’s premier intellectual provocateur returns to the subject that brought her fame, the great themes of Western art. Passionately argued, brilliantly written, and filled with Paglia’s trademark audacity, Glittering Images takes us on a tour through more than two dozen seminal images, some famous and some obscure or unknown—paintings, sculptures, architectural styles, performance pieces, and digital art that have defined and transformed our visual world. She combines close analysis with background information that situates each artist and image within its historical context—from the stone idols of the Cyclades to an elegant French rococo interior to Jackson Pollock’s abstract Green Silver to Renée Cox’s daring performance piece Chillin’ with Liberty. And in a stunning conclusion, she declares that the avant-garde tradition is dead and that digital pioneer George Lucas is the world’s greatest living artist. Written with energy, erudition, and wit, Glittering Images is destined to change the way we think about our high-tech visual environment.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Camille Paglia has long since outlived the infant terrible image unleashed by her 1974 Sexual Personae, but she continues to surprise and excite with her insights about art and culture. Glittering Images, her first book in seven years, assays a survey of Western art, but it approaches that tired old subject with winning rapture and lucidity. Her stroke is broad; the book begins with the paintings of Queen Nefertiti and sets down with a probing discussion of George Lucas' Revenge of the Sith. As always, Paglia defies majority opinions as she discusses representative pieces from historical periods and art styles. Eye-opening cultural and aesthetic critiques.

Publishers Weekly
We are living in an age of visual “vertigo” and “must relearn how to see,” argues academic and critic Paglia (Sexual Personae) in this highly reflective and imaginative history of images in Western art. Paglia begins with the Luxor paintings of Queen Nefertiti’s journey to the afterlife and ends with Revenge of the Sith by filmmaker George Lucas, who she argues is the greatest contemporary master of synthesizing art and technology. Intentionally organized as a devotional where the reader observes and contemplates one image at a time, Paglia traces the major periods of Western art image by image, so that each brief chapter could be a stand-alone essay. While some of Paglia’s choices are somewhat predictable (Bernini’s Chair of Saint Peter as an example of the baroque; David’s Death of Marat for neo-classicism; Jackson Pollock’s Green Silver as an example of abstract expressionism) her image choices for romanticism (The Sea of Ice by Caspar David Friedrich) and surrealism (The Portrait by René Magritte) are less so. Paglia writes with energetic lucidity, and her entries on the Laocoön and Donatello’s Mary Magdalene are standouts in this absorbing volume. Both a valuable cultural critique and an elucidating history, Paglia’s latest would suit the general reader, as well as those looking for an alternative approach to contemporary ways of seeing. Illus. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“Daring…. Beautifully written and rich in details…. A unique mixture of political candor, professional critique, gossipy details, and the author’s trademark inflammatory ideas…. Supports her assertion that the definition of art is already changed. It begs the question, ‘Has anyone else in the art world noticed?’…. Extols the value and enduring legacy of Star Wars as it stands at the forefront of a new definition—a new era—in fine art.” —iFanGirlBlog

“[Paglia is] an art-for-art's-sake worshiper of art and literature whose close readings, influenced by Walter Pater and Sigmund Freud, are pyrotechnic and passionate.... Particularly pleasing are Paglia's sketches on Donatello's still-shocking 15th century sculpture of Mary Magdalene as a starved ascetic, and on Titian's voluptuously sensual ‘Venus With a Mirror’ (c. 1555), two nearly diametrically opposed works that Paglia makes speak to each other by noting curiously androgynous elements in both figures…. The relentlessly austere Caspar David Friedrich's ‘The Sea of Ice’ (1823-24)...is juxtaposed in surprising fashion by the following image, Manet's 1879 ‘At the Cafe,’ a subtle study of ordinary Paris street life. The paintings, as well as the artists and their eras, thereby achieve a collage-like mutual illumination.”
San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Paglia's scintillating prose, acute analysis and perceptive assessments of five millennia of art history make her tour a joy to take, to argue about and to learn from…. A perceptive and enthusiastic guide on this journey to see and experience fully works of art from ancient Egypt to today.”
—Shelf Awareness
 
“It is her prose, jargon-free, muscular, and fearlessly opinionated, that ought to grab readers of any age. Once pulled into the Grand Foyer for her tour through the centuries, the reader is in complete thrall to the masterpieces on view. Paglia opens with an essay about the murals of Nefertari's tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Queens, and right out of the gate—make that grave—her interdisciplinary command of history, archaeology, and even cinema is evident…. [Paglia has] an honesty and enthusiasm that, when wedded to a profound intellect, one can't put a price on.”
The Barnes & Noble Review

“The book's subtitle—‘A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars’—highlights Ms. Paglia's impressive range and famously eclectic tastes. . . . Ms. Paglia chooses well, from works both celebrated and obscure. She is especially good at the difficult trick of providing context for the newcomer to art history without being tedious for a more experienced reader. She is no dreary docent. . . . She is also adept at helping readers to see the radical original impulse in now familiar art forms.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A magisterial, poetically composed, and masterly study of 29 great works of Western art. . . . Paglia writes rhapsodically of art's power . . . [she is] one of the most erudite public intellectuals in America.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The ever-provocative Paglia returns with a survey of Western art, captured in 24 essays that move from Egyptian tombs to Titian’s Venus with a Mirror to Eleanor Antin’s conceptual art project 100 Boots. The provocative part? In the end, she proclaims that the avant-garde is dead and that George Lucas is our greatest living artist. This will get the smart folks talking.”
—Library Journal

“[A] highly reflective and imaginative history of images in Western art. . . . Paglia writes with energetic lucidity, and her entries on the Laocoön and Donatello’s Mary Magdalene are standouts in this absorbing volume. Both a valuable cultural critique and an elucidating history, Paglia’s latest would suit the general reader, as well as those looking for an alternative approach to contemporary ways of seeing.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“Critic/provocateur Paglia applies to the visual arts the same close scrutiny she lavished on poetry in Break, Blow, Burn (2005). . . . An intelligently detailed examination of 29 works of art, ranging from a tomb painting of Egyptian Queen Nefertari to George Lucas’ film Revenge of the Sith. . . . The author cogently locates individual pieces within a cultural continuum and eloquently spotlights the artistic qualities that make them unique. . . . Paglia gives a vivid sense of the sweep and scope of art history. The author loves pop art (Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych), but sections on Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots and Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field display a surprising fondness for conceptualism and minimalism as well. African-American artists get their due in essays on John Wesley Hardrick’s sensitive portrait, Xenia Goodloe, and Renee Cox’s witty Chillin’ with Liberty. . . . Paglia is a wonderful popularizer of art history and art appreciation.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“Paglia, an ardent and often controversial defender of the arts and creative freedom, argued for the value of poetry in Break, Blow, Burn (2005). She now presents an equally commanding case for reclaiming the visual arts as a necessary and nurturing cultural force in a time of alarmingly diminished support for arts education. Given our ‘screen’ habit, we are awash in a ‘sea of images,’ mostly commercial in origin, that threatens to drown our ability to focus and think critically. The best way to regain our visual acuity, Paglia believes, is to focus on paintings, sculpture, and the decorative arts within art’s rich continuum. So this interdisciplinary firebrand and die-hard populist showcases 29 outstanding works, each representative of a certain style or period, beginning with a tomb painting of Queen Nefertari and working up to Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Paglia’s succinct, lively, and illuminating essays combine aesthetics and social considerations ad she recalibrates our perception of, say, Renaissance artist Donatello’s ‘harsh and imposing’ depiction of Mary Magdalene, or Jamaican performance artist Renee Cox’s Chillin’ with Liberty. The book’s climax is Paglia’s bound-to-be-inflammatory assertion that filmmaker George Lucas is ‘the world’s greatest artist.’ Paglia’s bold and rigorous, handsomely illustrated and welcoming art iconography will accomplish her mission to provoke, enlighten, and inspire..”
Booklist, starred review

Kirkus Reviews
Critic/provocateur Paglia applies to the visual arts the same close scrutiny she lavished on poetry in Break, Blow, Burn (2005). Readers who have found the author grating in the past are advised to skip the introduction, which contains her usual rants against "the Marxist approaches that now permeate academe." Beyond this predictable prelude, however, lies an intelligently detailed examination of 29 works of art, ranging from a tomb painting of Egyptian Queen Nefertari to George Lucas' film Revenge of the Sith. (Yes, Paglia had to include one item to assert her hip openness to pop culture, but it's a minor irritant.) The author cogently locates individual pieces within a cultural continuum and eloquently spotlights the artistic qualities that make them unique. Each essay includes a full-page photo of the work in question. Paglia is especially good on classical art. The bronze sculpture The Charioteer of Delphi, for example, is nicely described as embodying "the Greek principle…which saw virtue and physical beauty as inseparably intertwined." Paglia's discussions of a medieval mosaic of St. John Chrysostom and the illuminated Book of Kells show her equally receptive to Catholic art, and an exegesis of Titian's Venus with a Mirror lovingly evokes the glories of Renaissance painting. Moving through romanticism, impressionism, surrealism and abstract expressionism--to name only a few highlights--Paglia gives a vivid sense of the sweep and scope of art history. The author loves pop art (Warhol's Marilyn Diptych), but sections on Eleanor Antin's 100 Boots and Walter De Maria's Lightning Field display a surprising fondness for conceptualism and minimalism as well. African-American artists get their due in essays on John Wesley Hardrick's sensitive portrait, Xenia Goodloe, and Renee Cox's witty Chillin' with Liberty. When she gets off her soapbox, Paglia is a wonderful popularizer of art history and art appreciation.
Library Journal
The ever-provocative Paglia returns with a survey of Western art, captured in 24 essays that move from Egyptian tombs to Eleanor Antin's conceptual art project 100 Boots. In the end, she proclaims that the avant-garde is dead and that George Lucas is our greatest living artist. This will get the smart folks talking.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375424601
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/16/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 425,354
  • Product dimensions: 7.14 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Camille Paglia is University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She is the author of Break, Blow, Burn; Sexual Personae; Sex, Art, and American Culture; and Vamps & Tramps. She has also written The Birds, a study of Alfred Hitchcock.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1
Resurrection
Queen Nefertari

Ghosts carved out of time. Egyptian art is a vast ruin of messages from the dead. Clean and simple in form, Egyptian painted figures float in an abstract space that is neither here nor there. The background is coolly blank. Everything is flattened into the foreground, an eternal present where serenely smiling pharaohs offer incense and spools of flax to the gods or drive their chariot wheels over fallen foes. Hieroglyphics hang in midair, clusters of sharp pictograms of a rope, reed, bun, viper, owl, human leg, or mystic eye.

Resurrection was the master value of a civilization that dreamed of conquering the terrors of death. At the heart of Egyptian religion was a corpse—the mummy of the great god Osiris, swaddled in linen strips. Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his evil brother, Set, who scattered his fourteen body parts throughout Egypt. Isis, Osiris’s sister and devoted wife, collected and reassembled them—except for the missing penis, which she fabricated in wood or clay. As Osiris’s embalmer and enhancer, therefore, Isis acted as a resourceful proto-artist, assembling materials and molding a work of mummiform sculpture that would be reproduced in Egyptian art and cult for three thousand years.

Passage to the afterlife meant a descent to the underworld. Souls hoping for rebirth invoked Osiris and literally became him. Despite its preoccupation with death, Egyptian art is rarely claustrophobic. The beyond was no spectral twilight but a lively zone of physical needs and pleasures. Warehousing stools, chairs, tables, chests, clothing, perfumes, ointments, jewelry, games, daggers, boomerangs, chariots, and jars of extracted viscera, the tomb was a distillation of real life. The urbane aristocrats promenading across the walls are wide-eyed and cheerful as they face the great unknown. Their majestically enthroned guardian gods often seem faintly comic, with the large heads of birds, beetles, or hippopotamuses, vestiges of primitive animism.

Resurrection also symbolizes our modern recovery of Egypt. For a millennium after the fall of Rome, Egypt was wrapped in a haze of occult legend. After Islam’s arrival, it became a closed world whose pagan remains were ignored and neglected. Napoleon’s 1798 invasion helped start Egyptology: a French officer’s discovery of the Rosetta Stone led to the decipherment of hieroglyphics, while the immense, multivolumed report by Napoleon’s team of surveyors and scientists set off a craze for Egyptian style that swept European architecture and decor and would even produce America’s Washington Monument. Over the next century, thanks to photography, knowledge of Egypt was gradually spread throughout the world. The ancient Egyptians have finally achieved their immortality.

From earliest times through the Middle Kingdom, the rulers of Egypt were buried in sprawling necropolises at the desert’s edge near the Delta, as the Nile fans out -toward the sea. The principal sacred districts were at Saqqara and Giza, where the Great Sphinx, hacked out of bedrock, still guards Chephren’s mammoth pyramid. After a devastating Syrian invasion, the capital of Egypt was moved four hundred miles south to Thebes. There the upstart warrior pharaohs of the New Kingdom created their own cemetery facing toward the setting sun across the Nile—the Valley of the Kings, scarcely more than a dry gulch behind the high, horned escarpment of the Libyan Plateau. Pyramids or telltale markers of any kind were prudently avoided. The coffins were buried deep in the rock and the entryways heaped with rubble. Nevertheless, most tombs in the Valley of the Kings were looted within two centuries. One that escaped detection belonged to a minor king, Tutankhamen, who died young. When his tomb was found and opened in 1922, the staggering treasures, such as his solid-gold mummy case, gave tantalizing hints of what the grave goods of a star pharaoh must have been.

Royal wives and children were buried in the nearby Valley of the Queens, where eighty tombs (called “Houses of Eternity”) have been found. The most lavish one belonged to Nefertari, first and favorite wife of the imperialistic Rameses II, who sired at least forty-five sons from eight wives and who ruled for more than sixty years during the thirteenth century B.C.. Nefertari’s unusual status was signaled by her figure being made the same size as the king’s at her shrine at Abu Simbel, where four seated colossi of Rameses were cut from a Nubian cliff on the Nile. Nefertari (her name means “the Most Beautiful of Them All”) was of noble but not royal blood. She may have been a cousin or even a younger sister of Nefertiti, charismatic queen of the rebel monotheist ruler Akhenaten. Nefertari bore Rameses’s firstborn son, who died tragically young, perhaps inspiring the story in Exodus of God’s curse upon Pharaoh. (In Cecil B. DeMille’s epic movie The Ten Commandments, Anne Baxter plays a seductive Nefretiri to Yul Brynner’s arrogant Rameses.) Nefertari had at least five more children, but the robust Rameses (whose -well--preserved mummy survives in the Cairo Museum) outlived them all. Hence his successor, Merneptah, was the son of a lesser, rival queen.

Nefertari’s tomb was discovered in 1904 by Ernesto Schiaparelli, an Italian scholar and museum director. Sunk forty feet into the bedrock, it has a twofold axis aligned to the compass points and consists of two large ceremonial chambers, annexed by side chapels and niches and connected by a staircase. All that remains of the queen’s pink granite sarcophagus is a smashed lid. The tomb’s ceilings were painted midnight blue and spangled with gold stars to represent the heavens, while the walls and square columns were adorned with religious scenes and symbols. The raw limestone surfaces were first coated with a rough plaster of Nile mud, which was sculpted in low relief. A thin layer of fine plaster was then applied, upon which the designs were painted in tempera—always mineral pigments mixed with an unknown binder, perhaps a gum from the acacia trees of Thebes. A sparkling egg glaze was used as a sealant. Nefertari’s tomb would suffer damage from an earthquake and serious deterioration from rock-salt crystals slowly deposited behind the plaster by seeping rainwater. Thanks to a major rescue project by the Getty Conservation Institute in collaboration with the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (1986–92), the tomb has been repaired, stabilized, and reopened to the public. The conservators’ meticulous cleaning and consolidation (with no new paint whatever) have revealed the murals’ still brilliant color.

The paintings are a narrative of Nefertari’s journey toward the afterlife. She is presented as a pilgrim soul seeking justification and resurrection. There are oddly few references in the tomb to her husband and none to her children or life story. Everything is focused on Nefertari’s spiritual quest. Respectful yet confident of her worthiness, she is a plucky, solitary wayfarer confronting the awesome powers and mysteries of the cosmos. Demons wait to pounce at each of five gates (out of a traditional twelve) leading to Duat, the netherworld. But Nefertari knows the sacred formulas, passes her test, and wins resurrection, proved by her being repeatedly called “the Osiris.”

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Table of Contents

Introduction

1 Resurrection: Queen Nefertari
2 Mystic Vision: Idols of the Cyclades
3 The Race: Charioteer of Delphi
4 Roof of Air: Porch of the Maidens
5 God’s Snare: Laocoön
6 Sky of Gold: Saint John Chrysostom
7 Living Letters: The Book of Kells
8 Solitary Watcher: Donatello, Mary Magdalene
9 Island of Love: Titian, Venus with a Mirror
10 Lord of the Sea: Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of Andrea Doria as Neptune
11 Blaze of Glory: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Chair of Saint Peter
12 Satin Knights: Anthony Van Dyck, Lord John Stuart and his Brother, Lord Bernard Stuart
13 Swirling Line: The French Rococo
14 Martyr of the Revolution: Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat
15 Arctic Ruin: Caspar David Friedrich, The Sea of Ice
16 City in Motion: Édouard Manet, At the Café
17 Melting Color: Claude Monet, Irises
18 Heaven and Hell: Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
19 Heart of Stone: George Grosz, Life Makes You Happy!
20 Dance of the Mind: Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Doctor Boucard
21 Luncheon in the Twilight Zone: René Magritte, The Portrait
22 Romance of the Grid: Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow
23 Elegance at Ease: John Wesley Hardrick, Xenia Goodloe
24 Shooting Stars: Jackson Pollock, Green Silver
25 Sun and Rain: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych
26 On the Road: Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots
27 Electric: Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field
28 Blue Dawn: Renée Cox, Chillin’ with Liberty
29 Red River: George Lucas, Revenge of the Sith

Acknowledgments
Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    Excellent

    Excellent. Paglia is brilliant!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    Looks very stupid

    And lame.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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