Monday, 28 March 2016

Sazigyo

Sazigyo
Sazigyo: Burmese Manuscript Binding Tapes - Woven Miniatures Of Buddhist Art, by Ralph Isaacs, is the first book on the art and craft of sazigyo, decorative cotton tapes made by Burmese weavers. As Isaacs says in his preface, his scope is as narrow as the tapes themselves: "This book aims to introduce art lovers and textile enthusiasts to a little-known but fascinating textile art form."

Sazigyo are functional objects, used to tie Buddhist manuscripts into bundles, though they are also textual and visual artworks: "Sazigyo are much more than a length of narrow cotton tape: their woven messages and pictorial symbols carry a wealth of information about Burmese Buddhist beliefs and practice". Almost 1,000 colour images of sazigyo are included (reproduced either at 1:1 scale or enlarged) and there is even an authentic sazigyo bookmark instead of a standard ribbon.

The book is divided into five sections. Part one is mostly superfluous, giving general background on Burmese culture and Buddhism (a "brief introduction, inevitably oversimplified"). After an explanation of the craft of sazigyo in part two, parts three and four provide a unique and detailed study of sazigyo texts and imagery. According to Isaacs, "The miniature pictorial images have instant appeal and are perhaps the chief charm of the sazigyo." His taxonomy and interpretation of sazigyo pictures are fascinating. (Part five is a guide to sazigyo weaving techniques by Peter Collingwood.)

"You cowardly bastards..."

More archive material from the making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey has been published online. Cinematographer Bruce Logan, who began his career working on 2001, wrote an article for Zacuto that reproduced two of Kubrick's memos from 1967.

One memo to the special-effects unit began: "You cowardly bastards ran away last night without facing the music on the mask and other ancillary nightmares connected with the Jupiter shot." The other, a note to Logan, apologises for not giving him an increase in salary.

Earlier this year, the Smithsonian published a Kubrick letter from the Arthur C Clarke archive, and a Kubrick memo is currently included in an exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image. In 2014, the BFI published several other Kubrick letters related to 2001.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Independent

The Independent
The Independent
The Independent
Today, The Independent published its final print edition, thirty years after it was launched in 1986. (Its sister paper, The Independent On Sunday, ceased publication last week.) UK newspapers are traditionally owned by press barons with political agendas, though The Independent was (as its editorial reminds us today on page two), "free from both proprietorial interference and party allegiance."

Today's final edition has a wrap-around cover with the headline "STOP PRESS" and a double-page spread of notable Independent front pages. It also includes a souvenir supplement featuring valedictory columns by former editors and correspondents. Founding editor Andreas Whittam Smith reflects on "this sad occasion, the publication of the last print edition of The Independent". Current editor Amol Rajan looks to the digital future: "when it comes to general interest, printed weekday news, in the long run we are all dead." (Editors of other newspapers, with more financial resources and higher circulations, might not necessarily agree.)

In 1992, The Independent's circulation briefly overtook that of The Times, and Times proprietor Rupert Murdoch launched a price war that spread to the tabloids. (Ironically, the price war's only casualty was Murdoch's own Today. The Independent survived, though its circulation declined.) It was sold in 2010 for the nominal sum of £1 to Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev, who later launched the i. The i was so successful that, according to the latest ABC sales figures, its circulation is now five times higher than The Independent's.

The Independent was a truly innovative newspaper. It devoted more space to international news than the other broadsheet titles. It was the first national UK paper to appoint a female editor (Rosie Boycott, in 1998). Its radical decision to switch from broadsheet to tabloid size (publishing in both formats in 2003, and fully converting in 2004) prompted The Times and The Guardian to follow suit. It was arguably even more liberal than The Guardian, consistent in its lack of royal coverage and unequivocal in its opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was also notable for its poster-style front pages dominated by full-page images, such as last year's tragic photograph of Alan Kurdi that other newspapers were not brave enough to print on page one.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Tattoo

Tattoo
In 2014, Anne and Julien curated the exhibition Tatoueurs, Tatoues, the first museum survey of the history of tattooing. The exhibition catalogue, Tattoo, is arguably the only book featuring equal coverage of ancient tattoos, twentieth-century tattoo culture, and contemporary tattooing.

Like Decorated Skin (by Karl Groning) and The World Of Tattoo, Tattoo discusses tribal tattooing from around the world. Tattoo covers Japan, Native America, Europe, Polynesia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and China, with essays by experts on regional tattooing such as Lars Krutak, Luc Renaut, Joe Cummings, Michael McCabe, and Jerome Pierrat. The World Of Tattoo and Decorated Skin have additional chapters on Africa, India, and South America. Like The World Of Tattoo, Tattoo has an extensive bibliography.

The catalogue also covers tattooing in the modern era, with chapters on sideshows, prison tattoos, and tattooing in the military. The tattoo renaissance in San Francisco and New York (first documented by Arnold Rubin in Marks Of Civilization) is represented by interviews with Don Ed Hardy (from Modern Primitives, by Andrea Juno and V Vale) and Lyle Tuttle, and correspondence from Sailor Jerry.

Tattoo's illustrations are similarly wide-ranging, "retracing the ancient nature, ubiquity and diversity of forms of tattooing as well as the wealth and aesthetic quality of contemporary works." Antique decorated skulls and tattooed skin fragments are followed by contemporary tattoo designs rendered on realistic silicone replicas of human body parts. (The History Of Tattooing was the first historical study of the subject, and 100 Years Of Tattoos is a visual history of modern tattooing.)

Monday, 21 March 2016

Postmodernism

Postmodernism
Postmodernism
The Victoria & Albert Museum's Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990, curated by Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt in 2011 and 2012, was the first major exhibition of postmodern popular culture, design, and architecture. The exhibition catalogue, edited by Adamson and Pavitt, "follows several other major V&A exhibitions that have tackled the 'grand narratives' of twentieth-century style: Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernism amongst them."

The catalogue begins with a long essay surveying the postmodern landscape, followed by forty short chapters, each concentrating on a particular and specific aspect of postmodern culture. The editors note the "kaleidoscopic structure of this book - our own single narrative, accompanied by a 'heap of fragments', essays that are multi-vocal and wide-ranging, addressing the particular, episodic and personal".

This reflects the cultural fragmentation associated with postmodernism, as illustrated in Four Post-Modern Streams, an infographic by Charles Jencks (author of the influential The Language Of Post-Modern Architecture). The Anti-Aesthetic, edited by Hal Foster, was the first anthology of postmodern theory, and remains a key text.

Modernism

Modernism
The Victoria & Albert Museum's exhibition Modernism: Designing A New World 1914-1939, curated by Christopher Wilk, opened in London in 2006 and was later shown in Germany and the US (where it was retitled Essential Modernism). The catalogue, edited by Wilk, contains eleven broad essays, and extended captions describing each of the 300 exhibits. The essays are organised into themes, ranging from conventional Modernist concepts (such as mechanisation and utopianism) to more surprising topics (nature and athleticism).

The catalogue has comprehensive coverage of design, architecture, and mass culture, including an essay on Modernist cinema. It defines Modernism as: "an espousal of the new and, often, an equally vociferous rejection of history and tradition; a utopian desire to create a better world, to reinvent the world from scratch; an almost messianic belief in the power and potential of the machine and industrial technology; a rejection of applied ornament and decoration; an embrace of abstraction; and a belief in the unity of all the arts".

There have been previous surveys of Modernism, most famously Nikolaus Pevsner's essential Pioneers Of The Modern Movement (reissued as Pioneers Of Modern Design). There are also numerous histories of Modernism's influence on art (Art Since 1900, by Hal Foster et al.), design (History Of Modern Design, by David Raizman), architecture (Space, Time & Architecture, by Sigfried Giedion; and Architecture Since 1900, by William JR Curtis), typography (Pioneers Of Modern Typography, by Herbert Spencer), and sculpture (Modern Plastic Art, by Carola Giedion-Welcker; reissued as Contemporary Sculpture).

The key Modernist manifestos were Le Corbusier's Vers Une Architecture (translated as Towards A New Architecture, and later as Toward An Architecture) and Jan Tschichold's Die Neue Typographie (The New Typography). The International Style, by Henry Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson, defined Modernist architecture. Foto-Auge (Photo-Eye), by Tschichold and Franz Roh, was a portfolio of 'new vision' photography. Die Kunstismen (The Isms Of Art), by Hans Arp and El Lissitzky, was a guide to Modernist art movements from 1914 to 1924.

The Modernism exhibition was one of several V&A surveys of major periods in art history, including Baroque 1620-1800, International Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau 1890-1914, and Art Deco 1910-1939. It was followed by Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-1990.

Design: The Definitive Visual History

Design
Design: The Definitive Visual History claims to be "the most comprehensive, inspiring, and accessible history of design ever." It features industrial design, ceramics, glass, furniture, jewellery, metalwork, textiles, and graphics, so it's comprehensive in that sense, though its coverage is broad rather than deep. Accessible often means simplified, which is the case with this and other DK books: the captions are largely descriptive, and the body text is limited to one or two paragraphs per page.

The book (written by Alexandra Black, RG Grant, Ann Kay, Philip Wilkinson, Iain Zaczek) is probably unrivalled for the quantity of its photographs: there are thousands of them, all in colour, though most are quite small. Its format is similar to Decorative Arts and the more concise The Look Of The Century (by Michael Tambini). Phaidon Design Classics has larger photographs, and profiles 999 objects.

Design covers the history of its subject from 1850 until today, and it's surprisingly up-to-date, including products from 2015. Each double-page spread covers a different aspect of design, and the most interesting are those that show the evolution of various product categories, including writing machines (from typewriters to computers) and telephones (from rotary dials to smartphones). It has no bibliography, though History Of Modern Design (by David Raizman), The Story Of Design, and the superb History Of Design are the most comprehensive narrative histories of design.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Independent On Sunday

The Independent On Sunday
The New Review
The New Review
Today, The Independent On Sunday published its final print edition. Its masthead was changed to read "THE INDEPENDENT", and its supplement The New Review was devoted entirely to reprints of some of its best articles and a centre-page spread of memorable covers. Editor Lisa Markwell, writing on page three of The New Review, pointed out that "we are Fleet Street's smallest team," a recognition of her newspaper's lack of resources.

The Independent On Sunday was launched on 28th January 1990. It is now the first UK national newspaper to convert to a digital-only news brand. Its sister paper, The Independent, will publish its final print edition on 26th March. Ironically, the Independent titles were eclipsed by the i, which currently has a circulation five times higher than The Independent's.

Thailand Eye

Thailand Eye
Thailand Eye
Thailand Eye
Thailand Eye (ไทยเนตร), an exhibition of Thai contemporary art, opened at BACC in Bangkok on 18th March. The extensive exhibition catalogue features profiles of seventy-five artists, though only twenty-four are featured in the exhibition itself. (The participating artists were ultimately approved by the Ministry of Culture as the exhibition is part of the Ministry's Totally Thai project.)

Thailand Eye was curated by Serenella Ciclitira (who also edited the catalogue), Nigel Hurst (director of the Saatchi Gallery, where the exhibition was shown last year) and Apinan Poshyananda (Permanent Secretary for Culture). Apinan has curated many previous exhibitions, notably the large-scale survey shows Traces Of Siamese Smile and Thai Trends, and one of his videos was shown in From Message To Media.

Kosit Juntaratip, the most interesting of the selected artists, is represented by photographs and video of Lily Ovary, a performance in which he married a blow-up doll. An installation by Sakarin Krue-On, previously shown at Imply Reply, is also included, as are some of Manit Sriwanichpoom's Pink Man photographs. A sculpture by Rolf von Bueren, with an intricate wooden body and a crocodile's skull, is similar to his crocodile sculpture from Thai Trends. Thailand Eye will close on 7th August.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Visual Project: Very Thai

Visual Project: Very Thai
Tears Of The Black Tiger
Every day this month, Bangkok's TCDC will screen three vintage Thai films as part of its Visual Project series. The screenings, titled Very Thai, include Wisit Sasanatieng's Thai 'new wave' cult classic Tears Of The Black Tiger. (Previous Visual Project seasons have included Woody Allen films, Picasso documentaries, and Creativities Unfold highlights.)

Wisit's film is a combination of Spaghetti western and melodramatic Thai 'lakorn' drama, and it has a uniquely over-saturated colour palette. It has previously been shown at the National Film Archive in 2009 and 2010, and at BACC in 2012. Tears Of The Black Tiger was his debut feature, and his subsequent films are Citizen Dog, The Unseeable, The Red Eagle, and รุ่นพี่.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Story Of De Stijl

The Story Of De Stijl
De Stijl
Red & Blue Chair
The Story Of De Stijl: Mondrian To Van Doesburg, by Hans Janssen and Michael White, accompanies Mondrian & De Stijl (2011), a permanent exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. The book, published by Abrams, discusses geometric abstraction and the magazine that gave the movement its name (De Stijl, edited by Theo Van Doesburg), though it also highlights the wide range of activities of the De Stijl group. These include furniture design (such as Gerrit Rietveld's famous Red & Blue Chair), architecture, urban planning, fashion, and advertising.

The book is organised in "a fragmentary narrative style" with short chapters each discussing a specific event, theme, or artefact. As the Gemeentemuseum director explains in his foreword: "Telling a chronological story might contribute to a linear understanding of De Stijl, which is not emphasised here, but could not do justice to the movement's many facets". HLC Jaffe's De Stijl 1917-1931: The Dutch Contribution To Modern Art (1956) is a more conventional linear history of the movement.

100 Years Of Tattoos

100 Years Of Tattoos
100 Years Of Tattoos, by David McComb (a former editor of Bizarre magazine) is a history of tattooing since World War I. The book, published by Laurence King, includes hundreds of vintage photographs of tattoos from various countries, principally Britain, America, and Japan.

McComb describes the link between tattoos and the armed forces: "From the beginning of World War I until the end of World War II, Western tattoos - which for centuries had been intrinsically linked with seafaring and the military - were largely regarded as a sign of patriotism or a symbol of freedom." In the inter-war years, tattoos were novelty attractions: "Heavily tattooed sideshow performers... helped to popularise body art in the early- to mid-twentieth century".

After World War II, tattoos became socially unacceptable: "The reputation of tattoos took a beating in the mid-1940s, when photographs from Nazi concentration camps... showed emaciated prisoners tattooed with crude identification numbers". They were also associated with criminals - "Today's most popular tattoo style, black and grey, was born in the US penal system" - and Hells Angels: "the confrontational ink won by outlaw bikers and urban gangs also helped law-abiding middle-class citizens regard tattoos as a mark of deviance."

A tattoo renaissance began in the 1970s in San Francisco: "tattoos were adopted by a variety of subcultures... to show mainstream society that ink was no longer the preserve of bikers and criminals." Charles Gatewood documented this tattoo subculture in books such as Forbidden Photographs (1981; reissued in 1995 with a graphic cover), and the Re/Search book Modern Primitives (1989) was the first comprehensive guide to contemporary body art. The term 'Tattoo Renaissance' was coined by Arnold Rubin in his book Marks Of Civilization (1988).

100 Years Of Tattoos does not include a bibliography. Wilfred Dyson Hambly's The History Of Tattooing (1925; reissued in 2009 with additional illustrations) was the first anthropological study of global tattoo practices. Karl Groning's Decorated Skin (1997) is a heavily illustrated guide to tribal body decoration. Maarten Hesselt van Dinter's The World Of Tattoo (2005) is the most comprehensive account of historical tattooing, and Tatouers, Tatoues (2014) was the first major exhibition devoted to the history of tattoos. (The exhibition catalogue, Tattoo, was edited by Anne and Julien.)

Friday, 11 March 2016

Tears Of A Clown

Tears Of A Clown
Tears Of A Clown, the cabaret show Madonna performed last night at the Forum theatre in Melbourne, was the complete antithesis of a Madonna concert. Usually, every second of her live performances is meticulously choreographed, resulting in theatrical events with plenty of spectacle but little spontaneity. In contrast, Tears Of A Clown had no dance routines, costume changes, or choreography, and Madonna described it as "this work in progress, this rough rehearsal".

Madonna made her entrance on a child's tricycle, wearing a pink wig (like the one she wore while performing Like A Virgin on Top Of The Pops in 1984) and a clown costume. She began by announcing: "First of all, I wanna make a disclaimer, because if anyone thinks they came here to see a finished, final show, there's the door." (The audience - 1,500 Australian members of her fan club - had been waiting outside the theatre for four hours, so they were unlikely to leave.)

The show was an incongruous combination of corny jokes and melancholy. One song, Intervention, was dedicated to her son, over whom she's currently fighting a custody battle: "Everybody knows the saga of me and my son Rocco. It's not a fun story to tell or think about." Introspective moments like this felt awkward, with the crowd regularly shouting reassurance, and the concert was intimate though fairly shambolic.

Madonna seemed relaxed during the show, drinking cocktails between songs (most of which were ballads). She performed two cover versions (Send In The Clowns and Between The Bars), and the only song from the current Rebel Heart Tour was her traditional encore, Holiday. The full set list was: Send In The Clowns, Drowned World/Substitute For Love, X-Static Process, Between The Bars, Nobody's Perfect, Easy Ride, Intervention, I'm So Stupid, Paradise (Not For Me), Joan Of Arc, Don't Tell me, Mer Girl, Borderline, Take A Bow, and Holiday.

The Story Of Emoji

The Story Of Emoji, by Gavin Lucas, is the first book about the history and cultural impact of emoji. It explains the evolution from emoticons to emoji, and examines how emoji have influenced art. It also includes an interview with emoji's creator, Shigetaka Kurita, and Jeff Blagdon writes a chapter about emoji's origins on Japanese pagers.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Art Of The Royal Court

Art Of The Royal Court
Art Of The Royal Court: Treasures In Pietre Dure From The Palaces Of Europe, curated by Wolfram Koeppe, Ian Wardropper, and Annamaria Giusti, was "the most comprehensive presentation ever dedicated to the subject of pietre dure", bringing together almost 150 objects from Italy and other European countries. The exhibition, at New York's Metropolitan Museum in 2008, was accompanied by a catalogue edited by Koeppe. Giusti, who co-wrote the catalogue, is the author of the only other English-language studies of pietre dure (published in 1992 and 2006).

The catalogue's first 100 pages consist of eight essays on the history of pietre dure, followed by more than 300 pages of plates and detailed accounts of each item in the exhibition. The exhibits include decorative objects and pieces of furniture, notably the Farnese Table (decorated by Giovanni Mynardo, circa 1565-1573), described as "one of the most superbly executed and evocative pietre dure objects in existence".

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Sun

David Dinsmore, former editor of The Sun, has been found guilty of breaching the sexual offences act, in a case related to footballer Adam Johnson's conviction for sexual activity with a child. Dinsmore, who is now Chief Operating Officer of The Sun's publisher, News UK, was order to pay £1,000 in damages. The publisher was not prosecuted, as police mistakenly filed charges against News Corp, which is not liable.

The Sun published a photograph of Johnson and his fifteen-year-old victim on 4th March last year, two days after Johnson was arrested. The photo was taken from the teenager's Facebook page; her face was pixelated, though the court ruled that anyone who had seen the image on Facebook could have recognised it when it appeared in The Sun.

The photograph was heavily edited before it was printed, to the extent that it could plausibly be called a photomontage rather than a single image. Apart from the pixelation, the victim's face was airbrushed, her hair was artificially shortened and coloured, the lower portion was cropped, and the background was completely replaced. (The new background was taken from a photograph of Irish President Michael Higgins at a park in Dublin.)

The Sun labelled the photo a "PICTURE EXCLUSIVE", with a headline inaccurately describing the girl as someone Johnson had "bedded". The Sun's sensationalising of the photograph was inappropriate, and the newspaper removed the article and photo from its website following complaints from readers.

The day after Johnson was convicted, The Daily Telegraph also printed the photograph (3rd March, on page eight), almost exactly a year after The Sun did so. The Telegraph pixelated the victim's face and hair, though their photo was otherwise unaltered, with none of the changes made by The Sun. The Telegraph is not facing prosecution, despite publishing the photo after charges were brought against The Sun. Like The Sun, The Telegraph has also removed the image from its website.

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Saturday, 5 March 2016

Zaman

Zaman
Today's Zaman
Turkish police yesterday used tear gas against approximately 500 protesters who gathered outside the editorial offices of Zaman, the country's most popular newspaper. A Turkish court ruled that Zaman must be placed under state control, though today's issue was printed before the judgement took effect.

Zaman's front-page headline today is "ANAYASA ASKIDA" ("constitution suspended"), denouncing the government's apparent disregard for constitutional guarantees of press freedom. Its English-language sister paper, Today's Zamat, has an equally damning headline: "SHAMEFUL DAY FOR FREE PRESS IN TURKEY".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a long history of suppressing any criticism of his leadership. He filed lawusits against Cumhuriyet in 2004 and Penguen magazine in 2005. Artist Matthew Dickinson was charged with insulting Erdogan in 2006, and charged again shortly afterwards. Two Penguen cartoonists were convicted of insulting Erdogan last year, and Nokta magazine was shut down following its Photoshopped image of Erdogan.

The Art Of Instruction

The Art Of Instruction
The Art Of Instruction: Vintage Educational Charts From The 18th & 19th Centuries is a collection of more than a hundred wallcharts from Germany, France, and Denmark. The charts (some of which are reprints rather than Victorian originals) depict their subjects with surprising beauty and clarity, and each one is lavishly reproduced as a full-page colour image.

As Katrien Van der Schueren notes in her short historical introduction, "The first educational wall charts were likely printed in Germany around 1820". The Art Of Instruction includes only biological and zoological examples, though there were charts produced for every academic subject. (Cartographies Of Time, for instance, discusses posters depicting timelines of historical events.)

Architecture In Wood

Architecture In Wood
Will Pryce photographed brick buildings for Brick: A World History, which supplemented Pryce's photographs with text by James WP Campbell. For his similar survey of wooden buildings, Architecture In Wood: A World History, Pryce provided both the photographs and text. Pryce is an excellent photographer, simultaneously capturing the grand scale and intricate details of each building, though his text in Architecture In Wood lacks the historical scope of Campbell's in Brick.

As Pryce explains in his preface: "This is not an exhaustive study of wooden architecture's long history... Instead it is a selection of arguably the best buildings and those most representative of important regional traditions." These include two significant Japanese temples: Horu-ji in Fujiwara ("the oldest wooden buildings in the world. The very oldest is the Golden Hall, which dates from 677") and Todai-ji in Nara ("the largest building ever to have been made of wood, the Great Buddha Hall... remains the largest wooden building in the world").

In America, it was released with the alternate title Buildings In Wood: The History & Traditions Of Architecture's Oldest Building Material. The original cover featured the Church of the Transfiguration in Kizhi, Russia; the new edition, published this year, replaces this with a cover image of the To-ji temple in Kyoto, Japan.

Turquerie

Turquerie
Turquerie: An Eighteenth-Century European Fantasy, by Haydn Williams, is "the first book to look at the artistic phenomenon known as turquerie." It begins with a definition of this little-known trend: "Turquerie is a term used to describe a European vision of the Ottoman Turkish world that was made manifest in a variety of art forms."

As the book's subtitle suggests, turquerie was primarily an eighteenth-century vogue, though Williams traces its pre-history following the Ottoman Empire's capture of Constantinople in 1453: "To galvanize opposition, propagandists worked hard to demonize the Turk." This continued until the end of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars: "The 'great fear' of the Turk in Europe gradually diminished after the failed siege of Vienna in 1683. Concurrently... turquerie in its varied forms reached its fashionable apogee. Europeans became fascinated by many aspects of the Ottoman world".

Turquerie was popular at the same time as another exotic trend, Chinoiserie (the Western imitation of Chinese decoration), though they were ultimately replaced by other influences: "By the middle of the 19th century in Europe the insouciant turquerie fantasies of the previous century had been displaced by others of equal fancy." One of these subsequent styles was Japonisme, which developed in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Williams examines the influence of turquerie on European painting, architecture, and interior design, all of which are illustrated in colour. The chapter on the applied arts is the most fascinating, with its lavish illustrations of enamelled boxes, Meissen porcelain, and clockwork automata.