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A Rare Treatise on Interior Decoration and Architecture: Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz’s Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading Nations

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Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz

Edited and translated by Simon Swynfen Jervis

Baron Joseph Friedrich zu Racknitz’s pioneering Presentation and History of the Taste of the Leading Nations in Relation to the Interior Decoration of Rooms and to Architecture (Darstellung und Geschichte des Geschmacks der vorzüglichsten Völker in Beziehung auf die innere Auszierung der Zimmer und auf die Baukunst) is little known today. Racknitz, a German aristocrat, traced an early global history of design and ornament through discussions of what he distinguished as twenty-four essential regional historical tastes. He included those of a diverse group of ancient classical civilizations, European nations and peoples, Eastern civilizations, and more exotic reaches of the world.

This sensitive and informed translation also includes reproductions of the original color plates and essays on Racknitz’s biography, his publication, and the German Enlightenment context, making this an essential volume for studying eighteenth- and nineteenth-century architecture, decorative arts, and garden design.

Simon Swynfen Jervis has worked extensively as a curator, writer, and scholar of decorative arts. He has authored dozens of books, articles, guidebooks, and exhibition catalogues and organized exhibitions at British, European, and American institutions.

“The availability of Racknitz’s text in translation makes an important contribution to our understanding of historicism in the applied arts.”
—Olivia Horsfall Turner, Apollo

“Racknitz’s masterpiece has been rescued from obscurity, translated, edited and lucidly, authoritatively and entertainingly explained to a twenty-first-century audience.”
—Christopher Rowell, Furniture History Society

“At once an artistic and cultural cross-examination A Rare Treatise on Interior Decoration and Architecture is not just an art survey of interior decoration and architecture, but a work of cultural and historical scholarship that should be in any world history or arts collection.”
Midwest Book Review

“Racknitz, marshall of the court of Saxony and, by extension, his wonderful book, exemplify the German Enlightenment and what it was to be civilised in the late C18th. Some wonderful colour plates and black and white engravings.”
—John Sandoe Books

“This attractive and thorough scholarly presentation makes a contribution towards our understanding of Racknitz, the German Enlightenment and the origins of academic Orientalism in the German-speaking world.”
Alexander Adams Art

368 pages
10 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches
59 color and 58 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-624-9
hardcover

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Research Institute

2020