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Stanford Report, April 12, 2000

Cantor Arts Center exhibit features 18th-century French decorative arts

Gilt bronze candleholders, fanciful clocks made from exotic materials, drawings and a variety of porphyry and porcelain vessels are showcased in an exhibition at the Cantor Arts Center that will be on view through May 28.

In "Classic Taste: Drawings and Decorative Arts from the Collection of Horace W. Brock," Bernard Barryte, associate director and chief curator of the Cantor Arts Center, has assembled more than 60 objects that were designed to embellish aristocratic French residences during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Noting that Brock has been "especially passionate about furniture" in the past two decades of collecting, Barryte writes in the accompanying catalog that the collector "strongly believes that we learn most about the ideals, style and taste of any period from its finest creations."

In contrast to the grandiose architecture of 17th-century France, Barryte says the era that began with the death of Louis XIV in 1715 placed "greater emphasis on intimate interior spaces that were intended either for private occupations or for social activities involving music, poetry, card playing and conversation, that favorite pastime of the Age of Enlightenment."

As a result, "enormous sums" of money and "tremendous creative energy" were lavished on decorative items and carved and gilded wall paneling. Drawings of classical figural and narrative traditions from Renaissance Florence to 18th-century France also were highly valued.

"The acknowledgment of pleasure was a major philosophical and social contribution of 18th-century France and these objects are effective vehicles for that message," Barryte adds. SR