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BIOGRAPHIES

1.
Bernadette Murphy
Van Gogh’s Ear

The best-known and most sensational event in Vincent van Gogh’s life is also the least understood. For more than a century, biographers and historians seeking definitive facts about what happened on a December night in Arles have unearthed more questions than answers. Why would an artist at the height of his powers commit such a brutal act? Who was the mysterious “Rachel” to whom he presented his macabre gift? Did he use a razor or a knife? Was it just a segment―or did Van Gogh really lop off his entire ear?
In Van Gogh’s Ear, Bernadette Murphy reveals, for the first time, the true story of this long-misunderstood incident, sweeping away decades of myth and giving us a glimpse of a troubled but brilliant artist at his breaking point. Murphy’s detective work takes her from Europe to the United States and back, from the holdings of major museums to the moldering contents of forgotten archives. She braids together her own thrilling journey of discovery with a narrative of Van Gogh’s life in Arles, the sleepy Provençal town where he created his finest work, and vividly reconstructs the world in which he moved―the madams and prostitutes, café patrons and police inspectors, shepherds and bohemian artists. We encounter Van Gogh’s brother and benefactor Theo, his guest and fellow painter Paul Gauguin, and many local subjects of Van Gogh’s paintings, some of whom Murphy identifies for the first time. Strikingly, Murphy uncovers previously unknown information about “Rachel”―and uses it to propose a bold new hypothesis about what was occurring in Van Gogh’s heart and mind as he made a mysterious delivery to her doorstep.
As it reopens one of art history’s most famous cold cases, Van Gogh’s Ear becomes a fascinating work of detection. It is also a study of a painter creating his most iconic and revolutionary work, pushing himself ever closer to greatness even as he edged toward madness―and one fateful sweep of the blade that would resonate through the ages.

2.
Robert Gottlieb
Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt (Jewish Lives)

Everything about Sarah Bernhardt is fascinating, from her obscure birth to her glorious career—redefining the very nature of her art—to her amazing (and highly public) romantic life to her indomitable spirit. Well into her seventies, after the amputation of her leg, she was performing under bombardment for soldiers during World War I, as well as crisscrossing America on her ninth American tour.

Her family was also a source of curiosity: the mother she adored and who scorned her; her two half-sisters, who died young after lives of dissipation; and most of all, her son, Maurice, whom she worshiped and raised as an aristocrat, in the style appropriate to his presumed father, the Belgian Prince de Ligne. Only once did they quarrel—over the Dreyfus Affair. Maurice was a right-wing snob; Sarah, always proud of her Jewish heritage, was a passionate Dreyfusard and Zolaist.

Though the Bernhardt literature is vast, Gottlieb’s Sarah is the first English-language biography to appear in decades. Brilliantly, it tracks the trajectory through which an illegitimate—and scandalous—daughter of a courtesan transformed herself into the most famous actress who ever lived, and into a national icon, a symbol of France.

3.
John R. Ellis
Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism (Princeton Legacy Library)

This book is a study in depth of the rise to power of Macedonia under the astute leadership of Philip II, whose diplomatic adroitness and military skill paved the way for the career of his son and heir, Alexander the Great. J. R. Ellis has attempted to arrive at an impartial assessment of the process by which Philip brought Macedonia from the periphery to the hub of Balkan and Aegean affairs.

Originally published in 1986.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

4.
Lennart Ryden
Life of st Philaretos the Merciful Written by His Grandson Niketas: A Critical Edition (Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia, 8)

5.
Cynthia Talbot
The Last Hindu Emperor : Prithviraj Chauhan and the Indian Past, 1200–2000

This fascinating new study traces traditions and memories relating to the twelfth-century Indian ruler Prithviraj Chauhan; a Hindu king who was defeated and overthrown during the conquest of Northern India by Muslim armies from Afghanistan. Surveying a wealth of narratives that span more than 800 years, Cynthia Talbot explores the reasons why he is remembered, and by whom. In modern times, the Chauhan king has been referred to as ‘the last Hindu emperor’, because Muslim rule prevailed for centuries following his defeat. Despite being overthrown, however, his name and story have evolved over time into a historical symbol of India’s martial valor. The Last Hindu Emperor sheds new light on the enduring importance of heroic histories in Indian culture and the extraordinary ability of historical memory to transform the hero of a clan into the hero of a community, and finally a nation.


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