1 NOVEMBER 1940, Page 20

Close-Ups of Sculpture

THESE are the two latest additions to the Phaidon Series: as usual, very good value. Each has about Igo illustrations, most of them full-page and all of them from expert photographs. Both are tactfully edited, with very little introductory matter, and that to the point. But the Michelangelo was an unwise choice. Detail follows splendid detail in tireless procession, until the eye stonewalls these areas of carefully-disposed light and shade presented in this seductive gravure. The photographs attempt to dissect a giant. To keep any sense of scale at all you must refer, first, to one of the details, next to the full-length view of the sculpture on a previous page and then to the note of its dimensions, in inches, in the introductory text. After this, turn back to the detail, and if you are not absorbed in the unnatural drama of it for its own sake you will get a faint conception of a cubic foot or so of a Michelangelo sculpture, and a faint conception that Michelangelo was a great man. But when it is all finished it is like a lovely collection of programme notes on a super-classical symphony. The book will, as the saying is, give pleasure to thousands. But much of the pleasure will be of the kind derived from a performance of the " Art of Fugue " by the town band—pleasure at hearing a noise that you know is by a genius. One Alinari photograph of " David " in a passe-partout frame over the mantelpiece would give me more fun.

Roman Portraits is far better, because it has the virtue of any gallery of portraits, and the subjects of these are a wonderful collection. It was a good idea to put them together: the originals are scattered in Germany, France, England and Italy. The tortured features of horrifying " Immolators " and obscene- looking " Unknown Men " alternate with the symmetrical full-faces of some of the female portraits, personifying pride,

authority and abandon. Virtue is not entirely absent, but it did not interest these artists much. They are not dead types. Here are cunningly simplified portraits of people one meets in main streets and back streets today, men who work in the fields and factories, and dictators who sit in armoured trains —better than Low. There is merit in every one of these sculp- tures, and genius in most of them. The photographs are as good as could be ; simple and not over-dramatic. JOHN PIPER.