MORE THAN $60
In 1715 a young Italian Jesuit missionary, Giuseppe Castiglione, arrived in Peking and, like other Jesuits of his time, soon went to work for the Emperor, Kang xi. For a half-century, under the name Lang Shining, Castiglione served as a court painter, brilliantly blending Western and Eastern styles. Lang Shining's success is evident in Treasures of the Forbidden City (Viking; 262 pages; $75); his monumental painting of a deer-hunting party is one of only 100 art objects chosen for this book from more than 910,000 items in Peking's Palace Museum. The selection, compiled and annotated by Zhu Jiajin and a team of assistants and photographed by Hu Chui, embraces every notable Chinese art, from ancient bronzes to 19th century silk embroidery.
Nostalgia is not what it used to be, according to antique dealers, and this scholarly and delightful volume proves them right. American Toy Cars and Trucks by Lillian Gottschalk (Abbeville; 328 pages; $75) celebrates wheels past, from 1894 to 1942, and the older these miniatures are, the more charm radiates from their wire wheels and peeling running boards. From the Jones & Bixler touring car complete with uniformed chauffeur, to the double-deck city bus populated by "clown, fireman, porter and gentleman," to the motorcycle steered by Popeye, Bill Holland's photographs offer a bright valedictory to objects that managed to be mass-produced without compromising their jaunty integrity and cast-iron elegance.
Genius is rare; genius blessed with longevity is miraculous. That Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) made the most of these twin gifts is attested to in his sketchbooks, which cover 73 of his 92 years, a span that transformed our way of seeing. Je Suis le Cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso (Atlantic Monthly Press; 347 pages; $65) documents that revolution of vision through the artist's eyes. The book reproduces six sketchbooks and includes selections from 36 others, each illustrating the development of images and styles that dominated the painter's major periods. Scholars should find this work indispensable; art lovers will discover renewed appreciation of one of the century's most creative forces.
Art to Wear (Abbeville; 320 pages; $95) by Julie Schafler Dale is a stunning survey of a movement dedicated to clothes for art's sake. The designers of these garments (weavers, needleworkers and painters) sacrifice the practical for the spectacular. These robes of many colors shimmer with feathers, beads, buttons and metallic threads. An ordinary flight jacket, when encrusted with 25,000 brass safety pins, is transformed into glittering armor. Knitted into a wool jacket, along with abstract images of the sun and its rays, are words by Walt Whitman ("Give me the splendid, silent sun/With all his beamsfull—dazzling"). A book for people who dress to thrill.