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The Calligraphy of Dance

Photographs by Tessa Traeger inspired by the Montagu Music Collection at Boughton House

Published by Impress

£20.00 / $25.40 / €23.26
($/€ approx)

Paperback, 48pp 978-0-9575405-9-0
Book Description

These photographic compositions were exhibited at Purdy Hicks Gallery, London in February 2015.

Since the 16th Century the Montagu family, particularly Elizabeth Montagu in the 18th Century, were avid collectors of music and other associated documents, from printed and autograph scores to rare treastises on dance. This resulted in the exceptional Montagu Music Collection which is kept at Boughton House.

In 2011 the photographer Tessa Traeger was appointed artist in residence at Boughton and asked to create new works which would express aspects of the music collection in visual terms. She focused on two books of choreography published between 1706 and 1720 which record dance using the calligraphic system known as Beauchamp-Feuillet notation and combined this arcane calligraphy with expressive details she discovered amongst the many family portraits which hang in the house.

By concentrating on a single point, the turn of a leg, the fall of a hand, the delicate lace of a ruff, or richly embroidered sleeve; by masking out faces and sinking bodies into black, so that eye contact or identification is impossible, the pictures express some of the intangible things about music that are difficult to capture in two dimensions:

Gracefulness and ease, the romance of the historical imagination, the accoutrements of class, the rituals of the past… Abstracted, decapitated, deconstructed, allusive, Traeger’s images owe much of their power to the inclusion of this mysterious calligraphy.

Liz Jobey

Tessa Traeger tells the story behind them to Wall Street International

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