Art and Accounting - Yamey, Basil - Yale University Press
Art and Architecture

Art and Accounting

  • Basil Yamey
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Money has long been an important subject in European painting. Account books, when portrayed in works of Western art, serve a variety of purposes; to give a realistic touch to a descriptive or narrative scene; to help establish the context or subject of a work; to serve as an attribute in portraits; and to be a symbol, as in vanitas still-lifes. In this original and handsomely illustrated work, Basil Yamey discusses a range of art works from 1400 to 1900 that include the image of an account book. Yamey explores a number of fascinating themes, including: the relative frequency of account books in seventeenth-century Dutch painting; the exclusion of account books in most portraits of merchants by leading artist; the light thrown by the account-book inscriptions on the meaning of the popular but puzzling bureau scenes of Massys and van Reymerswaele and their imitators; the nature of the blank book in the center of Rembrandt's Syndics (De Staalmeesters); the allegorical significance of Maes's bookkeeping Housekeeper in St. Louis; and the meaning of the Arithmetica vignette in Bruegel's Temperance. Throughout, and particularly in his concluding chapter, Yamey considers other connections between accounting and art: the nature of artists' accounts, drawings on account-book sheets, and the significance of double-entry bookkeeping for the development of modern capitalism.  An engrossing collection of ideas exploring relationships between art and accounting, this book is also a distinguished work of reference that approaches a selection of works from a new perspective.