From time to time we are given a new book that so vividly illuminates the intellectual ground we stand on that it instantly acquires the status of an emblematic event. As far as the study of art history is concerned, and more particularly, what has gone wrong with it, I believe we have now been given such a book in Professor Svetlana Alpers’s Rembrandt’s Enterprise: The Studio and the Market.[1] Professor Alpers is one of the leading representatives of the kind of art history that now dominates the profession, and is widely recognized as an academic eminence of considerable power and influence. Occupying a senior position on the art history faculty at the University of California at Berkeley, she is the author of an earlier and much-praised study of seventeenth-century Dutch painting, The Art of Describing (1983), and serves as an editor of two academic...


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