'Visions of Heaven: The Dome in European Architecture' is one of those apparent coffee table books made to grace the room of art lovers and to initiate conversations about travel and architecture and art among guests. But this splendid book is far more than that (though a magnificent 'coffee table book' it most assuredly is!).
Photographer David Stephenson has traveled throughout Europe from Italy to Spain, Turkey, England, Germany, Russia and beyond, intent on capturing the magnificence of the domes that crown the cathedrals, palaces, mosques, syngogues and other imposing architectural wonders of the world. Technically speaking, photographing these domes is a feat unto itself: much time must have been spent on the floors or these edifices to capture angles of intent that would allow the resultant photograph to not only give the exciting detail of a concave surface but also to allow the available light to make the colors true.
The result is a book of over 120 full color photographs of art that too often goes unnoticed as visitors to these special places fail to strain necks to see the entire masterpiece above their heads. But the aspect of this book that makes it even more successful is the fact that Stephenson acknowledged the need for historical background to supplement appreciation of these domes and to that end Victoria Hammond in her essays and Keith F. Davis in his seductive foreword open discussions not only of the art itself, the creators, the materials, and the history of each dome, but they also address the concept of the dome as a reaching to heaven. The writing works as successfully as the photography and together create a book that is not only beautiful but also grandly informative. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, December 06