Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello’s Luxury: A rich history is a compelling read because it is about the dynamics of the term luxury and not the semantics. The book is structured and written in such a way as to show the changing meanings and history of the word as it is used in different periods, in different places and by different people. As historians, McNeil and Riello compose a book that is less theories or concepts and more about specifics and character. In this sense, Luxury reads like an exhibition, museum or epic performance, rather than a forceful, singular argument. The style of the prose is wandering and digressive and the scope of examples, encyclopaedic. The reader can’t help but enjoy the cast of characters and settings that flit by in an almost cinematic fashion. Luxury is a book likely to strike sparks off the minds of those with an amateur or academic interest in design history.
Distinguished Professor in Design History Peter McNeil is an art and design historian and one of the world’s experts on 18th century men’s dress.