The Medieval and Renaissance Altarpiece

Though altarpieces were not necessary for the Mass, they became a standard feature of altars throughout Europe. The Altar and the Sacrament of the Eucharist Every architectural space has a gravitational center, one that may be spatial or symbolic or both; for the medieval church, the altar fulfilled that role. This essay will explore what[…]

Laocoön: The Suffering of a Trojan Priest and Its Afterlife

Is this statue at the Vatican actually the ancient sculpture mentioned by Pliny, or rather a clever Renaissance forgery? Introduction The sculpture group of Laocoön and His Sons, on display in the Vatican since its rediscovery in 1506 CE, depicts the suffering of the Trojan prince and priest Laocoön (brother of Anchises) and his young sons Antiphantes[…]

Anthesteria: A 3-Day Festival of Wine in Ancient Greece

The ancient Greek holiday of Anthesteria honored springtime and death. Introduction This ancient Greek holiday that you’ve probably never heard of was a three-day festival in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine. Everyone participated, including women, children, hired servants, and household slaves, and it featured excessive wine-drinking as part of the celebration of two[…]

The Drunken Satyr: Saving an Ancient Sculpture, Step by Careful Step

Conservators and scientists devote 15 months to preserving an ancient treasure from one of Italy’s great museums. Introduction An ancient Roman sculpture of a drunken Satyr arrived in the Getty Villa conservation labs on loan from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples in the fall of 2018. This was the first time the 2,000-year-old sculpture[…]