Medieval Chinese Art and Architecture at the Longmen Caves of Luoyang

The Northern Wei was the most enduring and powerful of the northern Chinese dynasties before reunification. Imperial Patronage Worship and power struggles, enlightenment and suicide—the 2300 caves and niches filled with Buddhist art at Longmen in China has witnessed it all. The steep limestone cliffs extend for almost a mile and contain approximately 110,000 Buddhist stone statues,[…]

‘A Thousand Years of Art’ at China’s Mogao Caves of Dunhuang

The ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ are a magnificent treasure trove of Buddhist art. A Trove of Buddhist Art The ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ (Qianfodong), also known as Mogao, are a magnificent treasure trove of Buddhist art. They are located in the desert, about 15 miles south-east of the town of Dunhuang in north[…]

Five Rejected Designs for the U.S. Capitol Building in a 1792 Competition

Introduction Construction of the US Capitol we know and love was completed in 1800, following a competition to find a home for Congress. The contest had been won by a physician with pretensions to architecture, William Thornton, who only had his shot at the prize – after the deadline had passed – thanks to George[…]

Hoysala Architecture of Medieval India

The vigorous temple building activity of the Hoysala Empire arose from the social, cultural and political events of the period. Introduction Hoysala architecture indicates the distinctive building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire in the region known today as Karnataka, India, between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. Hoysala influence stood at its[…]

Skulls, Temples, and Churches: The Ancient Walled City of Evora

Evora’s history dates back over five millennia. By Kim MartinsHistorian Introduction The sunbaked plain of the Alentejoregion in central Portugal is called planicie dourada (golden plain)by the Portuguese, and it is dotted with cork oak forests, vineyards, olive groves, and hilltop towns with whitewashed houses. ‘Alentejo’means “beyond the Tagus River”, and there is a raw[…]

The Ancient Athenian Treasury at Delphi

The Athenian treasury was the first Panhellenic sanctuary that was dedicated by Athenians. Introduction The Athenian Treasury at Delphi was constructed by the Athenians to house dedications and votive offerings made by their city and citizens to the sanctuary of Apollo. The entire treasury including its sculptural decoration is built of Parian marble. The date[…]

Angkor Wat, Medieval Center of the Khmer Empire

Introduction Angkor Wat is a temple complex in the province of Siem Reap, Cambodia originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu in the 12th century CE. It is among the largest religious buildings ever created, second only to the Temple of Karnak at Thebes, Egypt and, some claim, even larger. Its name means “City of[…]

Cozumel and Tulum: The Red Handprints of the Maya

Red handprints can be found on the walls of a number of Maya sites and are associated with the creator god Itzamna. Introduction The Maya sites of San Gervasio (on the island of Cozumel) and Tulum (on the mainland of Mexico in Quintana Roo) are often overlooked for the better-known Chichen Itza or other spectacular[…]

Ataskada: The Fire Temple in Ancient Zoroastrianism

Fire temples were firmly established by the time of the Parthian Empire. Introduction Fire Temples are places of worship in the Zoroastrian religion. They were known as ataskada (“house of fire”) by the Persians but are best known today by the name given them by the Greeks from their word pyratheia (fire temple). They are[…]

Ancient Mycenaean Civilization, 1700-1100 BCE

The Mycenaeans were indigenous Greeks who were likely stimulated by their contact with Minoan Crete and other Mediterranean cultures. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Mycenaean civilization (c. 1700-1100 BCE) flourished in the Late Bronze Age, reaching its peak from the 15th to the 13th century BCE when it extended its influence not only throughout the[…]

A Flair for the Dramatic: Baroque Architecture in Early Modern Europe

The period was characterized by a fluidity of design accented by a sense of drama. Introduction The seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries marked the Baroque period in Europe and the Americas. The period was characterized by a fluidity of design accented by a sense of drama. The architecture of the period departed from the traditionalist[…]

A History of the Italian Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance began in Tuscany, centered in the cities of Florence and Siena. Introduction The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the fourteenth century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and[…]

Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for a New Nation

All the participants recognized they were creating America’s most important public building. Introduction George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were determined that the United States Capitol be a meaningful expression of America’s new political and social order. The Constitution, ratified in 1788, had given the country its governing structure; the Capitol, begun three years later, was[…]

Ancient Persian Art and Architecture

Persian art and architecture was influenced early on by the older civilizations of Elam and Susiana. Introduction Persian art and architecture in the present day is associated with the nation of Iran and usually designated as beginning with the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE) but has an even longer history with its origins dating back[…]

Art and Architecture of Japan, Medieval to Renaissance Periods

There was new development toward life-likeness and a form of idealized realism. Kamakura Period (1185-1333): New Aesthetic Directions The Insei rule gave way to an extra-imperial, although imperially sanctioned, military government, known in Japanese as bakufu. Military leaders—called shōguns—first came from the Minamoto family (whose headquarters in Kamakura gave the name to the period), then power[…]

Art and Architecture of Japan, Ancient Jomon to Medieval Heian Periods

The arts of Japan are profoundly intertwined with the country’s long and complex history. Introduction Japan’s arts are often in dialogue with artistic and cultural developments in other parts of the world. From the earliest aesthetic expressions of the Neolithic period to today’s contemporary art—here is a brief survey to get you started. Please note[…]

Art and Architecture of South Asia, Prehistory to 500 CE

Art is a wonderfully tangible pathway to past cultures. By Dr. Arathi Menon Introduction Art is a wonderfully tangible pathway to past cultures. In the large collar of a tiny terracotta dog from Harappa, in present-day Pakistan, we learn about people and their dogs four thousand years ago. In beds made of stone inside rock-cut[…]

Medieval Castles, Caves, and Rock Shelters

A medieval world where caves and underground shelters provided refuge from raiders, allowing a threatened civilization to flourish. Introduction Southwest Georgia, close to the borders with Turkey and Armenia, is dotted with the remains of ancient defences. Many of these structures – great and small, highly visible or hidden away – reflect the near-constant conflicts[…]

Architecture of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

The Achaemenid Empire was a period of artistic growth that left an extraordinary architectural legacy. Introduction Achaemenid architecture includes all architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities used for governance and inhabitation (Persepolis, Susa, Ecbatana), temples made for worship and social gatherings (such as Zoroastrian temples), and mausoleums erected in[…]

Key Elements of Persian Architecture since Ancient Mesopotamia

Iran has inherited numerous architectural traditions over the course of history. Introduction From the Islamic period the architectural achievements of the Seljuq, Il-Khanid, and Safavid dynasties are particularly noteworthy. During that time Iranian cities such as Neyshabur, Isfahan, and Shiraz came to be among the great cities of the Islamic world, and their many mosques,[…]

Sumerian Temple Architecture in Early Mesopotamia

This period is characterized by major cultural and political changes. Historical Overview During the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 BCE) (fig. 1), southern Mesopotamia was split into two regions, Akkad in the north and Sumer in the south. The Early Dynastic (ED) period can be divided into four phases: EDI (2900–2700) EDII (2700–2600) EDIIIa (2600–2450) EDIIIb[…]

Sacred Space and Symbolic Form at India’s Medieval Lakshmana Temple

The temples at Khajuraho, including the Lakshmana temple, have become famous for their amorous images. Ideal Female Beauty Look closely at the image above. Imagine an elegant woman walks barefoot along a path accompanied by her attendant. She steps on a thorn and turns—adeptly bending her left leg, twisting her body, and arching her back—to[…]

The Bronze Bells of Ancient Korea

Bronze bells were first made in Korea in the Bronze Age. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The metalworkers of ancient Korea were highly skilled artists and some of their finest surviving works are the large bronze bells cast for use in Buddhist temples and monasteries. Both the Unified Silla kingdom and Goryeo kingdom produced bells, but[…]

Dolmens of Bronze Age Korea

They were constructed as tombs for elite members of the community. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Dolmens (in Korean: koindol or chisongmyo) are simple structures made of monolithic stones erected during the late Neolithic period or Korean Bronze Age (1st millennium BCE). In ancient Korea they appear most often near villages and the archaeological finds buried[…]

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – Digitally Reconstructed

Six of the ancient wonders have vanished – and that’s if they existed in the first place. By John Cole The Wonders of the Ancient World remain cornerstones of human culture, and the concept is regularly referred to in casual conversation as well as in the academic sphere. But how many people can actually name[…]

Strangers in the City: The Cosmopolitan Nature of 16th-Century Venice

Othello shows us the cosmopolitan nature of renaissance Venice. Of all Shakespeare’s plays, it is Othello which reflects most vividly the multi-ethnic character of the Mediterranean basin in the 16th century. The Venetian army led by Othello, an African Moor, consists also of a Florentine (Cassio) and perhaps a Spaniard as well: the name ‘Iago’[…]

The Zvartnots Cathedral of Medieval Armenia

Zvartnots Cathedral was constructed at a time of much chaos in Near East. Introduction The ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral are located on a flat plain within the Ararat Plateau between the cities of Yerevan and Etchmiadzin in Armenia’s Armavir province near Zvartnots International Airport. Built in the middle of the 7th century CE, under the[…]

Classical Architecture in Viceregal Mexico

In the sixteenth century, cities were considered to embody an ideal of sophisticated and refined living. The Renaissance – Not Just in Italy The term “renaissance” generally invokes images of Italian cities, buildings, and artworks, rather than images of American ones. However, the renaissance had tremendous repercussions on the American continents, and its influence can[…]

Azulejos: The Visual Art of Portugal

Traditional tile art tells the stories of Portugal’s proud seafaring history. By Kim MartinsHistorian Introduction Glazed blue ceramic tiles or azulejos are everywhere in Portugal. They decorate the winding streets of the capital, Lisbon. They cover the walls of train stations, restaurants, bars, public murals, and fountains, churches, and altar fronts. Azulejos can be seen[…]