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[…]

Visiting The Ruins of Lisbon’s Ancient and Medieval Past

Lisbon was the capital of the Portuguese Empire, a nation of explorers, seafarers and conquerors. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction Visiting the vibrant and colorful city of Lisbon, on the banks of the river Tagus and the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, what is most showcased is one episode of the city’s and country’s glorious past:[…]

2,000-Year-Old Street Built in Jerusalem by Pontius Pilate Discovered

The excavation revealed over 100 coins trapped beneath paving stones. An ancient walkway most likely used by pilgrims as they made their way to worship at the Temple Mount has been uncovered in the “City of David” in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. In a new study published in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute[…]

The Bizarre Social History of Beds

Today’s beds are thought of as bastions of privacy. But not long ago, they were the perches from which kings ruled and places where travelers hunkered down with complete strangers. Introduction Groucho Marx once joked, “Anything that can’t be done in bed isn’t worth doing at all.” You might think he was referring to sleeping[…]

Exploring Ancient Mosaics

We can see how the world once was and glimpse now lost landscapes, flora and fauna. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Mosaics, where designs and images are created using small pieces (tesserae) of stone or other materials, have been used to decorate floors, walls, ceilings, and precious objects since before written records began. Like pottery, mosaics have[…]

Krak Des Chevaliers: A Crusader Castle in Medieval Syria

Considered virtually impregnable, it was the largest Crusader castle in the Middle East. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Krak des Chevaliers (also spelt Cracs des Chevaliers, and known in Arabic as Hisn al-Akrad) is a castle in Syria originally built for the Emir of Aleppo in 1031 CE but acquired and extensively rebuilt by the Knights[…]

Hoysala Architecture of Medieval India

The most remarkable accomplishment of this era lies, undoubtedly, in the field of architecture. By Dhruba RC Introduction The Hoysala era (1026 CE – 1343 CE) was marked by illustrious achievements in art, architecture, and culture. The nucleus of this activity lay in the present day Hassan district of Karnataka, India. The most remarkable accomplishment[…]

The Mongolian Yurt

The yurt tent has been used by nomadic pastoralist peoples of northern East Asia since before written records began. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction A yurt (ger in Mongolian) is a large circular tent made of wool felt stretched over a wooden frame used by nomadic peoples of the Asian steppe since before written records began.[…]

Questions Answered about Ancient Palmyra, Syria

Getty Curators Frances Terpak and Peter Bonfitto answer questions about how the ancient site was recorded and how it has changed. Frances Terpak and Peter Louis Bonfitto, co-curators of the Getty Research Institute’s first online exhibition The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra, took your questions on Instagram last week. Both are passionate about the value of scholarship and the[…]

Ancient Christian Art and Architecture

Early Christianity used the same artistic media as the surrounding Pagan culture. Introduction Early Christian art and architecture or Paleochristian art is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from the earliest period of Christianity to, depending on the definition used, sometime between 260 and 525. In practice, identifiably Christian art only survives[…]

Introduction to Religious Art and Architecture in Early Colonial Peru

We see an interplay of Inka and Peruvian works. Signaling Spanish Dominance in Cuzco, Peru The transmission of Christianity to the Andes [the longest continental mountain range in the world and form a continuous highland along the western edge of South America] was both an ideological and artistic endeavor. Early missionaries needed to construct new[…]

A Brief Introduction to the Art of Ancient Assyrian Kings

Explore the themes, symbolism, and narrative techniques used to decorate the palaces of ancient Assyria. Introduction From the 800s to the 600s B.C., the kings of Assyria built grand palaces in their capital cities, located in the land we know today as Iraq. Inside these palaces were some of the most remarkable works of sculpture[…]

How ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ Inspired the Cathedral’s 19th-Century Revival

Looking nostalgically to the past, a young architect sought to revive the building as a bulwark to the uncertainty of the Industrial Revolution. On April 15, people around the world watched in horror as a voracious fire consumed the medieval wooden roof of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral and felled its spire. The following day brought[…]

Notre-Dame’s Centuries of Survival, Captured in Art

A Getty exhibition illuminates the medieval cathedral’s role in European history and spotlights wondrous objects that survived the recent fire. Introduction The world came to a collective halt on April 15, 2019, when news broke that a fire was taking over Notre-Dame, an 850-year-old cathedral in the heart of Paris. Despite its age, the cathedral[…]

An Ancient City Beneath Rome: The Catacombs of Priscilla

Rome’s underground necropolises were forgotten by the Middle Ages. By Kim MartinsHistorian Introduction Any visitor to Rome will want to see and explore the popular historical and cultural sites – the Colosseum, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain and, of course, the Vatican. But a large part of the city’s ancient history actually lies underground in[…]

The Renaissance in Spain

During the Renaissance, the Spanish empire also extended throughout Western Europe. Introduction We often think of globalization as a modern phenomenon, but the confluence of cultures we see today was already growing in the Spanish Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries. For instance, dividing screens from Japan were imported to Mexico, where they were[…]

Exploring the Architecture of Greek World Heritage Sites

Greece, the ‘cradle of western civilization’, is home to a large number of spectacular sites from the ancient world, several of which have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Introduction These sites of great historical importance, interest, beauty, and impact do not all reflect the civilization we call Classical Greece – they range[…]

The Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum

The temple known as the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 438 B.CE. By the British Museum Athens and Democracy By around 500 B.C.E. ‘rule by the people,’ or democracy, had emerged in the city of Athens. Following the defeat of a Persian invasion in 480-479 B.C.E., mainland Greece and[…]

Gardens as Pleasurable Microcosms: Comparisons and Connections

Wealthy patrons, like kings and emperors, often commissioned prominent artists and architects to design their gardens. Introduction Art is designed for a great many purposes, but much art is also, if not exclusively, designed to provide and reflect a sense of pleasure. A palace might be intended to display the power and wealth of a[…]

The Early Modern European Palaces of the Qianlong Emperor

These works represent an artistic encounter between East and West. A Controversial Auction In 2009, two eighteenth-century Chinese bronze sculptures — one representing a rat’s head and the other a rabbit’s — sold at a Christie’s auction in Paris for $40.4 million. Soon afterwards, the art world watched, stunned, as the winning bidder, Cai Mingchao,[…]

The Roman Baths in Bath: A Deep Dive into Britain’s Ancient History

There is little evidence remaining from the pre-Roman worship, as they left little footprints of their spiritual practice for us to study. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction Bath, the famous spa town in Somerset England, has attracted people from near and far for centuries to its healing springs and baths. Today the city is known for its beautiful Georgian architecture and[…]

The Ancient Megalithic Funerary Art of San Agustín, Colombia

These burial places formed the centers of small-scale chiefdoms and shared a set of sculptural motifs and styles. By Benjamin OswaldHistorian Introduction Beginning approximately 2000 years ago, in a rugged stretch of southwestern Colombia where the Andes split into multiple ranges and the mighty Magdalena River is born, a people created a collection of magnificent[…]

The Temple-Building Gurjara-Pratihara Empire of Medieval India

The Pratiharas were known chiefly for their patronage of art, sculpture, and temple-building. By Dr. Avantika LalHistorian, Independent Researcher Introduction The Gurjara-Pratiharas, or simply, the Pratiharas (8th century CE – 11th century CE) held their sway over western and northern India. This dynasty saw its fortunes rising under Nagabhata I (730–760 CE) who successfully defeated Arab[…]

Yakushiji and Ryoanji: A History of Two Japanese Buddhist Temples

Buddhism in Japan has been practiced since its official introduction by monks in 552 CE. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Yakushiji Overview The Yakushiji temple, located in Nara, Japan, is the headquarters of the Buddhist Hosso sect and one of the most important temples in the country. Originally founded in 680 CE at Fujiwara-kyo but then relocated[…]

The Hippodrome of Constantinople: Sports and Entertainment in Ancient Byzantium

Many important Roman cities had an arena which hosted thrilling chariot races and more for public entertainment. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Hippodrome of Constantinople was an arena used for chariot racing throughout the Byzantine period. First built during the reign of Roman emperor Septimius Severus in the early 3rd century CE, the structure was[…]

The Mystery of Fort Ancient Culture: The Great Serpent Mound

The 1,000-year-old mound conforms to the natural topography of the site. A Serpent 1300 Feet Long The Great Serpent Mound in rural, southwestern Ohio is the largest serpent effigy in the world. Numerous mounds were made by the ancient Native American cultures that flourished along the fertile valleys of the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri[…]