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[…]

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[…]