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[…]

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 ‘Eagle Warrior’ from the Mexica (Aztec) Templo Mayor

The sculpture was recovered at the House of the Eagles, the meeting place of eagle and jaguar warriors. Introduction Eagle Warrior is a life-sized ceramic sculpture made by Mexica (sometimes called Aztec) artists that shows a warrior dressed in an eagle costume. Made of terracotta, a type of earthenware known for its reddish color, the[…]

Imaging Technology Reveals 15th-Century Cartographer’s World View

The map had much to say about the intellectual rapport between cartographers and navigators in the fifteenth century. For many years after it was donated to Yale University in 1962, a detailed world map completed in 1491 by Henricus Martellus and in all likelihood consulted by Christopher Columbus hung unobtrusively on a wall outside of[…]

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[…]

Landscape Painting in Nineteenth-Century Latin America

Works by artists like Velasco, Troya, Chartrand, and Oller offer an alternative to depictions by foreign artists. Painting Local Landscapes in Mexico Renowned Mexican landscapist, José María Velasco painted views of the Valley of Mexico more than seven times. In one of his famous versions, called the Valley of Mexico (1877), Velasco painted the valley[…]

The Skill of Inca Weavers in Their Textiles

By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction For the Incas finely worked and highly decorative textiles came to symbolize both wealth and status, fine cloth could be used as both a tax and currency, and the very best textiles became amongst the most prized of all possessions, even more precious than gold or silver. Inca weavers were technically[…]

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[…]

Westcar Papyrus: The Art of the Story in Ancient Egypt

In the manuscript, each of Khufu’s sons speaks in turn, telling their own tale for their father’s entertainment. Introduction The ancient Egyptians enjoyed storytelling as one of their favorite pastimes. Inscriptions and images, as well as the number of stories produced, give evidence of a long history of the art of the story in Egypt[…]

A New Generation Is Reviving Indigenous Tattooing

People in Arctic and Northwest Coast communities are uncovering the therapeutic history of tattoos. By Joshua Rapp Learn To celebrate her graduation from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Native Studies program in 2012, Marjorie Kunaq Tahbone got a tattoo. Tahbone is Inupiat, an Alaska Native people, and the design was a traditional Inupiat pattern:[…]

The Body as a Map: A History of Body Modification

People have long made their skin into canvases that convey rich personal, spiritual, or ritual meanings in specific cultural contexts. By Dr. Djuke VeldhuisAnthropologist By Dr. Matthew Gwynfryn ThomasData Scientist and Anthropologist For decades, two mummies lay in the British Museum concealing a secret. The ancient Egyptian pair, nicknamed Gebelein Man A and Gebelein Woman,[…]

Woodblocks in Wonderland: The Japanese Fairy Tale Series

From gift-bestowing sparrows and peach-born heroes to goblin spiders and dancing phantom cats — in a series of beautifully illustrated books, the majority printed on an unusual cloth-like crepe paper, the publisher Takejiro Hasegawa introduced Japanese folk tales to the West. Christopher DeCou on how a pioneering cross-cultural endeavour gave rise to a magnificent chapter[…]

Richard Dadd’s ‘Fairy Feller’ Master-Stroke

Examining Dadd’s most famous painting The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke. This article, Richard Dadd’s ‘Fairy Feller’ Master-Stroke, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ Richard Dadd was a young British painter of huge promise who fell into mental illness while touring the[…]

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:[…]

Photographing the Dark: Félix Nadar’s Descent into the Paris Catacombs

Today the Paris Catacombs are illuminated by electric lights and friendly guides. But when Félix Nadar descended into this “empire of death” in the 1860s artificial lighting was still in its infancy: the pioneering photographer had to face the quandary of how to take photographs in the subterranean dark. Allison C. Meier explores Nadar’s determined[…]

10 Surprising Facts about Books of Beasts from the European Middle Ages

Art history students offer a bite-sized introduction to the bestiary of the European Middle Ages. Introduction The medieval book of beasts, a kind of encyclopedia of animals known as the bestiary, was full of fascinating creatures both real and fantastic. While the bestiary often linked animals to Christian beliefs, teaching readers moral and religious lessons,[…]

The Bad Side of the Medieval Bestiary

Medieval books of beasts reflect the attitudes of the people who made them—including antisemitism, homophobia, misogyny, and indifference to animal cruelty. Introduction The splendidly illustrated bestiaries displayed in the exhibition Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World and described in the accompanying catalogue tell us much about medieval fascination with all of Creation: beasts, birds, fish, reptiles,[…]

An Introduction to the Bestiary, Book of Beasts in the Medieval World

Two curators this unique medieval book and its long influence. Introduction The bestiary—the medieval book of beasts—was among the most popular illuminated texts in northern Europe during the Middle Ages (about 500–1500). Medieval Christians understood every element of the world as a manifestation of God, and bestiaries largely focused on each animal’s religious meaning. The[…]

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[…]

Exploring the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo, Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, 1508-12, fresco (Vatican, Rome) Michelangelo began to work on the frescoes for Pope Julius II in 1508, replacing a blue ceiling dotted with stars. Visiting the Chapel To any visitor of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, two features become immediately and undeniably apparent: 1) the ceiling is really high up, and[…]

The Book of Kells: 9th-Century Irish Monks and Ogham Script

The Irish monks combined the letters of the Roman alphabet with their own Ogham script. Introduction The Book of Kells (c. 800 CE) is an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the Christian New Testament, currently housed at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The work is the most famous of the medieval illuminated manuscripts for the intricacy, detail, and majesty[…]

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[…]

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[…]

The Meaning of European Upper Paleolithic Rock Art

It has been suggested that there is a correlation between demographic and social patterns and the flourishing of rock art. Introduction Rock art (also known as parietal art) is an umbrella term which refers to several types of creations including finger markings left on soft surfaces, bas-relief sculptures, engraved figures and symbols, and paintings onto[…]