Ancient Chinese Art

Ancient Chinese artists were not professionals but gentlemen amateurs (and a few ladies) who were also scholars. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Ancient China covered a vast and ever-changing geopolitical landscape, and the art it produced over three millennia is, unsurprisingly, just as varied. Still, despite continuous indigenous technical developments, changes in materials and tastes, and[…]

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[…]

Apocalypse Now: Our Incessant Desire to Picture the End of the World from Medieval Times to Today

Each generation, each epoch, has seen themselves apocalyptically, albeit with great differences as to what the actual end will involve. Introduction As is typical of our time, over the past few months, many newscasters have used the words apocalypse or apocalyptic to evoke the negative implications of events as diverse as the threat of Grexit,[…]

The Medieval ‘Apocalypse Tapestry’ of Louis I, Duke of Anjou

Created between 1377 and 1382, it is the oldest surviving French tapestry. Introduction The Apocalypse Tapestry is a large medieval French set of tapestries commissioned by Louis I, the Duke of Anjou, and produced between 1377 and 1382. It depicts the story of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation by Saint John the Divine[…]

Loie Fuller and the Serpentine

Exploring Fuller’s unlikely stardom and how her beguiling art embodied the era’s newly blurred boundaries between human and machine. This article, Loie Fuller and the Serpentine, 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/ In 1892, Loie Fuller (née Mary-Louise Fuller, in[…]

Of Pears and Kings

Investigating an early 19th-century meme in the press to criticize the corrupt and repressive policies of King Louis-Philippe. This article, Brilliant Visions: Peyote among the Aesthetes, 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/ Images have long provided a means of protesting[…]

Illustrators of the New World: The Image in the Spanish Scientific Expeditions of the Enlightenment

In the 18th Century, most travelers and explorers had painters and illustrators at their sides who recorded their adventures. Abstract In the Eighteenth Century, with the boom in the exploration of the Earth, most travellers and explorers had painters and illustrators at their sides who recorded their adventures, even their deaths, the exotic locations they[…]

Goldwork Embroidery of Kievan Rus’

In the time of Kievan Rus’, goldwork embroidery flourished in the lives of the feudal elite and occupied a significant role in their lives. A translation of Новицкая, М.А. “Золотная вышивка Киевской Руси.” Byzantinoslavica, 1972(33), pp. 42-50. Since ancient times, embroidery has served a large role in the life of all levels of society, serving[…]

Traditional Maori Tattoo of New Zealand

Tattoo patterns and art on the face and body differed from one Polynesian island group to the next. By Kim MartinsHistorian Introduction Te Papa Tongawera (or simply Te Papa) is New Zealand’s innovative national museum situated near the foreshore of beautiful Wellington harbour. Te Papa Tongawera means “container of treasures” in Te Reo Maori, which is the indigenous language[…]

Exploring a Global Middle Ages through the Pages of Decorated Books

A wide-ranging new Getty book examines the role of text and image across cultures over the thousand-year span of the Middle Ages. Introduction Manuscripts and printed books—like today’s museums, archives, and libraries—provide glimpses into how people have perceived the Earth, its many cultures, and everyone’s place in it. Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the[…]

Ancient Persian Silk Spinning Still Practiced in Iran

There are silk makers in different parts of Iran who still practice the trade their ancestors did some 3,000 years ago. For more than three millennia, silk thread produced in Iran has been used to make clothing fabric and for weaving Persian rugs. In many of these small villages along the Iran-Afghanistan border, families receive[…]

44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting the History of Art

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi, but it was assumed they weren’t that old. Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the[…]

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[…]

Christine de Pizan and the Medieval ‘Book of the City of Ladies’

This is probably the best expression of of Pizan’s views of contemporary medieval women. The Woman Question In the late Middle Ages, one of the most popular books was the Romance of the Rose (Roman de la Rose), begun in 1237 by Guillaume de Lorris and expanded by Jean de Meun some decades later. The[…]

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[…]

Käthe Kollwitz: Agent of Change

Meet the printmaker and activist, whose images of loss, injustice, and poverty resonate today. By Christina Aube and Naoko Takahatake Introduction German printmaker, sculptor, teacher, and social activist Käthe Kollwitz was no stranger to change. Born in 1867, she witnessed seismic political, societal, and economic shifts under three regimes: the German Empire, the Weimar Republic,[…]

Decking the Halls of History: The Origins of Christmas Decorations

The pagans paved the way for our modern festivities. Introduction The idea of hanging up decorations in the middle of winter is older than Christmas itself. Decorations are mentioned in ancient descriptions of the Roman feast of Saturnalia, which is thought to have originated in the 5th century BC. Some 900 years later, a Christian[…]

Colonial Australian Art: Helping Us to See When We Don’t Want to Look

Australia’s under appreciated colonial art is a window to the past that can help us understand the fraught and violent history of settlement. “When I point it out you won’t ever be able to look at this painting again without noticing it.” Historian, curator and artist Dr Greg Lehman is talking to me in his[…]

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[…]