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[…]

Sculptor Hiram Powers and His Representation of Slavery in Ancient Greece

His work catapulted Powers to international fame in the 19th century. Introduction They say Ideal beauty cannot enter The house of anguish. On the threshold stands An alien Image with enshackled hands, Called the Greek Slave! as if the artist meant her (That passionless perfection which he lent her, Shadowed not darkened where the sill[…]

The Dragon in Ancient China

Dragons were one of the earliest creatures to appear in the tales and legends of ancient China. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Dragons appear in the mythology of many ancient cultures but nowhere else in the world was the creature quite so revered as in China. There, in marked contrast to other world mythologies, the dragon[…]

A History of Chinese Art from the Ancient World to Today

The earliest surviving examples of Chinese painting are fragments of painting on silk, stone, and lacquer items. Introduction Chinese art traditions are the oldest continuous art traditions in the world. Early so-called “stone age art” in China, consisting mostly of simple pottery and sculptures, dates back to 10,000 B.C.E.. This early period was followed by[…]

The Codices: Insight into Aztec Culture

The tlacuilo (codex painter) tradition endured the transition to colonial culture. Introduction Aztec codices (singular codex) are books written by pre-Columbian and colonial-era Aztecs. These codices provide some of the best primary sources for Aztec culture. The pre-Columbian codices differ from European codices in that they are largely pictorial; they were not meant to symbolize[…]

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[…]

Ancient Israelite Art

Art reveals many aspects of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. Introduction Ancient Israelite art traditions are evident especially on stamps seals, ivories from Samaria, and carvings, each with motifs connecting it to more general artistic traditions throughout the Levant. Ancient Israel, and therefore its art, existed from about the 10th century BCE until the late[…]

The Surprising Source of Ansel Adams’ Signature Style

Largely self-taught, Adams learned to harness the communicative power of photography during his years as a marketing photographer. Introduction Ansel Adams’ bold, black-and-white landscapes of the American wilderness are so iconic that most people know an Adams photograph when they see it. You might be surprised to learn that Adams didn’t learn his craft by[…]

Looking at the History of Modern Visual Culture

Introduction Visual Culture is human culture based on visual media — pictures, sculpture, and (sometimes) dance— as opposed to oral culture and print culture, based on language, words, and writing. The oldest evidences of human intellectual and cultural activity, dating back some 25,000 years B.C.E., are cave paintings of objects, human figures, animals and symbols.[…]

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[…]

Minoan Linear A: How Do You Crack the Code to a Lost Ancient Script?

Deciphering Linear B, the earliest form of Greek, was a history-changing achievement, but decoding the older Linear A would open a new window on the origins of European culture. How do you go about deciphering the script of a wholly different language that was lost more than 3,000 years ago? Linguist and archaeologist Dr Brent[…]

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[…]

Picturing a Voice: Margaret Watts-Hughes and the Eidophone

Exploring the significance of the 19th-centurty Welsh singer’s ingenious set of images, which until recently were thought to be lost. This article, Picturing a Voice: Margaret Watts-Hughes and the Eidophone, 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/ Recorded sound began as[…]

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[…]

The Bayeux Tapestry: Propaganda in 1066 for William the Conqueror

The Tapestry is valued both as a work of art and as a source concerning the history of the Norman Conquest. Introduction The Bayeux Tapestry (French: Tapisserie de Bayeux) is a 50 cm by 70 m (20 in by 230 ft) long embroidered cloth, done in painstaking detail, which depicts the events leading up to[…]

Byzantine Art as Propaganda: Justinian and Theodora at Ravenna

Justifications for the propagandizing elements in these mosaics are not difficult. Power on earth was once – and sometimes even now – perceived as a result of power in heaven. The great double mosaic of Justinian and Theodora at San Vitale in Ravenna is a forceful exercise in demonstrating power through art as propaganda, fusing[…]

The Medieval and Renaissance Altarpiece

Though altarpieces were not necessary for the Mass, they became a standard feature of altars throughout Europe. The Altar and the Sacrament of the Eucharist Every architectural space has a gravitational center, one that may be spatial or symbolic or both; for the medieval church, the altar fulfilled that role. This essay will explore what[…]

Laocoön: The Suffering of a Trojan Priest and Its Afterlife

Is this statue at the Vatican actually the ancient sculpture mentioned by Pliny, or rather a clever Renaissance forgery? Introduction The sculpture group of Laocoön and His Sons, on display in the Vatican since its rediscovery in 1506 CE, depicts the suffering of the Trojan prince and priest Laocoön (brother of Anchises) and his young sons Antiphantes[…]

The Drunken Satyr: Saving an Ancient Sculpture, Step by Careful Step

Conservators and scientists devote 15 months to preserving an ancient treasure from one of Italy’s great museums. Introduction An ancient Roman sculpture of a drunken Satyr arrived in the Getty Villa conservation labs on loan from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples in the fall of 2018. This was the first time the 2,000-year-old sculpture[…]

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and the ‘Apotheosis of Homer’

The archaic Greek poet is conceived of as the wellspring from which the later Western artistic tradition flows. A Student of the Past Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (pronounced: aah-n Gr-ah) was Jacque-Louis David’s most famous student. And while this prolific and successful artist was indebted to his teacher, Ingres quickly turned away from him. For his inspiration,[…]

A History of the British Crown Jewels

The regalia includes several medieval articles and gemstones. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Crown Jewels of the monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are today kept in the Tower of London and date mostly to the 17th century CE, with a few later sparkling additions such as the Koh-i-Noor and[…]

The Oxus Treasure from the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

The general consensus is that it is genuine, dates from the Achaemenid Period, and is representative of some of the finest art in metallurgy from that time. Introduction The Oxus Treasure is a collection of 180 artifacts of precious metal, dated to the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE), which were discovered on the north bank[…]

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[…]

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[…]