Behind This Cover Lies a World Treasure

A small and ornate book opens up to reveal one of the great masterpieces of Renaissance manuscript illumination. The exquisite Rothschild Prayer Book, one of a handful of peerless illuminated manuscripts produced at the end of the 15th and the early 16th centuries, will be the centrepiece of an exhibition featuring the collection of media[…]

Renaissance Woman: Isabella d’Este

Despite the restrictions women faced, her art collections demonstrate important renaissance themes. Introduction In European history classes, we often hear about renaissance men: Cosimo de’ Medici, Leonardo da Vinci, and Niccolò Machiavelli. Where were the women? The most famous female patron of the Italian renaissance was Isabella d’Este Gonzaga (1474–1539), marchioness of a territory in[…]

How the Volkswagen Beetle Sparked America’s Art Car Movement

When the Beetle was first introduced, Americans had never seen anything like it. Among art car enthusiasts, it became the ideal canvas for self-expression. Introduction With a mariachi band playing along, the last Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line of a Mexican factory on July 10. Originally created in Germany at the behest of Adolf[…]

Art Is Good for Your Brain

The field of neuroaesthetics uses neuroscience to understand how art affects our brains, both when we’re making it and when we’re viewing it. By Jessica Jacolbe Does art matter? All intangible benefits aside, it turns out that the processes of both creating art and experiencing beauty net neural benefits. Neuroaesthetics examines art and our reactions[…]

Titian’s ‘Pastoral Concert’: A New Genre in Renaissance Italy

This genre became one of the most important artistic contributions of Renaissance Venice. Farewell, peoples and cities. The countryside will offer delightful displays for my eyes. Jacopo Sannazaro, Elegies, Book 1, Poem II, line 24 I know that then my verses will appear/ unpolished and dark, but I hope that even so/ they will be[…]

Italy’s Erotic Revolution in Renaissance Art Joined the Lusty to the Divine

There was a split between the pure ideal and base reality, between sacred and profane love. In the Sistine Chapel, you look up at Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and see muscular angels hurtling through space, nude or with just a scrap of cloth tight across their buttocks (Figure 1, above). Then after leaving the Vatican, you[…]

Woodblock Prints of Domestic ‘Westernization’ in Asia, 1868-1912

In the 19th and early-20th centuries, Japan, among the major countries of Asia, escaped colonial or neo-colonial domination by the United States and expansionist nations of Europe. Introduction What does it mean to speak of people, cultures, or nations responding to “the challenge of the Western world”?  What does “Westernization” involve in concrete practice? Beginning[…]

Woodblock Prints of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895

The Sino-Japanese War provided something very new—a modern and highly mechanized war against a foreign foe. Prints and Propaganda The Sino-Japanese War began in July 1894 and ended in China’s shattering defeat in April 1895. It involved battles on land and sea; began with fighting in Korea that spilled over the Yalu River into Manchuria;[…]

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 Shōsōin Repository and Its Treasure

Shōsōin repository held nine thousand artifacts from China, Southeast Asia, Iran, and the Middle East—connecting ancient Japan to the cultural trade of the Eurasian continent. Introduction In the Japanese city, Nara, on the northwest rear corner of Tōdai-ji Temple’s Daibutsuden Hall stands a building largely unaltered since the 8th century. Of age-darkened cypress and deceptively plain, its distinctively ribbed[…]

The Nazca Lines of Ancient Peru: Dr. Maria Reiche and a Life’s Work

For nearly 2,000 uninterrupted years, the region’s ancient inhabitants drew thousands of large-scale zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures and lines on the arid ground. Introduction The lines and geoglyphs of Nazca are one of the most impressive-looking archaeological areas in the world and an extraordinary example of the traditional and millenary magical-religious world of the ancient Pre-Hispanic societies. They[…]

A Brief History of the Cultures of Asia

In Asia, because of its huge land mass and multiple diverse cultures, there are several overlapping timelines. Overview Historians divide history into large and small units in order to make characteristics and changes clear to themselves and to students. It’s important to remember that any historical period is a construction and a simplification. In Asia,[…]

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Personal #Brand

Napoleon didn’t like sitting for portraits, and yet artists and mass market prints helped cement his legendary status. By Matthew Wills Corsican-born Napoleon Bonaparte, known for conquering much of Europe and crowning himself Emperor of the French, knew the importance of good iconography. Portraiture and propaganda were crucial elements of his life story, which began with his[…]

Images of Enlightenment: Aniconic vs. Iconic Depictions of the Buddha in India

One of the most important moments in the story of Prince Siddhartha is when he reached spiritual enlightenment—a state of infinite knowledge. Depicting the Divine Representing divine figures has long been a thorny issue. After all, depicting the divine in human form would seem to define and limit the divine in a manner which seems to contradict the idea[…]

Contemporary Native American Architecture

The variety of native traditions, available materials, and architectural expertise has given the continent new and culturally sensitive architectural forms during the last two generations. Design and Heritage You are a member of one of the midwestern nations of Native Americans. Your ancestors had no permanent architecture because they were nomadic hunter-gatherers (see photo below).[…]

Finding the Hidden Hellenism in Melbourne’s Architecture

Take a tour through Melbourne with a Greek lens and discover the rich Hellenic influences that shape the city. Introduction Melbourne is the city with the largest Greek population outside of Europe. Since the earliest instances of Greek migration in the mid-19th century, the Greek community has been a great contributor to the richness of[…]

The Highwaymen: Mid-20th Century Black Artists Working from the Side of the Road

The art of Florida’s Highwaymen finds a new audience. It was an era when most African Americans in Fort Pierce were relegated to working in kitchens or fields, when Jim Crow prevented them from using the same water fountains as whites, and few, if any, black artists could be found in history books. Despite the[…]

Imagine Nation: How Pocket Maps Helped Poets and Subjects Reenvision England

A GPS for sixteenth-century travelers. By Mary Alexandra Agner Like many other familiar objects, the road map has been transformed by digital technology. From unfoldable glove-compartment staple to robotically voiced GPS system, maps have become more portable, easier to hold, and just plain different. Whether or not we pause to reflect on it, these gadgets[…]

Itinerant View Takers: Topographic Artists in Early Modern England

Examining how topographical views were often the result of artists touring in Britain and beyond. The lawyer Sir William Burrell, planning a history of Sussex which he never completed, commissioned over the period 1780 to 1791 a series of illustrative drawings from James Lambert, a local watercolourist, and from Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, an immigrant from Switzerland.[…]

Museo del Jade y de la Cultura Precolombina: Costa Rica’s Jade Museum

An interview with Curator Virginia Novoa Espinoza about the museum’s magnificent collection and the artistry of Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian peoples. The Jade Museum (Spanish: Museo del Jade y de la Cultura Precolombina) in San José, Costa Rica houses the world’s largest collection of ancient jade from the Americas. With nearly 7,000 pieces in its collection, the[…]

An Introduction to Latin American Art History

From as early as the pre-Columbian era, there existed networks of exchange among the early civilizations of Latin America. Why Is It Important to Study Latin American Art Today? The study of Latin America and Latin American art is more relevant today than ever. In the United States, the burgeoning population of Latinos—people of Latin[…]

African Art and the Effects of European Contact and Colonization

African cultures never existed in isolation—there was always movement, trade, and the exchange of ideas. Introduction Early encounters with Europeans were often recorded in African art. Look closely at the top of the mask above (and detail, left). Do you see faces? These represent Portuguese explorers with beards and hats (flanked by mudfish) who visited[…]

Foreign Influences and Imported Luxuries in Ancient Thrace

A substantial amount of the artifacts in the Thracian archaeological record comes from diverse cultural and stylistic traditions. By Teodora A. Nikolova Introduction Defining Thracian art is a difficult task due to the fact that what we call today Thrace was never a single unified state but, rather, a collection of many independent communities (or[…]

Baalbek: Temple of Jupiter in Ancient Rome

Baalbek is a town in the northern Bekaa valley, the site of the largest sanctuary in the Roman world. The greatest temple of Baalbek was dedicated to a god who was, at various periods in history, called Ba’al, Hadad, Helios, Zeus, or Jupiter Optimus Maximus Heliopolitanus. According to Macrobius, the cult statue had been taken from Egypt, was[…]

Winged Victory: The Nike of Samothrace

The statue of the goddess of victory was excavated in 1863 CE on the Greek island of Samothrace. Introduction One of the most celebrated works of Hellenistic art is without doubt the Nike of Samothrace, on display at the Louvre since 1884 CE. The white Parian marble statue represents the personification of winged victory. In a sense, the impact of[…]

Printing the Body: Anatomical Illustration in the Early Modern Period

For over 500 years, scientific and artistic collaborations have enhanced and promoted medical knowledge. Introduction From the early modern period, as perceptions of the internal and external workings of the body developed, the methods of depicting the body also advanced. But it was not until the 1750s that anatomical art truly began to flourish. The number[…]