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[…]

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[…]

Ancient Ruins: Parts of the Past as Well as the Present

A mysterious object carved on a Roman gem reminds us that the smallest things hold clues to life in classical times. Introduction Recently, a whole trove of small ancient gems and amulets was discovered in a house in Pompeii. Treasured possessions for the Greeks and the Romans, ancient gems were often carved with images from myth or[…]

How Photographs of Poverty in the Americas Ignited an International Battle over Propaganda

Introduction In late July 1961, O Cruzeiro magazine—Brazil’s answer to the American magazine Life—sent photographer Henri Ballot to document poverty in New York City. Ballot’s assignment had been issued in direct response to “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty,” a photo-essay Life had published the month before featuring reporting, diary entries, and photographs by Gordon Parks about the[…]

Before Prohibition, Breweries Made Advertising an Art

From PBR to the champagne of beers, Wisconsin brands made their mark. On a dark night in rural Wisconsin, Miller marketing guru A. C. Paul gets lost in the Northwoods. No doubt having sampled his own wares, he staggers through the wilderness, trying in vain to find his way out. Then a beautiful woman appears[…]

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[…]

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[…]

An Introduction to the Northern Renaissance in the Fifteenth Century

Italian art and ideas migrated North from Italy. What Was the Renaissance and Where Did It Happen? The word Renaissance is generally defined as the rebirth of classical antiquity in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Seems simple enough, but the word “Renaissance” is actually fraught with complexity. Scholars argue about exactly when the Renaissance[…]

Animals and Allusions on an Italian Renaissance Basin

An intricate basin features sea creatures, birds, and mythological beasts, which bore a multitude of meanings to the sixteenth-century elite. Introduction Animals are rarely just animals in sixteenth-century Italian art. They may symbolize virtues or signify social status. They can also act as mnemonic devices, prompting viewers to recall other works of art, both visual[…]

Animals in the Art of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci saw in animals the ‘image of the world’. About six months ago I stopped eating meat. I was teaching a graduate course at UCLA that investigated how Italian Renaissance writers conveyed their concepts about the human through writing about the nonhuman – plants, animals, objects, angels, demons, gods and God. As weeks[…]

Prehistoric Sculpture: Camelid Sacrum in the Shape of a Canine

Scholars agree that the carving and markings were made by human hands. Prehistoric Art around the Globe When we think about prehistoric art (art before the invention of writing), likely the first thing that comes to mind are the beautiful cave paintings in France and Spain with their naturalistic images of bulls, bison, deer and[…]

Exploring the Architecture of Greek World Heritage Sites

Greece, the ‘cradle of western civilization’, is home to a large number of spectacular sites from the ancient world, several of which have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Introduction These sites of great historical importance, interest, beauty, and impact do not all reflect the civilization we call Classical Greece – they range[…]

The Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum

The temple known as the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 438 B.CE. By the British Museum Athens and Democracy By around 500 B.C.E. ‘rule by the people,’ or democracy, had emerged in the city of Athens. Following the defeat of a Persian invasion in 480-479 B.C.E., mainland Greece and[…]

Stagestruck!: Performing Arts Caricatures in the Early 20th Century

Celebrities of song, stage, and screen were transformed into popular icons of American culture. Introduction During the early twentieth century, performing arts caricature came of age as an art form in the United States as celebrities of song, stage, and screen were transformed into popular icons of American culture. Caricatures played a prominent role in[…]

Gardens as Pleasurable Microcosms: Comparisons and Connections

Wealthy patrons, like kings and emperors, often commissioned prominent artists and architects to design their gardens. Introduction Art is designed for a great many purposes, but much art is also, if not exclusively, designed to provide and reflect a sense of pleasure. A palace might be intended to display the power and wealth of a[…]

The Complexity of Hieronymous Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’

This garden is so vast and rich as to enclose within it many forms of pleasure not generally associated with pleasant strolls in gardens. Introduction The Garden of Earthy Delights is Hieronymus Bosch’s most famous work, and justly so. It is massive (more than twelve feet wide), riddled with an almost impossible-seeming level of detail,[…]

Jacob Riis and “How the Other Half Lives”: Poverty in 19th-Century America

Riis as a writer, photographer, lecturer, advocate, and ally for reform to address the poverty many ignored. Biography Overview Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914) was born in Ribe, Denmark. He immigrated to America at age twenty with hopes of one day marrying his teenage love, Elisabeth Nielsen [Gjørtz]. Riis wandered through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New[…]

A’Aru: The Ancient Egyptian ‘Field of Reeds’ Afterlife Paradise

One lived on in the presence of the gods, doing as one had done on earth, with everyone the soul had ever loved. Introduction A’Aru (The Field of Reeds) was the Egyptian afterlife, an idealized vision of one’s life on earth (also known as Sekhet-A’Aru and translated as The Field of Rushes). Everything thought to have been lost at death was returned[…]

The Roman Baths in Bath: A Deep Dive into Britain’s Ancient History

There is little evidence remaining from the pre-Roman worship, as they left little footprints of their spiritual practice for us to study. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction Bath, the famous spa town in Somerset England, has attracted people from near and far for centuries to its healing springs and baths. Today the city is known for its beautiful Georgian architecture and[…]

The Ancient Megalithic Funerary Art of San Agustín, Colombia

These burial places formed the centers of small-scale chiefdoms and shared a set of sculptural motifs and styles. By Benjamin OswaldHistorian Introduction Beginning approximately 2000 years ago, in a rugged stretch of southwestern Colombia where the Andes split into multiple ranges and the mighty Magdalena River is born, a people created a collection of magnificent[…]

Ancient Native American Paintings of Other-Worldly Beings on Canyon Rock Walls

Deep in the Colorado Plateau, there are paintings from an ancient people. Of the thousands of Native American rock art panels in the Southwest, none are older than the Barrier Canyon pictographs found throughout the Colorado Plateau. Concentrated along rivers, especially the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers, some may have been painted 9,000[…]

The Temple-Building Gurjara-Pratihara Empire of Medieval India

The Pratiharas were known chiefly for their patronage of art, sculpture, and temple-building. By Dr. Avantika LalHistorian, Independent Researcher Introduction The Gurjara-Pratiharas, or simply, the Pratiharas (8th century CE – 11th century CE) held their sway over western and northern India. This dynasty saw its fortunes rising under Nagabhata I (730–760 CE) who successfully defeated Arab[…]

It Begins Again: “The Flávio Story” Retold

An assignment for Life magazine about poverty in Brazil introduces photographer Gordon Parks to Flávio da Silva and one of the most complicated, compelling, and revisited stories of his career. It’s easy to see the beginnings of things, as Joan Didion aptly tells us in the opening sentence of her essay “Goodbye to All That,”[…]

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[…]