Category: art history

Miniature folio from Bundi, Rajasthan, India, around 1680. It illustrates a scene from the Ragamalas, a series of musical modes that combined poetry, classical music, and art.

Archaeologists worked with primatologists to re-examine wall-paintings of monkeys in a Minoan building buried in volcanic ash around 1600 BCE. at the site of Akrotiri, which is located on the Greek island of Thera in the Aegean Sea. No monkeys are known to have lived in Greece at the time. Most of the monkeys in the painting have been identified as olive baboons, which are native to Egypt, but one monkey, with distinctive fur and an S-shaped tail, was identified as a grey langur, a species that lives in Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indus Valley of India.

It was already known that the Minoans had contact with Egypt. And this wall mosaic hints at contacts with the Indus River Valley civilization, as well. Or perhaps it demonstrates the far-reaching and interconnected nature of the trade networks even in the Bronze Age.

Bust of the Roman Empress Tranquillina (reigned 241 – 244 CE). She was wife of Emperor Gordian III thanks to her father, the prefect of the Praetorian Guards, who were the emperor’s personal bodyguards and by this point controlled who ran the empire. Empress Tranquillina reigned with her husband for just three years before her father died and the emperor lost power – and his life.

This was illustrated by an emperor of China. Emperor Xuanzong of the Ming Dynasty made  in the fourth year of his reign (1429) for the high official Yang Shiqi.

The focus of the hanging scroll is the cat and a bowl of peony blossoms the cat is looking at. The traditional word for cat in Chinese is a homophone for octogenarian and therefore a blessing for longevity, while the peony was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. With this wall scroll, Emperor Xuanzong was wishing long life and good fortune to his chancellor.

When Michelangelo’s David was unveiled in 1504 in Florence, it was seen to symbolize the civil liberties of the Republic of Florence, which were threatened by the surrounding city-states and the powerful Medici family who wanted to rule.  The republican government had only been in place since 1494. The republic’s concerns were well-founded: Giovanni de’ Medici re-conquered the republic in 1512 and restored Medici rule.

The second Florentine duke, Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici decided to commission Cellini’s Perseus With the Head of Medusa, which was unveiled exactly 50 years after David in 1554. Composed of bronze, Perseus was deliberately placed opposite the David. Medusa’s gaze appeared to have turned David to stone.

New Nazca Line figure depicting a human, discovered with AI via collaboration with IBM Japan and Yamagata University.
It has been dated to between 100 BCE and 300 CE.

This is one of 143 new geoglyphs that the researchers found!

“Kaiunbashi Bridge (First National Bank in Snow)” by Kobayashi Kiyochika. It comes from a series of prints “Pictures of Famous Places in Tokyo” (1876–81) where the artist focused on how light, from the new technologies that were being introduced, were transforming Tokyo.

The Meiji Restoration had just occurred and industrialization and westernization being rushed in by the new government. The artist’s presentations of dawn, dusk, and night evoked a pensive mood suggesting a personal uncertainty in a moment of major societal change.

Lapis lazuli enjoyed great popularity in the late Roman and Early Byzantine
periods; its rich purple-blue color was associated with royalty. From
the 200s on, coins and medallions  often showed the emperor
carrying a scepter topped with an eagle, emblem of victory and authority.

This particular lapis lazuli eagle was found in Italy and dates to the 300s or 400s CE, meaning it may very well have once perched
on a Roman emperor’s scepter.

Technically, she was known as Diego Rivera’s partner – an exotic eccentric. Her own work, while selling in her final decade, was often overshadowed by her Bohemian reputation, and her dressing in traditional Mexican costume. She could not live off her art until late in life.By 1953, such was her declining physical state that for her first Mexican solo show, her four poster bed was taken from her house to the gallery. Kahlo arrived by ambulance and was transferred from the ambulance to a stretcher to her bed.

She died in 1954, and her work as an artist was left to languish until it was rediscovered in the 1970s by art historians and political activists. As you know, she is now a worldwide household name. Quite a life-after-death.

Rāgarāja, also known as Aizen-Myōō, one of the five Wisdom Kings of Buddhist tradition. He has a fearsome appearance, all red, with a third eye and flaming wild hair.

Japan, Kamakura-Nambokuchô period, 1300s.