Category: art history

Artistic Snobbery

Serious American artists during the Early American Period (1789 – 1815) thought that genre scenes were too mean and lowly for
their talent. So major painters such as John Vanderlyn and Samuel Morse
scorned the depicting of ordinary folk – except, said Vanderlyn, Italian
peasants. With their lack of “fashion and frivolity,” Italian peasants,
Vanderlyn declared, were close enough to nature to possess a
neoclassical universality that was worth depicting.

This is one of twelve guardian figures from th…

This is one of twelve guardian figures from the tomb of general Kim Yu-shin. He was instrumental in uniting the three Korean kingdoms by force in the 600s CE under King Muyeol of Silla and King Munmu of Silla. King Muyeol even married Kim’s younger sister and made her queen. Kim Yu-Shin remains today the most famous of the unification wars generals.

As befits his high status and importance, Kim Yu-Shin’s burial was lavish. His tomb was a large earthen mound, as is traditional in Korea, and the mound is surrounded by 12 stone slabs, each with a sign of the oriental warriors carved on it in relief to provide eternal protection for the general within. The warriors are actually anthropomorphic animals, based on the twelve animals of the Eastern zodiac.

This one is the Rabbit, shown in armor, with the billowing garlands of Chinese deities behind him. Though many details are lost he is still holding the long, diamond-shaped shield used by Tang Dynasty soldiers at the time.

Greywacke sculptured head of an Egyptian pries…

Greywacke sculptured head of an Egyptian priest, unusual for its realism. Circa 300s BCE.

Regular

Bronze strap union (part of a chariot) from Nant-y-cafn in southern Wales (mid 1st century CE). This replica, based on an archaeological find, approximates what it would initially have looked like before it spent nearly 2,000 years in the dirt.

What was this?

This is an ancient Etruscan bronze mirror! Though its not very reflective anymore. Said to be from an Etruscan tomb,
465-450 BCE.

Golden Armband with a Man’s Face

from Java (Indonesia) in the first half of the 900s CE.

The archangel Michael, whose cult first emerge…

The archangel Michael, whose cult first emerged in Ethiopia under the patronage of Emperor Zär’a Ya’eqob (ruled 1434–1468), remains the most venerated archangel in Ethiopia. This is largely due to his role as an intercessor on behalf of the faithful.

In this folio dating to the late 1600s, Saint Michael rescues the faithful from the flames of hell. And on the facing page, those Michael has already saved are depicted as living safely in paradise.

How Were Ancient Greek Women Educated?

Historians generally believe that ancient Greek girls did not have as much access to education as ancient Greek boys. But they must have had some, sometimes, because we know of a number of educated women such as Sappho of Lesbos and Diotima, a philosopher and contemporary of Socrates. The lack of documentation on women’s lives in classical Greece makes it difficult to determine exactly how much education girls received, however.

Evidence comes from those women who are mentioned in the records, and from art historians. A handful of artworks depict females studying! A kylix from the 400s BCE depict a female student carrying a tablet and stylus, used to write notes during a teacher’s lectures. A vase from the same century shows a woman reading from a papyrus (above), meaning she had been taught how to read. A water vessel from the 500s BCE show two young girls being taught to dance by a female teacher. Such limited and fragmentary evidence is all historians have to attempt to understand how girls and women were educated in ancient Greece.

Shang-era bronze wine container, with a “taoti…

Shang-era bronze wine container, with a “taotie” decor. It’s particularly notable because the container’s lid survives. Circa 1100 BCE

Courtesy of the Harvard Art Museum

Fuchsias

An Alphonse Mucha necklace in the Art Nouveau style. Made of opal, cabochon sapphire, pearl, and gold. 1905.