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March 4, 2019

What’s in the box? The art of reliquaries

A gilt-silver reliquary with translucent enamel decoration.

Attributed to Jean de Touyl. Reliquary Shrine from the convent of the Poor Clares at Buda. ca. 1325-50. Image and data courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Cloisters Collection.

Relics—bits of bone, clothing, shoes or dust—from Christian martyrs became popular in Western Christianity in the Middle Ages. The cult of relics dates back to the second and third centuries, when martyrs were persecuted and often killed in ways that fragmented the body, which was taboo in Roman society. The intention was to desecrate the body through execution and burning. But, Caroline Walker Bynum and Paula Gerson state that by the “late third to early fourth centuries the fragments of the martyrs had come to be revered as loci of power and special access to the divine” and, by the Second Council of Nicea in 787, relics were required for the consecration of altars.

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February 25, 2019

Walking the red carpet through history: fashion in Artstor

A dress made of beads is displayed on a mannequin.
Beadnet dress. Egyptian. c 2551-2528 BC. Image © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
A painted wooden figure of a woman.
Estate Figure. Egyptian. c. 1981-1975 BC. Image and data courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A peach colored evening dress decorated with rhinestones and a black waist tie.
Norman Norell. Evening dress. c. 1963. Image and original data from the Brooklyn Museum. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A Roman caryatid.
Caryatid of the Canopus. Roman. c. 420 - 413 BCE. Image and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.
A white gathered evening dress displayed on a mannequin.
Madame Alix Grès. Evening dress. 1937. Image and original data from the Brooklyn Museum. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It may come as a surprise that the Artstor Digital Library is flush with fashion. For a dose of glamour, how about a stroll down the red carpet, exploring designs through the ages?

Let’s begin with the ancients: In early dynastic Egypt, the beadnet sheath dress is often depicted in paintings and statuary. A faience (sintered-quartz ceramic) dress from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, reconstructed from thousands of beads found in a burial site, is our oldest surviving example from approximately 2551–2528 BC (this particular garment was used to dress a mummy). In life, these decorative nets were probably worn over plain linen sheaths, giving an effect that approximates the elegant lines of a deftly carved offering figure from the tomb of Meketre (c. 1981-1975 BCE). A similar silhouette is achieved five millenia later in an evening gown by the pioneering American designer Norman Norell through the layering of a peach satin under slip and black rhinestone beaded netting (c. 1963).

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February 12, 2019

Oral histories of the staff of life: CRAFT: Babka and Beyond

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 5.00.35 PMThe CRAFT: Babka and Beyond public collection features 28 interviews conducted with people connected to the production and use of grain within the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Western Pennsylvania. The stories feature bakers, bakery owners, farmers, and even a Benedictine Monk talking about how grains contribute to larger themes of identity, community, and social capital — whether in agriculture, bread making, or baking.

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January 31, 2019

Picturing the Little Ice Age

Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Return of the Hunters. 1565. Oil on oak panel. Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Image and data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. Photo Erich Lessing.

In the summer of 1675, Madame de Sévigné, a doyenne of letters, protested from Paris: “It is horribly cold… we think the behaviour of the sun and of the seasons has changed,” prescient witness to the phenomenon now referred to as the Little Ice Age. Over the last century, scientists and historians have gathered evidence of a prolonged period of global climatic volatility from the thirteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, culminating in a cooling trend in Northern Europe during the 1600s — frigid winters and wet, cold summers. As we bear our share of winter hardships, it might be comforting to gain some historical and pictorial perspective on the polar vortex.

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January 15, 2019

It’s a wrap: Artstor looks back at 2018

René Magritte. Golconda (Golconde). 1953. Image and data provided by The Menil Collection, Houston. © 2019 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
René Magritte. Golconda (Golconde). 1953. Image and data provided by The Menil Collection, Houston. © 2019 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Katharina Fritsch. Händler [Dealer]. 2001. Polyester and paint. Image and original data provided by Glenstone. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Peter Doig. Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre. 2000-2002. Oil on canvas. Image and original data provided by The Art Institute of Chicago. © Peter Doig. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019
Vera Lutter. San Marco, Venice XX: December 3, 2005. 2005. Gelatin silver prints. Image and original data provided by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. © 2019 Vera Lutter / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Unknown, Chinese. Yongle Period, Ming Dynasty. Bowl. Early 15th century. Porcelain. Image and original data provided by the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Hemba People. Mwisi Wa So'o (Chimpanzee-Human Mask). 20th Century. Wood. Image and data provided by Williams College Museum of Art
Unidentified Artist, Indian. Icon of Jain Goddess, probably Jvalamalini. c. 17th-19th century. Copper alloy. Image and data provided by Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Charles Herbert Woodbury. Marine. c. 1910. Watercolor and gouache on paper. Image and original data provided by Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Sirhind, Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab, India. Mughal. Tomb (12) of Khwaja Muhammad Naqsband, Rauza Sharif Complex. 1702. Image and data provided by American Institute of Indian Studies. Photographer: D.P. Nanda
Hadım Atik Ali Pasha, commissioner. Atik Ali Pasha Mosque. Dome and eastern half-dome. 1496-1497. Istanbul, Turkey. Photographer: Gabriel Rodriguez, 2013. Image and data provided by the Media Center for Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

Over the past year we have enriched Artstor’s resources with global selections that travel through time and meander from Ming ceramics to Mughal palaces, illuminating history from the tells of Ancient Iraq through to contemporary installations. We have released 30 additional collections in the Artstor Digital Library (enhanced and new), including notable contributions that target the highly sought areas of Asian and contemporary art.

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December 18, 2018

New collection: Roger Brown, 800 images that transcend the everyday

Roger Brown. Thumbing in Fall. 1985. Oil on canvas. Image and data provided by the Roger Brown Study Collection, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Roger Brown. Thumbing in Fall. 1985. Oil on canvas. Image and data provided by the Roger Brown Study Collection, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Our thanks to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which contributed approximately 800 images of the artist’s work to the Artstor Digital Library.* The selection in Artstor encompasses the artist’s career, from 1970 through 1997, and includes paintings, mosaics, and mixed media.

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