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April 17, 2014

Beyond Fabergé’s Easter eggs

Peter Carl Fabergé; Henrick Wigström, (Workmaster) | The Rose Trellis Easter Egg | 1907 | The Walters Art Museum

Peter Carl Fabergé; Henrick Wigström, (Workmaster) | The Rose Trellis Easter Egg | 1907 | The Walters Art Museum

As we get close to Easter, you’re sure to run into at least a few mentions of the renowned Fabergé eggs. And rightly so, as these decorative objects are ingenious and rich with history. But did you know there is much more to Fabergé than just eggs?

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April 14, 2014

Gaultier in Artstor – not just for fashionistas

Exhibition: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk | Exhibition on view: November 13, 2011-February 12, 2012 | Exhibition Location: Dallas Museum of Art; dma.org

Exhibition: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk | Exhibition on view: November 13, 2011-February 12, 2012 | Exhibition Location: Dallas Museum of Art; dma.org

Since its opening in 2011 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the haute couture and prêt-à-porter designs in “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: from the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” have been electrifying audiences in Montreal, Stockholm, Brooklyn, and Dallas—and now, London.

Designer: Jean Paul Gaultier | Two Ensembles; Group | Fall/Winter 1994-1995 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; metmuseum.org

Designer: Jean Paul Gaultier | Two Ensembles; Group | Fall/Winter 1994-1995 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; metmuseum.org

I had the opportunity to see the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum this past March. I’m no fashionista, but I could certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity of an absurdly talented artist. Credit is also due to the curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot. I admittedly rarely read museum labels, but I was so impressed and eager to learn more that I read all of the wall text. All of it.

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April 11, 2014

Here be dragons

Raphael | Saint George and the Dragon | c. 1504 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Raphael | Saint George and the Dragon | c. 1504 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Carlo Crivelli | Saint George | ca. 1472 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Carlo Crivelli | Saint George | ca. 1472 | Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saint George’s Day is celebrated on April 23. I know this because as a child I was obsessed with the world of make-believe. While my sister was collecting books on the natural sciences, I had a whole shelf devoted to children’s versions of Greek mythology, fairy tales, and folklore. The stories I loved best involved magic and monsters. To this day my mother will buy me used books if they have a dragon on the cover. And this is where Saint George comes in.

In the 13th century, Jacobus de Voragine wrote in The Golden Legend that Saint George was a Christian knight who in his travels came across a city called Silene that was being plagued by a dragon that lived in its pond. Silene’s inhabitants were forced to appease the monster by sacrificing their children. The victims were selected through a lottery system, and one day it was the king’s own daughter who drew the last lot.

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March 27, 2014

From Babylon to Berlin: The rebirth of the Ishtar Gate

Neo-Babylonian | Ishtar Gate | 604-562 BCE | Berlin State Museum | Vorderasiatisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin | Image and original data provided by Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz; bpkgate.picturemaxx.com/webgate_cms

Neo-Babylonian | Ishtar Gate | 604-562 BCE | Berlin State Museum | Vorderasiatisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin | Image and original data provided by Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz; bpkgate.picturemaxx.com/webgate_cms

Travelers to ancient Babylon were met with an astonishing sight: a gate nearly 50 feet high and 100 feet wide made of jewel-like blue glazed bricks and adorned with bas-relief dragons and young bulls. Dedicated to Ishtar, goddess of fertility, love, and war, the main entrance to the city was constructed for King Nebuchadnezzar II circa 575 BCE.

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March 10, 2014

On this day: Velázquez’s Venus vandalized

Diego Velázquez | The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') | 1647-51 | The National Gallery, London | Photograph: ©The National Gallery, London; nationalgallery.org.uk

Diego Velázquez | The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’) | 1647-51 | The National Gallery, London | Photograph: ©The National Gallery, London; nationalgallery.org.uk

One hundred years ago today, suffragist Mary Richardson walked into the National Gallery, London and attacked Diego Velázquez’s The Toilet of Venus (AKA The Rokeby Venus) with a meat cleaver. Richardson was protesting the arrest of fellow suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst the previous day.

Detail from a 1914 photograph showing damage to the painting. Image source: Wikipedia.

1914 photograph showing damage to the painting. Image source: Wikipedia.

You can see the impressive results of the National Gallery‘s restoration by searching for Velazquez Toilet of Venus in the Artstor Digital Library and zooming in to compare against the slashes in the image to the right. While the texture of the paint doesn’t betray the repairs, if you look carefully you can detect very slight yellowing on Venus’s skin along the cuts.

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February 11, 2014

Dürer and the elusive rhino

Albrecht Dürer |

Albrecht Dürer |”Das Rhinocerus” | 1515 | Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; smb.museum

Albrecht Dürer created his famous woodcut of a rhinoceros in 1515 based on a written description and an anonymous sketch of an Indian rhino that had arrived in Lisbon earlier that year. The animal was intended as a gift for Pope Leo X from the king of Portugal, but it never reached its destination, perishing in a shipwreck off the coast of Italy.

Dürer’s image is less than accurate, depicting an animal covered with an armor of hard plates, scales on its feet, and a small spiral horn on its back. This is not exactly surprising, considering the artist never saw the actual specimen. What is surprising is that his depiction served as a scientific reference for centuries, despite the existence of a similar but more accurate print by Hans Burgkmair, also from 1515. The similarities between the two images suggest that Burgkmair may have also based his woodcut on the same anonymous sketch.

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January 31, 2014

Artstor to release performance videos from Franklin Furnace

Guy de Cointet | Two Drawings | 5/9/1978 | This image was provided by the Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.

Guy de Cointet | Two Drawings | 5/9/1978 | This image was provided by the Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.

We are delighted to announce that Artstor is collaborating with the Franklin Furnace Archive to introduce videos in the Digital Library in the coming months. Franklin Furnace has been championing performance and other ephemeral arts for more than three decades. Martha Wilson, Franklin Furnace’s founding director, elaborates on the significance of this collaboration:

While there is undeniable value to gathering objects from performances such as costumes, props, and ephemera, video offers an irreplaceable key to understanding temporal works. Moving images are the best window we have into the past—no amount of caption text or notes from scripts can convey the look and feel of this pivotal time! Franklin Furnace is pleased to be working in collaboration with Artstor to bring video documentation of our performance art events to a broad scholarly audience.

We hope these fifty videos featuring Franklin Furnace alumni such as Alice Aycock, Ericka Beckman, Lee Breuer, John Cage, Guy De Cointet, Constance De Jong, Richard Foreman, the Kipper Kids, Jill Kroesen, Matt Mullican, Michael Smith, and William Wegman will provide insight into the intentions of avant-garde artists from 1976 forward, and will help to embed the value of ephemeral art practice in art and cultural history.

– Martha Wilson, January 2014

You may also be interested in 35 Years of Ephemeral Art: Martha Wilson on Franklin Furnace

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January 8, 2014

In the news: polar vortex

Byron Company | Madison Square |1896 | Museum of the City of New York | mcny.org

Byron Company | Madison Square |1896 | Museum of the City of New York | mcny.org

In an unusual event, temperatures dropped below freezing in all 50 states Tuesday after a polar vortex swept southwards. As NBC New York explains, “The polar vortex forms every year to the north, but large blocks of high pressure over Greenland and the Southwest weakened the jet stream in recent days, allowing part of the polar vortex to break off from a parent system and dip in to the US.”

While the worst of it is over, we highly recommend you stay indoors and just look at winter images:

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January 2, 2014

Add color to your winter with the Brooklyn Museum Costumes collection

Unknown, British | Gloves (Gauntlet Gloves) | 1690-1710 | Image and original data from the Brooklyn Museum | Image ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Unknown, British | Gloves (Gauntlet Gloves) | 1690-1710 | Image and original data from the Brooklyn Museum | Image ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Ayesha Akhtar, User Services Assistant

What winter in the Northeast means for most is being able to get away with wearing black and gray, staying home in lieu of going out for fear of catching a cold, and wearing a troublesome amount of layers. But for me, grey winter skies provide the perfect backdrop for vibrant colors, I indulge in winter walks on snowy evenings, and layers mean ample opportunity to show off my keen fashion sense. After all, more clothes equal more fun. However, after festivities end the trend is a downward slope into a lackluster bowl of winter blues— and this decline of spirit reflects itself in one’s wardrobe.

This winter, with inspiration from the plethora of fashion images in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Brooklyn Museum Costumes collection in the Artstor Digital Library, it’s easier to fight the urge to blend in with the seasonal black and gray.

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