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Blog Category: Highlights

July 9, 2019

Books of hours: illuminating the Trinity College Watkinson Library public collection

Attributed to Studio of unknown French (illuminator), Possibly Style of unknown Flemish (illuminator). c.1470 (creation date). Book of Hours (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis in Usum Ecclesiae Romanae cum Calendario), Folio 86v: Hours of the Virgin: Compline: Entombment, overall, left, with Folio 87r at right. Illumination, Leaf (component), Manuscript. Place: Trinity College, Watkinson Library (Hartford, Connecticut, USA).

Attributed to Studio of unknown French (illuminator), Possibly Style of unknown Flemish (illuminator). c.1470 (creation date). Book of Hours (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis in Usum Ecclesiae Romanae cum Calendario), Folio 86v: Hours of the Virgin: Compline: Entombment, overall, left, with Folio 87r at right. Illumination, Leaf (component), Manuscript. Place: Trinity College, Watkinson Library (Hartford, Connecticut, USA).

Books of hours are devotional texts that contain a personalized selection of prayers, hymns, psalms, and New Testament excerpts chosen specifically for their owner. Popular in the Middle Ages, the most expensive of these books could be highly decorated, but the more affordable versions usually only showed minimal decoration, usually of the first letter of a page. They had, in fact, become so popular by the 16th century that they were often owned by people from all walks of society; servants even had their own copies—there is a court case from 1500 where a pauper woman was accused of stealing a servant’s book of hours.

The books were often personalized by including texts of particular interest to the owner—most of whom were women—and with the addition of their name in certain prayers. The books were meant to help the owners structure their daily lives and prayer schedules around the eight canonical hours—to help those leading secular lives to take the time to be more monastic in their daily devotions.

Many books were richly illuminated with religious iconography, calendar cycles, zodiac symbols, pastoral scenes and, in some highly decorated ones, the owners themselves depicted in the scenes as religious figures. Because books of hours were popular, they also provide an important record of life and medieval iconography.

Attributed to Studio of unknown French (illuminator), Possibly Style of unknown Flemish (illuminator). c.1470 (creation date). Book of Hours (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis in Usum Ecclesiae Romanae cum Calendario), Folio 39v: Hours of the Virgin: Matins: Agony in the Garden, overall, left, with Folio 40r at right.. Illumination, Leaf (component), Manuscript. Place: Trinity College, Watkinson Library (Hartford, Connecticut, USA).

Attributed to Studio of unknown French (illuminator), Possibly Style of unknown Flemish (illuminator). c.1470 (creation date). Book of Hours (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis in Usum Ecclesiae Romanae cum Calendario), Folio 39v: Hours of the Virgin: Matins: Agony in the Garden, overall, left, with Folio 40r at right.. Illumination, Leaf (component), Manuscript. Place: Trinity College, Watkinson Library (Hartford, Connecticut, USA).

The Trinity College Watkinson Library Books of Hours collection has many images of books of hours from the middle ages that are freely available for everyone to view and download, no login necessary. 

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June 17, 2019

Summer is for stargazers: Astronomy in Artstor

Summer solstice brings us the longest, sunniest days of the year. The season also sparkles with starry nights, and getaways in July and August provide an escape from the urban glare, enhancing our appreciation of stellar skies. In homage to the stars, we have mined the resources of Artstor to present some outstanding celestial subjects across the ages.

Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. 1889.

Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. 1889. Image and data provided by the Museum of Modern Art.

Starry Night, 1889, by Vincent van Gogh, exemplifies the genre of the nocturne. The artist’s unique style might lead one to believe that the entire scene is imaginary, but researchers have identified many of the planets depicted; to name one, Venus shines white above the horizon at left. Nonetheless, the painter took liberties with the moon, rendering it as a crescent when in fact it would have been a fuller waning gibbous on that night, June 18. In a letter to his sister written the previous year, van Gogh articulated his observation of star fields: “certain stars are citron-yellow, others have a pink glow, or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance… putting little white dots on a blue-black surface is not enough.” [1]

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June 11, 2019

A mini history of the tiny purse

From our friends at JSTOR Daily

Bag (reticule). British. First quarter 19th century. Image and data courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The purse has always been political, a reflection of changing economic realities and gender roles. Blame the Balenciaga IKEA bag. When the $2,145 luxury lambskin version of the familiar blue plastic shopping bag appeared on the runway in June 2016, it was the beginning of the end of a glorious era of capacious hobo bags, boat totes, and bucket bags. The upscale counterfeit triggered a backlash against fashion’s flirtation with so-called poverty chic, but also against gigantic bags in general. From a 19-gallon capacity, there was nowhere to go but down.

Read more on JSTOR Daily

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May 21, 2019

American art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

Dr. Kelli Morgan, Associate Curator of American Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) at Newfields introduces us to some of the American gems in the IMA’s collection.

The American collection at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields (IMA) is an encyclopedic group of brilliant objects that span U.S. history from the Colonial period to the 1970s. The collection is well known for its American Impressionism, modernist painting and sculpture, and of course Indiana’s own Hoosier School. Yet, IMA’s American collection is comprised of such a diverse array of objects that it offers an alternative look at the American canon.

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April 22, 2019

Artstor celebrates the earth: Flora, fauna, and natural phenomena

The Artstor Digital Library is replete with images from nature: arks of animals, a plethora of plants, and the dazzling spectacles of the earth. Meticulous renderings of animal and botanical species from classical times through the onset of photography may be studied alongside striking contemporary photographs. Illustrations of animal, plant and mineral specimens are also available as well as records of scientific fieldwork, and larger ecosystems.

Johann Georg Adam Forster. Serval
Johann Georg Adam Forster. Serval, Leptailurus (genus); serval (species), Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. 1775. Image and data provided by the Natural History Museum, London
Stanley N. Botwinik. Leopard portrait.
Stanley N. Botwinik. Leopard portrait. 1970. Tanzania, Serengeti. Image and data provided by Peabody Museum of Natural History (Yale University)
Chris de Bode. A dwarf mouse lemur
Chris de Bode. A dwarf mouse lemur. 2006. West Madagascar, Africa. Image and data provided by © Chris de Bode/Panos Pictures
Ami Vitale. Elephants in Kaziranga National Park
Ami Vitale. Elephants in Kaziranga National Park. 2003. Photograph. Image and data provided by © Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures
Asterope sapphira (nymphalid butterfly)
Asterope sapphira (nymphalid butterfly). Collected January, 1936. Image and data provided by Peabody Museum of Natural History (Yale University)
Fyodor Tolstoy. Butterfly
Fyodor Tolstoy. Butterfly. 1821. Image and data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

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November 26, 2018

Every dog has its 15 minutes: Andy Warhol’s dog photographs

Andy Warhol, Dog, 1982. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

When you see Andy Warhol’s name, his Pop Art paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Campbell’s soup cans probably spring to mind. But Warhol’s interests extended beyond fame and commerce, as evidenced in the photos he took to record his daily life. “A picture means I know where I was every minute,” the artist said. “That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual Diary.”

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October 18, 2018

A guide to Medieval creepy crawlers

…and how to protect yourself from them

While there were a lot of delightful beliefs about animals in the Middle Ages (our favorite: hedgehogs roll on grapes to spear them on their spines so they can take them home to their young), this Halloween season we’re focusing on the creepiest creatures of all: reptiles! Not to worry, we’ll also tell you what to do to stay safe from them.

Our source for this guide is Richard Barber’s translation of the Bodleian Library’s MS Bodley 764, a mid-thirteenth century bestiary, so don’t be too surprised if the descriptions deviate just a tad from contemporary herpetology.

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Bestiary. Folio #: fol. 160r, 12th century. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Let’s start with plain old snakes. We bet you didn’t know that snakes are frightened by naked men, but attack clothed ones. Unfortunately our source doesn’t specify how snakes respond to women (the thirteenth century not being the most progressive of centuries), so your best bet is to keep a stag nearby, as they can handily deal with bothersome serpents.

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September 27, 2018

On this day: the book that led to the creation of the EPA

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Chatham University, Rachel Carson in the Pennsylvania College for Women Yearbook, The Pennsylvanian, 1928. Image and data courtesy the Collection on Rachel Carson, Chatham University Archives & Special Collections.

On this day in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, bringing widespread attention to environmental issues caused by the use of synthetic pesticides in the United States. The book sparked controversy, particularly from chemical companies that dismissed Silent Spring’s assertions about the connection between pesticides and ecological health. However, Carson’s claims were borne out and the book is widely credited with sparking the modern environmental movement that eventually spawned the Environmental Protection Agency.

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September 12, 2018

Fake news: the drowning of Hippolyte Bayard

Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, 1840. Data from University of California, San Diego.
Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man (verso), 1840. Data from University of California, San Diego.

In a grainy 1840 photograph, a partially-covered corpse is propped against a wall, its decay evident in the darkening skin of the face and hands. The body is that of Hippolyte Bayard, an early inventor of photographic processes and supposed drowning victim, and written on the image verso is a strange note:

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November 27, 2017

The party of the century: Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball

Elliott Erwitt. USA; NYC; Candice Bergen dancing at the Truman Capote B&W Ball at the Plaza Hotel. 1966. ©Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

Truman Capote’s fame transcended his literary status; he was famous for being, well, famous half a century before reality television and social media stars even existed. Also a uniquely gifted writer, Capote sought fame through publicity stunts, television appearances, and his friendships with both the social and Hollywood elite of the mid-twentieth century. Capote nurtured a persona based on being entertaining, rapier-witted, and eager to spread a rumor–attributes that would later haunt him.

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