In August 1867, shortly after Fyodor Dostoevsky married his stenographer Anna Snitkina, the couple headed to Geneva. As much as a honeymoon, they were also fleeing family tensions and hounding by Fyodor’s many creditors. On the way, the newlyweds stopped in Basel for a day and visited its museum. It was there that the famed writer of Crime and Punishment had an unsettling encounter with an artwork that would soon appear in one of his most esteemed novels.
Blog Category: Highlights
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.
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.
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.” 
From our friends at JSTOR Daily
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.
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.
- Edward Moran, The Valley in the Sea, 1862. Image and original data provided by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
- Robert Scott Duncanson, Loch Long, 1867. Image and original data provided by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
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.
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.”
The Allegheny College Egyptian Hieroglyphics collection features every page of a single manuscript in the James Winthrop Collection. The collection includes approximately 3,000 titles from the libraries of Winthrop and his father, John Winthrop, who was Hollis Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics at Harvard. This particular manuscript is in the public domain, and Allegheny has shared this digital reproduction as a Public Collection in Artstor so that anyone can view and download the images.
…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.
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.
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.