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Blog Category: Highlights

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.

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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.

Edward Moran, The Valley in the Sea, 1862
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
Robert Scott Duncanson, Loch Long, 1867. Image and original data provided by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

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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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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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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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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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November 19, 2018

The art of plenty: in praise of still life painting

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Bartolomeo Bimbi. Pears. 1699. Oil on canvas. Villa Medicea. Image and data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Every year the subject of food rises in our thoughts and comes into greater and more glorious focus as we are swept up in a wave of planning, preparation, and consumption for the holidays. In anticipation and celebration of our sumptuous banquets and stolen treats, Artstor offers a feast of foodie still lifes. Think of this selection as an appetizer: with heaping mounds of fruit, Bartolomeo Bimbi’s monumental Pears (1699) heralds the abundant extreme of the genre.

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October 30, 2018

Open Access: an early guide to hieroglyphics

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James Winthrop. Egyptian hieroglyphics, from public monuments extracted from Denon. Late 18th or early 19th century. Image and data courtesy Allegheny College Library Special Collections.

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.

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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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