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Blog Category: Highlights

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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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 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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November 13, 2013

Michelangelo’s Last Judgment—uncensored

Some of the more controversial nudity in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment was painted over the year after the artist’s death. Those additions were left intact when the Last Judgment was restored in the 1990s, but thanks to a farsighted cardinal we can see what the fresco looked like before it was censored.

Left: Michelangelo Buonarroti | Last Judgment | 1534-41 | Sistine Chapel, Vatican. Right: Marcello Venusti | Last Judgment | Museo e gallerie nazionali di Capodimonte | Images and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com | (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Left: Michelangelo Buonarroti | Last Judgment | 1534-41 | Sistine Chapel, Vatican. Right: Marcello Venusti | Last Judgment | Museo e gallerie nazionali di Capodimonte | Images and original data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com | (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

The Last Judgment was commissioned for the Sistine Chapel by Pope Clement VII just a few days before his death. Michelangelo hadn’t even finished the fresco before controversy erupted over its unclothed figures.

Not long after the painting’s completion, the Council of Trent condemned nudity in religious art, decreeing that “all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust.” Clement’s successor Pope Pius IV complied with the tenet, and in 1565, the year after Michelangelo’s death, had the more controversial nudity painted over by Daniele da Volterra, earning the artist the nickname Il Braghetonne, “the breeches-maker.” Da Volterra also substantially repainted the figures of Saint Catherine and Saint Blaise, whose positions were considered unseemly. Further coverings were added in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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October 17, 2013

Send in the clowns

Strobridge Lithograph | Barnum & Bailey: 1000 Skits By 50 Original Clowns | 1916 | The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, a division of Florida State University

Strobridge Lithograph | Barnum & Bailey: 1000 Skits By 50 Original Clowns | 1916 | The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, a division of Florida State University | RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY™ image courtesy of Feld Entertainment, Inc. RINGLING BROS.® and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH® are owned and used by permission of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc.

In the Journal of American Folklore, Lucile Hoerr Charles asks a question that doubles as a survey of clowns throughout the world: “What has the stage buffoon of the Chinese in common with the court fool of the Middle Ages in Europe; and with the stage fool in Elizabethan England, magnificently represented in Falstaff; and with the Badin in France, origin of our term badinage; and with the Spanish Bobo or Booby? How does the Narr and Hanswurst in Germany differ from the comic Vidusaka, stock character of the Hindu drama; or from the early Greek clowns depicted on Corinthian vases; or from the ancient Egyptian god Typhon, probably a deified clown, with his heavy, coarse face and protrusive tongue?”

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October 16, 2013

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s “New Forms of 36 Ghosts”

Left: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi | New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts: Sadanobu Threatening a Demon in the Palace at Night | 1889. Right: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi | New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts: The Ferocity of Tametomo Driving Away the Smallpox Demons | 1890.  Scripps College: Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery

Left: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi | New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts: Sadanobu Threatening a Demon in the Palace at Night | 1889. Right: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi | New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts: The Ferocity of Tametomo Driving Away the Smallpox Demons | 1890. Scripps College: Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery | Contact information: Kirk Delman, Registrar, 1030 Columbia Ave, Claremont, CA 91711, Tel: 909-607-3397, Fax: 909-607-4691, kdelman@scrippscollege.edu

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi is widely recognized as the last great master of Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” the main genre of Japanese woodblock printing (and a major source of inspiration for many modernist artists from Europe).

In his last series, New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts, the artist depicts a variety of spirits and magic animals from Japanese folk tales and history. As opposed to the morbidly graphic work that originally brought him fame, horror is mostly suggested in these works. Can you spot the subtle supernatural event in the print below?

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September 27, 2013

The Blessing of the Animals: An Artstor Bestiary

Giotto | Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds, predella of Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmatta | c. 1295-1300 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, N.Y. ; artres.com

Giotto | Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds, predella of Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmatta | c. 1295-1300 | Musée du Louvre | Image and original data provided by Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, N.Y. ; artres.com

October 4 is generally recognized as the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of the animals, steward of nature, and author of the Canticle of the Creatures.  In a divinely ordained cosmos, Francis considered all elements – sun, moon, and stars, water and fire, and the animals – our sisters and brothers, and he is often depicted and described preaching to the birds, as in Giotto’s panel shown here, 1295-1300.  The cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York famously marks his feast day with the blessing of the animals.  Thousands of creatures, from tortoises to camels, process though the nave, gather in the yard, and are blessed by clergy.  This scene is replayed throughout churches around the globe, a celebration of the beasts that surround us and enhance our lives.

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July 18, 2013

Art in context: installation photography

Rollie McKenna, photographer | Installing the exhibition, "The Graphic Work of Edvard Munch." | February 6, 1957 through March 3, 1957 | Photographic Archive; The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York | © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bono, Oslo

Rollie McKenna, photographer | Installing the exhibition, “The Graphic Work of Edvard Munch.” | February 6, 1957 through March 3, 1957 | Photographic Archive; The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York | © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Bono, Oslo

If you read a review or article about an interesting museum exhibition you missed you can usually find images of the featured artworks. But have you ever wondered how the works were presented, where they were placed? Which pieces were shown together, and in what order? You’re not alone – exhibition design is central in museology, also known as museum studies, which asks how to present exhibitions that engage and enlighten the viewer. It’s also of interest to curators, art historians, and even artists, who often want to see what effect context has on artworks.

The Artstor Digital Library has tens of thousands of exhibition documentation images ranging from the late 19th century to the present from major American institutions. Some of the photographs, as you can see in this post, even show the artworks being installed. Dig into the collections listed below to find many more gems.

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