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Blog Category: On this day

September 28, 2016

On this day: Michaelmas

The Christian festival of Michaelmas, also known as the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, is celebrated in many parts of the world on September 29.

Michaelmas celebrates the story of Saint Michael defeating Satan, which is often depicted in the motif of Saint George and the Dragon, Saint George being the Archangel Michael’s earthly counterpart. The earliest depictions of this story go all the way back to the 10th century. The images of Saint George fighting the dragon in the Artstor Digital Library span centuries.

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February 19, 2015

On this day: Happy Chinese New Year – Year of the Goat!

Various authors including Lambert le Tort, Alexandre de Bernai (de Paris), and others, Romance of Alexander; Folio #: fol. 130r, 1338-1344. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Various authors including Lambert le Tort, Alexandre de Bernai (de Paris), and others, Romance of Alexander; Folio #: fol. 130r, 1338-1344. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Lunar New Year! The Chinese Year of the Goat begins February 19, 2015 and lasts through March 5, 2015.

You might see references to this being the year of the sheep, or even of the ram. This stems from the fact that the Chinese use one character (yang in Mandarin) for these three different horned animals, but it seems that the goat is the prefered choice by the majority of Chinese people.

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August 21, 2014

On this day: Aubrey Beardsley is born

Aubrey Beardsley, Le Morte D'Arthur; "La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard", 1893. Image and catalog data provided by Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Aubrey Beardsley, Le Morte D’Arthur; “La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard”, 1893. Image and catalog data provided by Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Aubrey Beardsley was born on August 21, 1872. Despite dying of tuberculosis at the young age of twenty-five in 1898, the artist managed to have a brilliant career full of controversy and scandal. He shot to fame with his illustrations for Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur in 1893, and then became notorious for his illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salome (1894).

Recurring images throughout his career follow two seemingly incongruous paths. There is an emphasis on sly, clever wickedness; a youthful disregard for propriety; and an interest in the perverse and profane. Overlapping imagery of melancholia and death lead the second path. These two broad and inconsistent currents each render distinct images of the same artist who was drawn to scandal and associated himself with the 1890s Symbolist crowd often scorned by the arts elite and general public alike.

The images in this post come from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and George Eastman House collections in the Artstor Digital Library.

– Elizabeth Darocha Berenz

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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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December 17, 2013

On this day: ice-skating weather

William M. Vander Weyde | Ice Skating | ca. 1900 | George Eastman House

William M. Vander Weyde | Ice Skating | ca. 1900 | George Eastman House

It’s snowing today in New York City and crowds are lining up to skate at the legendary ice rink at Rockefeller Center, with its sparkling light displays and famous holiday tree. If I visit this year, it’ll be as a spectator only, since I’ve never ice skated in my life. Sad, I know, but I have a good excuse—I grew up in extremely warm areas of Mexico and Texas, so I didn’t have many opportunities to learn. But that doesn’t stop me from admiring skaters. I love their graceful gliding, and enjoy seeing the camaraderie that spontaneously develops when groups of people converge on the ice. Evidently I’m not alone, judging from the many depictions of skating groups in the Artstor Digital Library.

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July 24, 2013

On this day: Mata Hari is sentenced to execution for espionage

French | Mata Hari performing Brahmanic dances in the library of the Musée Guimet, Paris | 13 March 1905 | Musée Guimet  | Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN)

French | Mata Hari performing Brahmanic dances in the library of the Musée Guimet, Paris | 13 March 1905 | Musée Guimet | Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN)

On this day in 1917, the exotic dancer known as Mata Hari was sentenced to death in France for spying for Germany during World War I.

Born in the Netherlands, Gertruida Margueretha Zelle moved to Paris in 1903 and began performing as a dancer under the name Mata Hari. She claimed to be a princess from Java trained in the art of sacred Indian dance. Her claims were taken at face value and her exotic dancing became very popular across Europe. The images here captures her at the height of her fame.

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July 19, 2013

On this day: the Rosetta Stone is discovered

Egyptian | Priestly Decree inscribed in the Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphic Scripts, called the Rosetta Stone; Detail | 196 BCE | British Museum, United Kingdom | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Egyptian | Priestly Decree inscribed in the Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphic Scripts, called the Rosetta Stone; Detail | 196 BCE | British Museum, United Kingdom | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Egyptian | Priestly Decree inscribed in the Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphic Scripts, called the Rosetta Stone | 196 BCE | British Museum, United Kingdom | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Egyptian | Priestly Decree inscribed in the Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphic Scripts, called the Rosetta Stone | 196 BCE | British Museum, United Kingdom | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

On this day in 1799, during Napoleon’s occupation of Egypt, a French soldier discovered a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the Egyptian town of Rosetta (el-Rashid). The stone contained fragments of passages written in ancient Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Egyptian demotic. The section in Greek revealed that the three scripts shared the same content, which provided the key to understanding hieroglyphics, the knowledge of which had disappeared after the end of the fourth century AD.

The Rosetta Stone is a fragment of a larger stele, and none of the three texts is complete. But building upon the work of other scholars, French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion was able to crack the code and decipher the hieroglyphics in 1822, opening the doors to understanding the history and culture of ancient Egypt.

This image comes to us from the Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives collection. View the painting in the ARTstor Digital Library, and remember to zoom in to see the scripts in close detail.

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April 25, 2013

Celebrating National Bike Month

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec | La Chaine Simpson (bicycle chains), 1896 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec | La Chaine Simpson (bicycle chains), 1896 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

May is National Bike Month! Did you know that there are more than a billion bicycles worldwide? Perhaps more surprisingly, the basic configuration of a bicycle hasn’t changed much from the chain-driven model developed around 1885.

Amed T. Thibault | Bicycle, Livery, Carriage, and Paint Shop Trade Sign, 1895-1905 | American Folk Art Museum; folkartmuseum.org

Amed T. Thibault | Bicycle, Livery, Carriage, and Paint Shop Trade Sign, 1895-1905 | American Folk Art Museum; folkartmuseum.org

The first pedal-propelled bicycle was reputedly invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan in Scotland in 1839. While not everyone agrees on his breakthrough, it is widely accepted that MacMillan was the first person to be charged with a cycling traffic offense in 1842 after he was fined five shillings for knocking over a little girl.

In the early 1860s, bicycle design was improved in France by a crank drive with pedals and a larger front wheel that allowed the rider to travel farther with every rotation of the pedals. The model soon developed into the “penny-farthing,” which boasted wheels with solid rubber tires mounted on a tubular steel frame. While certainly formidable-looking, the high placement of the seat and the poor weight distribution made it difficult to ride.

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April 15, 2013

On this day: Tax Day

Marinus van Reymerswaele | Tax Collector and His Wife | c. 1540 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Marinus van Reymerswaele | Tax Collector and His Wife | c. 1540 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Since 1955, Tax Day has typically fallen on April 15 for those living in the United States. You might derive some comfort from knowing that your feelings today were not unknown in the 16th century, as evidenced in these three Netherlandish paintings of tax collectors by Marinus van Reymerswaele from the Art, Archaeology and Architecture (Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives) collection in the ARTstor Digital Library.

Incidentally, we’re puzzled by the ornate hats, which presumably were part of the profession’s costume. If you know anything about them, please leave a comment below. If you’re not too busy filing your taxes at the last minute, of course.

Marinus van Reymerswaele | Two Tax Collectors | c. 1540 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com
Marinus van Reymerswaele | Two Tax Collectors | c. 1540 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com
Marinus van Reymerswaele | Two Tax Collectors | c. 1540 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com
Marinus van Reymerswaele | Tax Collector and His Wife | c. 1540 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com
Marinus van Reymerswaele | Tax Collector and His Wife | c. 1540 | Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

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