Skip to Main Content

medieval art

October 12, 2012

Restless spirits and hungry mouths

English | Apocalypse; Folio #: fol. 021r | c. 1250-1260 | Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Tradition holds that on Halloween the walls between the worlds of the living and the dead weaken and spirits walk the earth. More recently, the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer combined this concept with the medieval motif of the hellmouth. In the show, the hellmouth is a weak place between dimensions that attracts demons and other supernatural creatures. If it were ever to open it would signal the end of the world. Suitably inspired, we ventured to explore the theme in the ARTstor Digital Library. A simple keyword search for hellmouth led us to an array of spooky artworks dating from the 11th century to the 17th century.

Continue Reading »

April 13, 2012

On this day: Friday the 13th

Hishida Shunso | Black Cat, 1910 | Eisei Bunko Foundation, Tokyo, Japan | Huntington Archive of Asian Art

Everyone knows that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, right? According to Wikipedia, there is no record of this superstition existing before the late 19th century, and different cultures ascribe the unfortunate day to Tuesday the 13th or Friday the 17th. Meanwhile, many superstitions popular in the Middle Ages did not make it to our era. Visit the Illustrated Bartsch collection of Old Master European prints in the Digital Library and search within it for superstition to find some surprising beliefs, such as “Digging for Coal Upon Seeing a Swallow Guarantees Freedom from Fever and Headaches for a Year,” and “Man Encountering a Goose, a Good Omen for the Day.”

Continue Reading »