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Archive for the ‘Prehistoric & Ancient Art and Architecture’ Category

Palmyra; theatre exterior from south. Date of photograph: 1977. Image and original data provided by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom.

Palmyra; theatre exterior from south. Date of photograph: 1977. Image and original data provided by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom.

Photographs released by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have confirmed the destruction of the ancient Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria. Until now, the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, contained remarkably well-preserved structures built by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, making it one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. The news of the Temple’s destruction was preceded by the horrifying news that Khaled Asaad, the 83-year-old chief of the city’s antiquities department, was publicly beheaded. While the seemingly endless loss of lives must be our primary concern, the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin is shocking for its attempt to erase Syria and the region’s rich, multicultural history. The New York Times quoted Irina Bokova, the director general of UNESCO, saying “The art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, is a symbol of the complexity and wealth of the Syrian identity and history. Extremists seek to destroy this diversity and richness, and I call on the international community to stand united against this persistent cultural cleansing.”

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MOA logo_colour variationsUBCLib_short_blkArtstor and the University of British Columbia are collaborating to make available more than 65,000 images of art and other cultural objects from the UBC Museum of Anthropology’s permanent collection, and 250 Japanese maps from the UBC Library’s Tokugawa collection.

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Albrecht Dürer, Hare (A Young Hare), 1502, Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Image and original data: Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Albrecht Dürer, Hare (A Young Hare), 1502, Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Image and original data: Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Easter is around the corner, and with it comes the inevitable barrage of images of the Easter bunny. The strange thing is that the only mentions of rabbits in the Bible are prohibitions against eating them in the Old Testament. So what gives?

The underlying idea is that rabbits are connected to the idea of rebirth—not only do they reproduce prodigiously, at one time they were believed to reproduce asexually. The connection of rabbits to rebirth also occurs in non-Christian societies: The Rabbit in the Moon (instead of our Man in the Moon) is a familiar symbol in Asia, and was part of Aztec legend, tying the idea of rabbits to a “rebirth” every night. But other qualities of rabbits and hares also get highlighted in folklore, including their mischievous side, playing the role of cunning tricksters in Native American and Central African mythologies. (more…)

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artstor_logo_rgb2Artstor and Bryn Mawr College are collaborating to release nearly 1,000 photographs in the Digital Library by Richard S. Ellis of buildings and archaeological sites in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Greece, Egypt, and Sudan. The images will also be available through the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP).

Richard S. Ellis, Professor Emeritus of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, taught at Bryn Mawr College from 1973 to 2004. He is the author of a book, Foundation Deposits in Ancient Mesopotamia, and numerous articles on the art and archaeology of Mesopotamia and Turkey. He directed the Bryn Mawr College excavations at Gritille on the Euphrates in Turkey, a site which ranged from the Neolithic through Medieval periods.

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artstor_logo_rgbThe Artstor Digital Library and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are collaborating to share 7,000 images of works from the UWM Art Collection.

The UWM Art Collection encompasses 7,600 objects – western and non-western art, ancient to contemporary. Areas of special strength include prints from the 15th to 20th century, Greek and Russian Icons, American folk art, and ethnographic collections of Africa and Oceania. The Blanche and Henry Rosenberg Collection of Modern Art is an impressive grouping of two- and three-dimensional works representing the major stylistic trends of the first half of the twentieth century. Notable artists featured in this collection of over 300 objects includes Jean Arp, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Victor Vasarely, Alexander Calder, and Pablo Picasso. The Rogers Family Collection of Greek and Russian Icons represents a remarkable array of icons, many dating to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The collection also consists of numerous liturgical objects, finely executed in gold, bronze, wood, and enamel, including reliquary and processional crosses, chalices, spoons, as well as secular pieces such as Byzantine coins and jewelry. The Emile H. Mathis II Print Collection is an expansive assemblage of 1,500 works on paper spanning 500 years of art history. The collection, which represents Mathis’ lifetime passion for fine art, includes excellent examples of 17th century etchings by Jacques Callot and Rembrandt van Rijn; 19th century French, British, and American printmakers including Francis Seymour Haden, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; early 20th century prints by Kathe Kollwitz, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró; and extensive holdings of late 20th century American artists: Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, and Robert Rauschenberg. The African art collection provides an encyclopedic overview of 19th and early 20th century African art, with objects from nearly one hundred different cultural areas and twenty-three different countries.

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Mummy of Ukhhotep, Middle Kingdom

Egypt, Mummy of Ukhhotep, Middle Kingdom, ca. 1981-1802 B.C. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Come tomorrow evening, droves of miniature monsters will haunt our neighborhoods, jack-o-lantern-shaped candy bowls in tow. Amongst the groups of trick-or-treaters, though, one spooky creature will likely be absent: the mummy, which, despite being the star of many a horror film, never seems to be a Halloween costume favorite.

My guess as to why the mummy costume has never attained the cult status of, for example, the ghost is a purely pragmatic one. Dressing up as a mummy is a difficult task; cutting eyeholes into a white sheet is pretty straightforward. This is a fact that my own failed childhood attempt at dressing up as a mummy—which ended in my mother watching the rolls of gauze bandages she had dutifully wrapped around me immediately unravel—confirms.

An Egyptologist, however, might answer this question differently. For though the mummy of horror cinema is unrestful and vengeful, rising from the tomb to wreak havoc upon the living, in reality mummification was nothing more than a sophisticated burial ritual, meant to help lead the deceased to a peaceful afterlife.

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Magdalenian, Bison licking its back

Magdalenian, Bison licking its back, 15th to 10th millennium BCE. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com/

Artstor is introducing curriculum guides–collections of images from the Artstor Digital Library based on syllabi for college courses–compiled by faculty members and experts around the country. Learn more here.

Survey of Western Art 1: Prehistoric to Gothic
Nancy Minty, Ph.D, Collections Editor, Artstor
This curriculum guide covers a comprehensive introduction to early western art (approximately 30,000 BCE through 1300 CE), presenting the iconic monuments of European and Mediterranean culture, including architecture and the built environment, paintings and sculpture, manuscripts and the decorative arts, as well as archeological sites and materials. The extensive range – both geographic and historic – coupled with a focus on key works, will establish a foundation in art history and a point of departure for further study (assuming this course is followed by its companion – Survey of Western Art 2: Renaissance to Postmodern). Students will learn to interpret works within their cultural contexts, developing both visual acuity and descriptive vocabularies. Readings will center on the standard texts with a sampling of specialist articles.

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