Archive for the ‘Renaissance & Baroque’ Category


Jan van Eyck. Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and his Wife. 1434. The National Gallery, London

June is the most popular month to marry, an excellent reason to take a look at one of the world’s most famous wedding paintings–although we ended up wondering if that, indeed, was what we were seeing.

At first glance, Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434) appears to be an exquisitely rendered but otherwise straightforward depiction of a wealthy merchant and his wife. But take a second look (or third or fourth), and a more intriguing image emerges. The room in which the Arnolfinis pose is laden with images that signal wealth, have religious implications, or are just plain… odd. (more…)

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Egyptian, Fragmentary Head of a Queen, 1352-1356 B.C.E. Image provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Egyptian, Fragmentary Head of a Queen, 1352-1356 B.C.E. Image provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Today’s Open Access initiative by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and their generous partnership with Artstor help ensure that these images will reach scholarly audiences in more than 1,700 institutions worldwide. Nancy Minty, Artstor’s Collections Editor, explores some of the Met’s history, the materials in the release, and its implications for future study.

In 1872, the Metropolitan Museum opened its doors in a brownstone on Fifth Ave., which housed its nascent permanent collection of 175 paintings. The New York Evening Mail heralded the moment as the birth of the “royal infant,” and one of the founders William Cullen Bryant struck a redemptive tone in his opening address: “My friends, it is important that we should encounter the temptations to vice in this great and too rapidly growing capital by attractive entertainment of an innocent and improving nature.”1 Salomon van Ruysdael’s Drawing the Eel, 1650s, still a standout from the inaugural collection, typifies the folksy, wholesome imagery that bolstered Bryant’s mission.

Today, nearly 150 years later, The Met is among leaders worldwide with an encyclopedic collection that numbers more than 2 million objects, spanning 17 diverse curatorial departments and 5000 years, from antiquities to photography, and including masterworks in all fields. Its range may be documented by countless juxtapositions of outstanding works from diverse cultures, as for example, an ivory handle from ancient Egypt, Prancing Horse, ca. 1391-1353 B.C.E., an engraving by the German Renaissance artist Dürer, The Little Horse, 1505. and a monumental painting by Rosa Bonheur, The Horse Fair, 1853-55, each depicting horses, albeit of very different stripes.

The museum building itself has accrued around 20 successive structures or wings to the nucleus designed by Calvert Vaux in 1880, and it currently occupies more than two million square feet, equal to about 35 football fields (not including Breuer and Cloisters locations). Moreover, in 2016 it welcomed 6.7 million visitors.

Now in an unprecedented step among major American museums, The Met has made a major new foray into the global virtual space by sharing open content for 375,000 images of public domain works in the collection. ITHAKA and Artstor are proud to cooperate in this initiative along with Creative Commons and the Wikimedia Foundation. The implications of this move are significant. As Loic Tallon, the museum’s Chief Digital Officer has framed it “In our digital age, the Museum’s audience is not only the 6.7 million people who visited The Met’s three locations in New York City this past year but also the 3.2 billion internet-connected individuals around the world.”


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Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas. 1656

Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, or the Family of Philip IV, 1656. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. http://www.artres.com

According to a 1985 Illustrated London News poll of artists and critics, Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas was voted the world’s greatest painting.

Let’s take a close look at the painting, its history, and the emotions it elicits to pinpoint why.


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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. (more…)

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Benvenuto Cellini; Saliera (salt cellar), 1540-1543

Benvenuto Cellini; Saliera (salt cellar), 1540-1543; Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. Image and original data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com

Sculptor Benvenuto Cellini is best remembered for two things: his bombastic autobiography, the Vita, in which he confesses to multiple murders and a spectacular jailbreak, and for his salt cellar. Yes, that’s right—a dish for salt.


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Exploring Rembrandt

We recently told you about our alliance with ITHAKA. The Exploring Rembrandt project with JSTOR should give you a hint of why we are so excited to be working together! It’s just a proof of concept, but it points to a world of possibilities.

In a nutshell:

  1. Pick a Rembrandt painting.
  2. View the high-quality Artstor image.
  3. Find JSTOR articles about it!

You can learn how the project came about in the JSTOR Labs blog.

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If you’re still trying to adjust to the start of Daylight Saving Time, we’d like to give you a little bit of advice: don’t let the mythological gods of Greece and Rome catch you napping. Seeing mortals sleeping seems to bring out the worst in them.

Here are three of the most notorious examples:

Endymion and Selene

Depending on whom you ask, Zeus either offered the beautiful shepherd Endymion a wish and Endymion chose to sleep and remain youthful forever, or the eternal sleep wasn’t a gift at all, but rather a punishment because Endymion had attempted to seduce Zeus’ wife, Hera. (more…)

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