Friday, November 30, 2007

Chartres Cathedral

Check out this website for a great map of the stained glass windows located in the choir.

Click on the names in the diagram for a detailed overview of the window. You can also click on the image of the window for a super detailed image (these are beautiful!) with narrative.

Comments due by Monday 12-3.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Taken from How Art Made the World:

What is a memorial?

What is it expected to represent about memory, death, loss and time? Is it a lesson from the past, or a warning in the present? A memorial can serve a national purpose, like the Washington DC Vietnam memorial, or a very personal one as with cemetery tombstones and roadside shrines for the victims of auto accidents. It can be deeply sad, or openly political, endorsing differing views of past history. The design of a memorial may incorporate both abstract visual symbols and literal representations of people and events. It can use its formal design to direct emotions and responses, or leave them largely to the immediate experiences of visitors. It can directly express goals and beliefs about war, heroism, or justice, or it can simply create a space where people can contemplate their own sense of events.

What examples of public or personal memorials have you seen? What did you think about their designs and intentions; what did the memorials communicate to you? How?

Consider, as well, the implications and design of currently controversial projects like the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York City. What does the present design propose about the immediate events and the lessons we are to learn from them? How is it meant to serve the many different visitors—families of victims, New Yorkers, politicians, visitors from around the US and the rest if the world? To answer these questions students will need to research and find images of proposed designs, intentions. One useful website is the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation

Art21 on ritual and commemoration: Kiki Smith and Maya Lin

Comments due by Monday 12-3.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Turkey Parts, Meyer Vaisman, 1993, Polyurethane foam, latex, acrylic.

No posting this week! Everyone gets 2 points for turkey.

Have a good break.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bayeux Tapestry

William and Harold ride with soldiers to Williams’s palace at Rouen. William sits while Harold talk to him. The mysterious incident on the far right seems to have nothing to do with the main story, but it may have been well known in the 11th century. It might refer to a sexual scandal - the man in the lower border is naked in the original tapestry, but he has been provided with shorts by the Victorian embroiderers who made this copy.

Detail of embroidery.
Comments due by Monday 11/19.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Take a virtual tour

Go to this site and explore 360 degree panoramas and interactive building plans.

Comments due by Monday 11-19

Monday, November 5, 2007

San Vitale

Choir mosaic in San Vitale. The center and left hand side of the mosaic represents the angels announcing to Abraham the birth of his son Isaac.

In class last week, we began discussing the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna Italy. This church is one of the most important examples of Byzantine Art and mosaic work, and is also one of the only major buildings to survive from the period of Emperor Justinian.
Justinian, who is considered a saint amongst Eastern Orthodox Christians, reigned as emperor between 527 and 565, but saw himself as an inheritor of the Roman Imperial authority. This is evident in his massive building plan, which links him to other great imperial builders such as Augustus. There had always been strong ties between Roman Emperors and their religion, which manifested itself in the construction of altars and temples throughout the empire. Justinian clearly continued this tradition, creating a very strong link between himself and his ancestors. In addition, Justinian, who was also known as the “emperor who never sleeps,” is responsible for rewriting the Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in some modern states. He considered it his duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries. Seeing himself as a defender of the orthodox faith, his multiple military campaigns to regain these territories were motivated by the Ostrogoths’ conversion to Arian Christianity, which was seen as a heretical form faith.

“Central to Justinian's conception of the political and religious order was that he as Emperor was anointed by God as the chosen leader of the Empire. Von Simson in Sacred Fortress writes: "Imperial policy conceived political and religious issues as inextricably entwined. Orthodox doctrine spearheaded the moves of political, as well as of military, strategy; and nowhere is this fact more apparent than in the great campaign to wrest the western parts of the Empire from their Arian conquerors (p. 3)." The conception of the Emperor's authority is identified as Caesaropapism, in that the Emperor is understood to combine the functions of the Caesar of the Roman imperial tradition and of the Pope of the Roman Church. Justinian saw himself as the defender of both political order and religious Orthodoxy. Justinian's ambition was thus to restore the old Empire under a central political and religious authority.” Source

The mosaic program at San Vitale serves as a record or a manifesto of Justinian’s political and religious ideals.

We will talk more about the mosaics in San Vitale in class this week, but look at this site for a collection of images concerning the mosaic program at San Vitale.

Also, check out these links for an explanation of some of the symbolism found in Christian Art:

Comments due by Monday 11-12.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Eucharistic Dove

Eucharistic dove, 12th-13th century, Abbey of Frassinoro (Monza)
Comments due by Monday 11-5.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dura Europos

Dura Europos, Syria is an important site that did not receive much attention until around 1921 when murals were discovered by accident in one of the many temples.


The image on the left, entitled Ezekiel's Vision is one of the wall paintings at Dura-Europos. It shows the Mount of Olives on the right side, out of which the rising dead come. Ezekiel was one of few who had the power to awaken the dead, just as the Messiah will do. There are the hands of God coming down in the top.

Dura Europos, synagogue, west wall, ark versus paganism, Syria, 244-245

Comments for this post are due by Monday November 5th.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More mosaics

5th century 'Arian' Christian baptistery ceiling at Ravenna.
(A pagan river god looks on)
Comments due by Monday 10-29.

Monday, October 22, 2007


In class, we have looked at a variety of examples of ancient mosaic art. The earliest example we have discussed was from Uruk, Mesopotamia where small clay cones were embedded into walls and columns to create decorative patterns.
Of course, we have also discussed multiple examples of Roman mosaic art, such as The Unswept Floor, 2nd century CE.
The word "mosaic" derives from the Greek: "patient work, worthy of the Muses". Artists used small tiles or fragments of pottery known as tesserae to create mosaics depicting various subjects. Generally speaking, these mosaics consisted of thousands of tesserae.
As far as Roman artifacts go, there are more examples of mosaics than any other construction. Not only that, but the mosaics are generally in good shape, since they were on floors instead of walls or roofs that can easily collapse. The mosaics were not just like modern day carpet, but they served to communicate something about the family who lived in the building. In fact, in large towns, shops had pattern books (like wallpaper books today) from which shoppers could buy a variety of designs “off the shelf.” Only the wealthy or elite could afford to commission personalized designs.
Here are a few more examples of Roman mosaics:

This is a ferocious dog on a hall floor, to 'guard' the house. CAVE CANEM means "Beware of the dog".

Roman mosaic of marine life.

More examples here.

It was during the Byzantine era that mosaic art reached its highest level of quality. They used marble, natural stones, colored glass, even gold and silver to create colorful designs in vaults, domes, temples, and palaces. Most mosaics done during this time period were inspired by the Christian religion that was dominant during this period.

How are these mosaics made? There are a variety of techniques that have been developed depending on the type of mosaic being made. Check them out here.

Watch this short video, which has images and narration describing the process.

Here are a few examples of Byzantine/Christain mosaic work. We will see more work like this in class this week.
Jesus, above, is shown dressed as a Roman soldier but wearing royal purple and gold. He is "trampling" the devil (snake) as well as Rome (the lion), and is holding the scriptures which read "I am the way, the truth and the life."

The combination of the glass and gold tiles (set at slight angles) would create a dizzying effect when hit by natural light (from a clerestory) or candlelight.

"Christ as the Good Shepherd," mosaic from the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, c.425-450. Some devices of Roman illusionism are still being used -- shadows, tonality of forms, spatial depth.

Detail of mosaic work.
The closest thing we have to these mosaics in the U.S. is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, MO.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Interactive Colosseum

The Colosseum (brought to you by PBS)

Spend some time exploring the inside and the outside of the Colosseum. Give it a minute to load, then click on "what do you see?" to get started.

Comments for this post are due by Monday 10-22.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roman Gladiators

A relief carving of gladiators locked in combat. (recently found)
Click around in this informative site about the Roman Gladitorial Games.
This site has a wealth of information about how the games began, who the gladiators were, and the cultural and political aspects of staging such events. Other areas you could research would be female gladiators, weaponry/armor, and the moral aspects of such events.
Either by reading throug this site or researching other related sites, find some tidbit of information on gladiators/gladiatorial games that you did not already know. Post a synopsis of the information you found and tell me why you found it interesting.
Interestingly enough, you can buy this reproduction skull for your very own.
Also click around on the IMA site for their Roman art exhibition. GO SEE IT IF YOU CAN!!
Finally, I found this really disturbing Pepsi commercial. Do you know of any other appropriations of Roman culture/art in modern advertisement?

Comments for this post are due by Monday October 22nd.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Graffiti" from Pompeii

Ancient Pompeiian graffiti caricature of a politician.

Here are some of the inscriptions found in Pompeii ( I want to warn you; some of these are considered inappropriate or vulgar).

Comments due by Monday 10/15.

The hero and the monomyth

The Clash of the Titans, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Gladiator, Harry Potter…they all have something in common: a hero.
Joseph Campbell writes about this (he refers to it as a monomyth) in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
“In the monomyth, the hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events. If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials, and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift or "boon." The hero must then decide whether to return to the ordinary world with this boon. If the hero does decide to return, the hero often faces challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world. The stories of Osiris, Prometheus, Moses, Buddha, and Christ, for example, follow this structure very closely.
Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. Very few myths contain all of these stages — some myths contain many of the stages, while others contain only a few; some myths may have as a focus only one of the stages, while other myths may deal with the stages in a somewhat different order. These stages may be organized in a number of ways, including division into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return. "Departure" deals with the hero venturing forth on the quest; "Initiation" deals with the hero's various adventures along the way; and "Return" deals with the hero's return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.” source

The Hero's Journey has 12 stages. They are:
1.Ordinary World - The hero's normal world before the story begins
2.Call to Adventure - The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure
3.Refusal of the Call - The hero refuses the challenge or journey, usually because he's scared
4. Meeting with the Mentor - The hero meets a mentor to gain advice or training for the adventure
5. Crossing the First Threshold - The hero crosses leaves the ordinary world and goes into the special world
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies - The hero faces tests, meets allies, confronts enemies & learn the rules of the Special World.
7. Approach - The hero has hit setbacks during tests & may need to try a new idea
8. Ordeal - The biggest life or death crisis
9. Reward - The hero has survived death, overcomes his fear and now earns the reward 10. The Road Back - The hero must return to the Ordinary World.
11. Resurrection Hero - another test where the hero faces death – he has to use everything he's learned
12. Return with Elixir - The hero returns from the journey with the “elixir”, and uses it to help everyone in the Ordinary World

The heroes also share some common characteristics:
Unusual circumstances of birth; sometimes in danger or born into royalty
Leaves family or land and lives with others
An event, sometimes traumatic, leads to adventure or quest
Hero has a special weapon only he can wield
Hero always has supernatural help
The Hero must prove himself many times while on adventure
The Journey and the Unhealable Wound
Hero experiences atonement with the father
When the hero dies, he is rewarded spiritually

While many people consider Joseph Campbell’s work the definitive writing on the monomyth, there are also many criticisms of his approach.

Think about any of the movies you have seen or any books you have read. Is there a hero? How does that hero function? Do you find flaws in Campbell’s approach to the archetypal hero? Why do we have heroes/do we really need them? Are heroes harmful? Have heroes changed over time?

Back up your answers with research. Be sure to cite your sources.
Comments due by Monday 10/15.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Romulus and Remus

According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus and Remus, who were raised by a she-wolf.

Comment due by Monday 10/8

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ancient Color

Remember how I kept going on and on and on (and on) about how Greek architecture and sculpture were originally painted? Remember that whole discussion about how our viewing experience of Greek art is completely different than that of the ancient Greeks?

Well, look what I found! A German museum has painted interpretations of several Greek statues (this is just one of their many projects) using UV analysis of traces of paint still clinging to the surface of the marble.

Please read more about this project here.

I realize this is in German, but here you can find more images of several of their projects.

And, go here to see some amazing color! (you really MUST go here)

Click around, see what you can find!

And, if you ever get to Philadelphia, check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These sculptures were installed in the pediment in 1932, and relflect the 'theory' that buildings and sculpture in ancient Greece were brightly and lavishly painted.

Comments for this post are due by Monday 10/8.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Just do it.

"Nike continues to serve as a symbol of victory, although in a more subtle and generally unrecognized sense. The shoe company Nike chose that name in order to associate themselves with the idea of victory in athletics and the famous swoosh of their logo is supposed to represent Nike's wings. In many ways Nike also celebrates the victory of beauty and perfection because of the high quality of some of the statues of Nike which have been found." source

My ad!

Comments for this post are due by Monday October 1st.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Greek myths

Artemis (aka Diana) and Actaeon

Artemis (my cat): goddess of the hunt and protector of children; a very free-spirited goddess. source

The story goes that one day, as Artemis bathed in a stream, a young hunter named Actaeon saw her and stared at her in awe. She was quite beautiful...possibly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. This voyeurism got Actaeon in trouble, however. Artemis spotted Actaeon and turned him into a stag so that he would never tell anyone what he had just seen. Poor Actaeon...upon being turned into a stag, his 50 hunting hounds attacked and killed him.

Who is your favorite character in Greek mythology? Do you have a favorite myth? Tell me about who or what that would be and why.

Comments for the post are due by Monday 10/1.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It is my birthday...

So this guy has to wear a party hat:

Finial of a Grave stele (grave marker) of a youth and a little girl. In the form of a sphinx, ca. 530 B.C. (click here for hatless image)

NOTE: We have been given a new classroom! Starting Monday we will meet in GH 195. This will be posted by our classroom door as well.

Comments for this post are due by Monday 9/24.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Akhenaten, the “heretic” king

In class today we began discussing Akhenaten and his family, his religion, and the artwork that depicts him (many of you noted the “alien-like” features of the pharaoh and his family).
King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti ("The Wilbour Plaque"). Egypt, purchased near Amarna by Charles Edwin Wilbour in 1890. New Kingdom, late Dynasty 18, latter part of the reign of Akhenaten (circa 1352–1336 b.c.) or slightly later. Limestone

Many modern day viewers of these images are quite fascinated with the way Akhenaten is portrayed, which has led to the pharaoh being referred to as the 'first individual in human history'.

At the time, the way that Akhenaten and his family were depicted was strikingly different than anything created in Egypt. Even today we are shocked by the bodies of these individuals, at how the pharaoh and his family are shown participating in everyday activities, and at how they are often shown displaying affection towards one another. In addition, Nefertiti appears next to Akhenaten in a large number of the surviving works, hinting at her role in both the family and the government. These new conventions in art were scandalous. Gone were the rigid forms and stylization, perfect bodies, and strict organization of space. Instead, we see overlapping, crowded spaces, and interaction between forms.

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children

“Early in his reign Akhenaten used art as a way of emphasising his intention of doing things very differently. Colossi and wall-reliefs from the Karnak Aten Temple are highly exaggerated and almost grotesque when viewed in the context of the formality and restraint which had characterised Egyptian royal and elite art for the millennium preceding Akhenaten's birth. Although these seem striking and strangely beautiful today, it is hard for us to appreciate the profoundly shocking effect that such representations must have had on the senses of those who first viewed them and who would never have been exposed to anything other than traditional Egyptian art.” Source

In addition to the changes in art and religion, Akhenaten also changed the way in which temples and buildings were constructed (use of smaller blocks and mortar) and the use of old fashioned inscriptions often used inside temples (now more modern).
Akhenaten himself is often described as a “philosopher” of sorts. He left behind vast amounts of written documents outlining his beliefs and his reasoning for the move to a new capital called Akhetaten (el-Armarna). Importantly, because this city was occupied for such a short time, archeologists have been able to find vast amounts of information concerning how ancient Egyptians actually lived.

The Armana Letters, 382 known tablets found at the site of the official records office of the pharaoh.

When he died, a co-regent named Smenkhkare (who was possibly Nefertiti) ruled for a short time with a child who went by the name Tutankhamun (originally Tutankhaten). It is during this time that Akhetaten was abandoned and the old gods were restored. Akhenaten’s name was erased from the temples and statues, as the Egyptians tried to forget about this period in their recent history.

One of many questions that could be asked: Is Akhenaten a “hero” or a “villain”? (He is often referred to as one or the other)

Be sure to back up your answer with research.

Comments due by Monday 9-24.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Who is Horus?

The God Horus Protecting King Nectanebo II, 360–343 B.C.E.; Dynasty 30, reign of Nectanebo II; late periodEgyptianGreywacke; H. 28 in. (71.1 cm), W. 8 in. (20.3 cm), D. 18 in. (45.7 cm)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Robbing the cradle (of civilization).

Today in class you saw a few images of important sites in Mesopotamia, particularly examples of architecture in present day Iraq. This entire area is of extreme archeological and historical importance; it has more than 10,000 archeological sites to date. There are estimates by archeologists that another half million sites are still there waiting to be found.

The ziggurats I showed in class today are examples that barely scratch the surface of the important sites found in Iraq. For example, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and possible Garden of Eden), Nimrud, the Arch of Ctesiphon (the largest arch in the ancient world), Tall Harmal, and Nippur to name just a few. Drawing of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Cuneiform tablets are still being found around the region, with many of the tablets previously discovered still not translated. These tablets offer incredible insight into the daily lives of ancient people; they cover everything from various types of transactions to food growing and preparation tips.

Iraq is sometimes referred to as the “cradle of civilization” because urbanization, organized religion, imperialism, the first written language, the first major work of literature (The Epic of Gilgamesh), and many inventions such as the wheel and the plow were developed in this area.

History in peril?

“As a famous general once said, 'war is hell' and if it's staged in Iraq — the land where advanced cultures first flourished — archaeologists fear it could also wreak havoc on history.” Source

There have been many stories in the news about the consequences of the war in Iraq, including Halliburton “destroying” Babylon and the looting of various sites in the area. While there is plenty of blame to go around—such as American troops destroying part of a the ziggurat at Ur (and possibly looting it), Iraqi’s looting sites and selling artifacts on the black market, the almost total destruction of Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad by looters, and the collateral damage being done to architecture by the many explosion in the region—steps are now being taken by both sides to prevent further destruction.

I do not want anyone playing the blame game with this post, but I would ask you the following:

Has the area had a history of war/looting or is this a new problem?

Why are these sites important to us today?

What can be done to save or at least fully document these sites before they are desecrated?

What has already been damaged or lost in this region?

Is it important to YOU that these places get the protection archeologists think they need?

There is a ton of information online about this topic, show me what you can find!

Comments for this post are due Monday 9/17/07.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Personal Ornaments

Series of deer teeth incised with geometric signs from the burial discovered in Saint Germain-la-Riviere (Gironde), France.

Double strand of basally incised wallaby teeth on the cranium of a 4,000 year old male burial Roonka, South Australia.

Monday, September 3, 2007

(innate) Creativity in Humans

Remember a few days ago when I asked all of you what you thought creativity was and why it was important? Well, I'd like all of you to watch this short (20 is worth it)video of a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson all about the importance of creativity.
Then, think about your own experiences with "creativity", and tell me what you think about this topic.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Venus...

Kostenki Limestone Venus Photo: P. Bahn

"Venus" of Cussac

From: National Geographic, August 2001 Photo: Yanik Le Guillou Painting in Chauvet Cave with human female legs, hips and pubic triangle but with the head and torso of a bison. It is referred to as "the sorcerer". (Venus?)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

In class today, I spoke about the “Woman from Willendorf” (which has recently been sited in England). While most of the specific history of this artifact is lost to us today, it has been imbued with a new history that is wrapped up in a name. Originally, this small statuette was referred to as the “Venus from Willendorf”.

This object is relatively small (4 3/8 inches) and could have been easily transported by its owner(s). It was discovered in 1908 by archaeologist Josef Szombathy at a site near Willendorf. Today we know that the statuette was not created in the same area in which it was found, but we really know little else about what is now considered one of the best examples of Paleolithic artwork.

Taking a closer look at the figurine, we see that this is not a realistic depiction of a female but rather an abstraction. Shapes are reduced to simple forms such as circles and ovals. Certain parts of her body have been emphasized by their size/roundness. Her face is absent of recognizable facial features, yet we see a repeating pattern that resembles braided or curled hair. Her arms seem to disappear beyond the elbows (or are very small). Her legs taper down to nothing near the ankles; she has very small feet. (This reminds me of today’s Barbie doll proportions!)

Is the “Venus” from Willendorf pregnant? Is she obese? Is she a portrait of a particular Paleolithic woman? Is she a fertility figurine? Is she a goddess? Is she portable pornography? A charm? Did a man or a woman carve her? Is there a problem with using the word “Venus” to title this object?

The “Woman from Willendorf” is not the only piece of Paleolithic sculpture to be uncovered. To date archeologists have found many different female figurines (and a few males) of different shapes a sizes. Here are some examples of other “Venus” figures: The Savignano Venus and Venus de Sireil

But, Venus? What do you think of when you hear the word “Venus”? This name carries with it many associations, the most obvious being a religious connection with the Roman goddess of love (or the Greek Aphrodite). I find Venus to be a problematic title (obviously I’m not the only one, since they changed it) because it refers to the ideal woman; one who has been portrayed throughout the history of art as an icon of sorts. Despite the change in the title of the piece found near Willendorf, the figurines as a group are still referred to as the “Venus figures”. Take a look at these other images of Venus: Capitoline Venus (Capitoline Museum, Rome) and Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, c. 1482

And consider this:
“The name "Venus" had first been used, in a tone of mocking irony, in 1864 by the Marquis Paul de Vibraye who described a headless, armless, footless ivory statuette he discovered at Laugerie-Basse in the Vèzère valley in the Dordogne as a "Vénus impudique" or "immodest Venus".
The Marquis, of course, was playfully reversing the appellation of "Venus pudica" ("modest Venus") that is used to describe a statue type of the Classical Venus which shows, in the Capitoline Venus for example, the goddess attempting to conceal her breasts and pubic area from view. The inference the Marquis makes is that this prehistoric Venus makes no attempt to hide her sexuality.” source

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Hello guinea pigs.

Welcome to ARH 101: Survey of Art and Culture I.

My hope with this blog is that all students build a better understanding about art by supplementing in-class lectures with out-of-class web discussions.

Topics we will always be concerned with in this course:
1. Why is art important?
2. What can be considered art?
3. How do you decide what's "good" art?
4. How to describe and evaluate a work of art.
5. How to figure out what a work "means".
6. Context, context, context.
7. The purpose of art.
8. The role of the artist.

*Remember, email me the name you will be posting under by 8/24!