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Art History Today
Midlands, United Kingdom
Professional Art Historian, Phd in Poussin,
Interests: music, art history, films, (classical through to rock), literature (mainly modern crime mystery).
Recent Activity
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So this is coming up at Christie’s in the Old Master sale. Whether it’s by Rembrandt or not, it’s a fine old master. Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2017 at Art History Today
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1 ) Map of Different World Cultures. 2) Unknown artist, John de Mandeville, 1459. 3) Cotton plant as imagined and drawn by John Mandeville; "There grew there [India] a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the endes of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungrie." 4) Descent of the Ganges (Mahabalipuram), Bay of Bengal, c. 7th cent AD. 5) Descent of the Ganges (Mahabalipuram) viewed by Indian women. 6) Yakshi from Bharut, c. 100 BC, stone, 2.14 m, Indian Museum, Calcutta. 7) Female figure with... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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Coda: Silk, Painting & Florence Throughout this course we have looked at the art of the Silk Roads. To end we shall consider the link between silks and a famous painting in Florence: Masaccio’s Madonna and Christ. In this painting the Virgin Mary wears a purple cloak that is embroidered with words. This is an example of Tiraz, namely borders of textiles embellished in Arabic with silk threads.[1] These were “standard for all textiles in Islamic countries” and they became much admired in Christian countries, as a result of Silk Road commerce. It is probably the case that the renaissance... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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“Cultural Traces” in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Good and Bad Government frescoes. During one of his most aesthetic moments, Berenson enthused about the similarities between Japanese art and Lorenzetti’s paintings. Berenson developed an interest in Asian art, and more significantly made comparisons between it and western painting when he was part of the Bostonian group of scholars, art historians and aesthetes. In his early career this kind of intercultural comparison took the form of commenting on the “similarity” of the Venetian Carlo Crivelli and the Sienese Ambrogio Lorenzetti to Asian art; though later Berenson in his famous surveys of renaissance painting would... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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St Francis on the Silk Roads. If the mappamondo that once hung in the Town Hall were an indication of Siena’s interest in Asia, this would be the cartographical equivalent of connecting St Francis on the road to Siena emulating the behaviour of whirling dervishes of the mystical Arabian Sufis who journeyed along the Silk Roads.[1] Whether this can be called an example of religious diffusionism or parallel occurrence remains open to question; but the link whether imaginative or real has not deterred art historians, both living and dead, from connecting the Assisi monk with African and Asian religious groups.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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Siena on the Silk Roads In the medieval period the town of Siena benefitted hugely from changes wrought by wars and migrations which impacted upon its geographical, cultural and economic situation. Rather than relying on domestic wealth of the wool-manufacturing trade- as Florence had- the Sienese took advantage of the “circulation of luxury goods stimulated in part by the Mongol integration of Eurasian markets.”[1] The leading circle of banking families in Siena who formed the “financial body” known as the Biccherna, turned their eyes towards the Silk Roads which promised trade and economic prosperity for their city. This would include... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Koran in Renaissance Venice. The Venetian publisher Paganino Paganani was not only responsible for the publication of the mathematician Luca Pacioli’s works, but he also brought out the first printed version of the Koran in Arabic between 1537 and 1538. A copy was discovered in 1987 by the orientalist Angela Nuovo who found it in the library of the Franciscan friars on San Michele in Isola, Venice; it is written in Arabic, though the marginalia is in Latin.[1] It has been shown that the Venetian Koran is plagued by errors due to bad editing which if committed by an... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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Venice, Painting & the Orient In the medieval period before Venice became an important artistic centre in its own right, the Venetians looked to the East in a spirit of commercial opportunism. Along with other Mediterranean cities like Amalfi, Genoa, Marseilles, Naples, Pisa, and Salerno the Venetians had been quick to spot commercial possibilities; though all of them preferred to be in competition with each other rather than band together to fight the Turkish foe.[1] In fact, Venice had taken a share in oriental trade since the tenth century and Genoa since the eleventh; but by the time of the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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Perspective in the Far East. Belting’s intervention has much wider significance because it brings to light the question of why these two different cultures- Arabic and European- came to have this encounter which was characterised by different notions of how images should be seen by each culture.[1] However, this cultural relationship should not be confined to Europe and the Arabian cultures; there is a hidden history of what Belting calls “the globalization of perspective” which includes Far Eastern countries like China and Japan who were forced to accept perspective through the missionary programmes of religious organisations like the Jesuits, some... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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Perspective & Arabian Science. It is one thing for goods like silk and spice to be carried via the silk roads by individuals; it is also unsurprising to see different styles appear in Central and Far East Asia because artists and artisans, travelled, set down roots, and helped to build towns, symbols of foreign civilisations; nor would one be surprised at the spread of religions like Buddhism along the Silk Roads as is proved by the existence of the Dunhuang Caves. Yet as Wittkower rightly observed, in the age of the renaissance and baroque, diffusion took on a new aspect:... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Problem Applied to Indian Sculpture. Let us consider the cultural diffusionist paradigm as applied to the human figure in Indian sculpture. The conflict between polygenetic and monogenetic theories of cultures begins at the end of the seventeenth-century when Sir William Temple, early theorist of the picturesque and patron of Jonathan Swift, became the first to aver that India rather than Egypt “was the source of all knowledge concerning the arts and sciences.”[1] Temple went as far as to state that Pythagoras had imported his philosophical ideas from India into Greece and Italy; this line would be vigorously pursued by... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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Cultural Diffusion & the Silk Roads. Though known for his reputation as an expert on European baroque art and architecture, Rudolph Wittkower was also fascinated by what he called “the migration of symbols.” In his Allegory and the Migration of Symbols published in 1977, a number of the essays dealt with the migration of culture via overland and sea routes such as caravan roads, which obviously means the Silk Roads whose areas Wittkower described as “a great melting pot of cultural and artistic currents.”[1] Looking at the pictorial tradition generated by travellers on the Silk Roads like John de Mandeville... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2017 at Art History Today
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1) Sculpture from the Khajuraho Group of Monuments, AD. 950-1050, Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. 2) Map of India. 3) Khajuraho Group of Monuments. 4) Workshop of the Boucicault Master, Indian Religious Scene, 'Le Livre Des Merveilles', C.1410-12. 5) Map of Indus Valley Civilisations. 6) Figurine of a Young Woman, perhaps a dancing girl, from Mohenjo-daro, Harrapan culture, c. 2300-1750 BC. copper, ht 14 cms (5 ½ inches), National Museum, New Delhi. 7) Bust of a priest- king, or deity from Mohenjo- daro, late Harrapan culture, c. 2000- 1750 BC., Steatite, ht 17.5 cms (6 7/8 inches), National Museum of Pakistan,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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End of an Era: Islamic Art in Medieval India. The arrival of Islam started in A.D. 712 when Arab traders conquered Sind in Pakistan; but this was consolidated by invasions in the tenth century A.D. effectively putting an end to the first chapter of Indian history.[1] It was the wealth of the temple of India glorifying Hindu and Buddhist civilisation that drew the envious eyes of the Turks and Afghans. This was bad for the Hindu and Buddhist religions as their temples and stupas were swept away by the Muslims and replaced by mosques such as the first mosque at... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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Painting in the Caves of Ajanta It is difficult to date the earliest painting in India because there is still disagreement about the date of India’s origins. It seems likely that the very first painting was executed on the sub-continent by proto-Australoid or Veddoid groups who may have some connection with the Australian Bushmen.[1] There exists hundreds of very primitive cave or rock paintings in Central India where natural pigments were applied to sandstone. In tracing painting in India, it is necessary to take a long leap from the Neolithic period to the Gupta (A.D. 320-467) era where we find... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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Further Notes on the Influence of Classical Art in India. When pondering the possible influence of Roman and Greek art – usually subsumed under the term “classical”- via the Silk Roads on Northern India after the time of Alexander the Great, John Boardman suggested that there was evidence for opening up a case of an “Indo-Roman” style rather than an “Indo-Greek” one as present in northern India, though Boardman nevertheless noted that “Roman” would not exclude Greek as the former largely developed out of the latter.[1] For example, in their coinage the Kushan kings “did take note of Roman coin... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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Buddhist Art in India. The homeland of Buddhism was India where it flourished during the first thousand years of its existence until by the sixth and seventh centuries it was absorbed by a vibrant Hinduism. After its genesis, Buddhism spread to neighbouring regions such as Nepal, Tibet, and other Himalayan expanses, as well as Burma and Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) where the Pali canon was created.[1] The first phase of Buddhism lasted for nearly five hundred years until the end of the first millennium B.C. and the rise of the Kushan dynasty. As for the first Buddhist art, it did... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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Who was the Buddha? Gautama Buddha (c, 563- 480 B.C.), also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, or Shakyamuni was an ascetic sage whose teachings formed the foundation of Buddhism. Though scholars are not in agreement on the facts of the Buddha’s life, it is believed that the Buddha lived and taught mostly in the eastern part of ancient India sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries. Though there are many biographical sources, it is thought that the Buddha was born in present day Nepal.[1] Siddhārtha’s mother may have died just after his birth leaving the child to be brought up by... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Dance of Shiva: Representations of the Hindu Trinity in Indian Art. The origin of Shiva, sometimes Siva, in Indian art may be present in the Pashupati Seal from the Indus period which features a tricephalic (three headed) god surrounded by animals; the figure is seated in a yogic posture which will become generalised throughout Indian art. Of great religious and mythological importance, Shiva is the destroyer within the Trimurti or the Hindu “trinity” that also includes Brahma and Vishnu. These three gods would replace the Vedic gods, i.e. the deities of the Indo-Aryans who invoked the gods of nature,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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A Feminine Ideal in Indian Art: the Yakshi. Continuing that last point about the Indian female figure whose most prevalent expression in art is that of the yakshis, a female tree spirit found in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology. One of the best examples of a free-standing statue of a yakshi comes from either the Mauryan or later periods, the latter because she resembles the yakshis on the Great Stupa at Sanchi (above), one of three sites (the others are Bhahut and Mathura) that have yielded up yakshi figures which are very similar in physical attributes and iconography, though they... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Phases of Hindu Art. The first phase of Hinduism is marked by Bhakti (worship) in the first century A.D. which resulted in a bewildering plethora of deities- see below- and the creation of Hindu temples within which they were worshipped. Hindu temples were ornamented with narrative reliefs, animals, floral, foliate and geometric designs (above).[1] Buddhist art takes form during the Mauryan and successive periods; but the Gupta period (A.D. 320-467) brings matured Buddhist art and the embryonic Hindu temple together which drew on Buddhist architecture and ideas. Good examples abound such as the sixth-century temple Dasavatura temple at Deogarth... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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Early Hindu Civilisation. The word “Hindu” refers to the peoples of “the land beyond the Indus River,” its characterisations found in an area running from the Punjab to Bombay. [1] Hindu is the name these inhabitants were given by invading Muslims who entered India in the eighth century from the north-west, but the early “Indus Civilisation” to use Campbell’s term, lasted from c. 2500- 1500 B.C.[2] Hindus followed a number of different god cults: Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu being the main ones.[3] But Hinduism is not confined to India: it is also found in countries to which Hindus have migrated... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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The Diversity of Indian Art.[1] On this course we have looked at examples of Buddhist art in China and Japan, but this week we trace the art back to its fountainhead- India. However, India did not exclusively produce painting and sculpture with Buddhist content; it was also responsible for art representing the deities, beliefs and culture of the Hindu religion like the sensuous yakshis, or female figures that adorn temples; completely unique divinities like Shiva, one of the Hindu “trinity” of gods; and the Islamic art of the Turko-Afghan Sultanate of Delhi.[2] And in addition to these there are the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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Indian Art and the West. During the Kushan era (2nd cent BC to 3rd AD), trade between the Roman Empire and Asia was at its height. Under King Kanishka, the Kushan dynasty extended from Gandhara and Kashmir south as far as Sanchi and east to Benares, Peshawar, with the Kanishka’s capital not far from the Khyber Pass.[1] India would attract its fair share of travellers from the west. During the middle-ages a number of itinerants journeyed to India, or passed through Indian territory to other countries like China and Tibet. Men like Sir John Mandeville, Odoric of Pordenone, and Marco... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2017 at Art History Today
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1 ) Map of Japan. 2) Map of the Silk Roads. 3) Rising Sun Flag of Japan, originated Edo period, (160... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2017 at Art History Today