Discovering Tutankhamun with Photographer Harry Burton (Hyperallergic)

by Laura C. Mallonee on August 7, 2014 original article here.

(All images courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum)

In 1922, the Egyptologist Howard Carter asked the Metropolitan Museum of Art to lend him the services of Harry Burton, a photographer then working for the Museum’s Egyptian expedition. Carter had just found the burial chamber of the boy pharoah Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, and backed financially by the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, he was planning to excavate it. Burton would spend the next eight years shadowing Carter inside the three-millennia-old tomb.

Several of the 14,000 images he took are now on display at the Ashmolean’s Discovering Tutankhamun exhibit at Oxford University. Looking at these black-and-white photographs, we glimpse Carter’s engrossed bedazzlement as he peers inside the ancient vault, opens the doors to the shrine holding King Tut’s sarcophagus, and studies the coffin’s contents. In a world where mummies have become horror movie gags, Burton’s images convey the fresh enthusiasm of Carter’s famous telegram announcement in November 1922: “At last have made wonderful discovery in Valley,” he wrote to Lord Carnarvon, “a magnificent tomb with seals intact.”

The images are also telling of their day. While British gentlemen in shirtsleeves and spectacles unseal an ancient culture not their own, its descendants wait on them at meal times and carry the heavy loads of their discoveries on their shoulders, presumably for shipment elsewhere. These murkier aspects of the excavation escaped the public when Burton’s photographs were published in The Times in 1922. The world quickly fell head-over-heels into the Roaring Twenties’ Egyptmania. As The New York Times reported in 1923:

“There is only one topic of conversation…One cannot escape the name of Tut-Ankh-Amen anywhere. It is shouted in the streets, whispered in the hotels, while the local shops advertise Tut-Ankh-Amen art, Tut-Ankh-Amen hats, Tut-Ankh-Amen curios, Tut-Ankh-Amen photographs, and tomorrow probably genuine Tut-Ankh-Amen antiquities. Every hotel in Luxor today had something a la Tut-Ankh-Amen…There is a Tut-Ankh-Amen dance tonight at which the piece is to be a Tut-Ankh-Amen rag.”

Take a look at some of Burton’s images:

Howard Carter and an assistant examine King Tut (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

Douglas Derry makes an incision © Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

Arthur Mace and Alfred Lucas conserving a chariot © Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

The excavation team

Guardian statues outside of King Tut’s outer funerary shrine

Carter opens the shrine, which holds the sarcophagus

Lunch in the tomb of Ramesses XI (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon standing before the burial chamber

An Anubis jackal shrine in the treasury

Annexe objects

Transporting objects

Tourists

Tourists lining up

 

Construction Workers Uncover Important Ancient Greek Wine Cup (Hyperallergic)

by Laura C. Mallonee on August 5, 2014 original article here.

Pericles’ alleged wine cup (photo via Ta Nea)

Traditionally known as the “first citizen of Athens,” Pericles was a lover of art and literature, and a driving force behind the Parthenon’s construction. Now, archeologists in the modern Greek capital claim to have discovered the statesman’s wine cup, according to the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.

Twelve fragments of the two-handled, black-glazed, 5th-century skyphos were uncovered six-and-a-half feet beneath the soil by construction workers digging the foundation of a building located — ironically — on Sparta Avenue. If real, Ta Nea notes that it would be “the first tangible evidence of the daily life of one of the most famous personalities of history.” (Aside from a few statues of the bearded Athenian, the main reason we know about Pericles’s life is because the historian Thucydides detailed his conquests during the Peloponnesian War.)

Bust of Pericles (image via Wikipedia)

So what makes archeologists think the cup is real? One of its fragments is engraved with six names, including Arrifron — the moniker of Pericles’s grandfather and brother. “The name Arrifron is very rare,” said A. P. Matthaiou, secretary of the Greek Epigraphic Society. “The mention of [Arrifron] over that of Pericles on the surface of the vase makes us 99% confident that they are the two brothers.” That would make the vase the first object on which Pericles’s name has been discovered in full, as previous references have only appeared in part.

The inscription of the name Aristides also points favorably to Pericles having used the cup. Aristides was a politician who acted in Athens between 488 and 478 BCE, while Pericles led the city-state from 460 BCE to his death from the plague in 429 BCE. The cup dates between 480 and 465 BCE, when the two might have interacted in a social setting such as a symposium or tavern. As men commonly drank from the same skyphos, it’s possible they would have carved their names onto the cup as a token of their meeting.  “[He] certainly was dizzy from the wine as it is clear that whoever wrote the name of Pericles made a mistake initially … and then corrected it,” Matthaiou said.

Inscriptions on Pericles’ alleged wine cup (photo via Ta Nea)

It’s always a little magical when archeologists turn up objects that place such mythic figures in real time and space, breathing the same air and walking the same ground we do today. In some ways, though, the Pericles cup sounds too good to be true. It seems miraculous that 2,500 years after the orator’s death, one out of 12 fragments of an ancient cup just happens to contain six complete names evidencing a life that has evaded archeologists for centuries. You can make up your own hypothesis as to whether the cup is a historical artifact by seeing it in person, when it goes on display at Athen’s Epigraphical Museum this fall.

The Secret Victorian Language of Flowers (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on May 30, 2014 original article here.

Sir Edward Burne-Jones, “The Love Song” (1868–77), oil on canvas, 45 x 61 3/8 in. (courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Fund, 1947)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened an exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelites of the 19th century last week, with 30 pieces showing wistful figures in draped clothing often surrounded with flowers. But while the floral touches might seem like colorful accents to us, to Victorians there was a language in the flowers (h/t @timothywroten).

Here are 10 flowers with symbolic meaning in the Victorian era to keep an eye out for as you peruse the Met’s The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy British Art and Design, using some of the paintings in the exhibition and others from their contemporaries. And it should be noted that flower symbolism of the 19th century was far from restricted to art  — Oscar Wilde was said to have worn a green carnation, a symbol recorded as having been worn by gay men in 19th century Europe, as immortalized in Robert Hichens’ controversial 1894 novel The Green Carnation.

Articles

The Secret Victorian Language of Flowers

Sir Edward Burne-Jones, "The Love Song" (1868–77), Oil on canvas, 45 x 61 3/8 in. (courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Fund, 1947)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened an exhibition on the Pre-Raphaelites of the 19th century last week, with 30 pieces showing wistful figures in draped clothing often surrounded with flowers. But while the floral touches might seem like colorful accents to us, to Victorians there was a language in the flowers (h/t @timothywroten).

Here are 10 flowers with symbolic meaning in the Victorian era to keep an eye out for as you peruse the Met’s The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy British Art and Design, using some of the paintings in the exhibition and others from their contemporaries. And it should be noted that flower symbolism of the 19th century was far from restricted to art  — Oscar Wilde was said to have worn a green carnation, a symbol recorded as having been worn by gay men in 19th century Europe, as immortalized in Robert Hichens’ controversial 1894 novel The Green Carnation.

The Poppy

Dante Gabriel Rossetti & Henry Treffry Dunn, “Lady Lilith” (1867), Watercolor and gouache on paper, 20 3/16 x 17 5/16 in. (courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1908)

Seen in the bottom right corner of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Lady Lilith” (1867) — which is crowded with symbolic flowers — the red poppy often meant imagination and eternal sleep, but also pleasure. As the sonnet Rossetti included with the painting goes: “The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where / Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent / And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?”

The Primrose

Edwin Long, “The Daughters of Our Empire. England: The Primrose” (1887), oil on canvas (via Yale Center for British Art)

The primrose’s meaning changed with its color, but yellow symbolized youth and young love, here used deliberately in Edwin Long’s “The Daughters of our Empire. England: The Primrose” (1887).

Daffodils

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Veronica Veronese” (1872), oil on canvas (via Wikimedia)

Daffodils, with their sunny hues, could mean unrequited love and chivalry, and here rest alongside the scrap of sheet music in Rossetti’s “Veronica Veronese” (1872).

Violets

Ford Madox Brown, “Convalescent, Portrait of the Artist’s Wife” (1872), Pastel, 18 3/8 x 17 3/8 in. (courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1909)

Violets are a symbol of modesty and faithfulness. Here in a portrait of his wife Emma Hill, Ford Madox Brown gives his beloved ravaged by alcoholism the redeeming bouquet of the wilted flowers. He wrote: “Now that she is lying in bed thinned with the fever she looks very pictorial and young as ever again.”

Apple Blossoms

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “A Vision of Fiametta” (1878), oil on canvas (via Collection of Lord Lloyd-Webber)

An apple blossom could mean good fortune, the promise of better things ahead, or preference, and here Rossetti wraps an idolized woman from a Giovanni Boccaccio poem in its blooms.

Daisies

John Everett Millais, “Ophelia” (1851), oil on canvas (via Tate Britain)

When John Everett Millais painted the doomed Ophelia of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he gave her all the flowers of the original text in the lush scene of death. Included are daisies for innocence, which could also symbolize purity and even “farewell.”

Hawthorn

Edward Burne-Jones, “The Beguiling of Merlin” (1874), oil on canvas (via Wikimedia)

Hawthorn was used to symbolize hope, and also could be used as a charm against magic. Here Merlin is tangled in its branches in an 1874 painting by Edward Burne-Jones.

Roses

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Jane Morris – Study for ‘Mariana'” (1868), Red chalk, 35 3/4 x 30 3/4 in. (courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Jessie Lemont Trausil, 1947)

Still a common symbol, roses for the Victorians also meant love. Depending on their color, they could indicate the deepness or innocence of that love, ranging from white for purity to burgundy for a unconcious adoration. Here they are pink in a vase in a Rossetti study.

Crocuses

William Blake Richmond, “Venus and Anchises” (1889-90), oil on canvas (via Walker Art Gallery)

Crocuses meant cheerfulness and the gladness of youth, and William Blake Richmond included them here in the spring flowers under the feet of Venus and Anchises.

Honeysuckle

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Venus Verticordia” (1868), oil on canvas (via Wikimedia)

While roses fill the area behind Rossetti’s “Venus Verticordia” (1868), honeysuckle flourishes in the foreground, representing sweetness and the bond of love.

Monkshood

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “La Ghirlandata” (1873), oil on canvas (via Guildhall Art Gallery)

Poisonous monkshood, its blue flowers representing that the viewer should beware of a danger that might be ahead, rests at the foot of this harp topped with the beguiling honeysuckle and roses in Rossetti’s “La Ghirlandata.” Or at least that’s what he intended. He accidentally depicted the innocuous larkspur instead.

For more on the Victorian meaning of flowers, here’s an index of the Victorian Flower CodeThe Pre-Raphaelite Legacy British Art and Design continues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 5th Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through October 26. 

Gender Roles in Popular culture as seen by Colin Stokes (movies)

I always impress on my students to view artwork (this includes films) not just from the gender they are born with but to try on “another pair of shoes” and attempt to see it as the opposite sex as well as examine who the audience is meant to be. I love Colin Stokes‘ take on a few films that are staples of our culture. Check out his blog here. Try the Bechdel Test on the next movie you watch!

A Forgotten History of Angkor Wat Revealed in its Vandalism (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on May 29, 2014 original article here.

Elephant graffiti revealed at Angkor Wat (© Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

A history of vandalism in one of the world’s most famous monuments has been analyzed, revealing long-lost art. In a paper published this week in the quarterly review Antiquity, researchers used imaging technology to uncover the hidden paintings of Angkor Wat.

The Cambodian temple, renowned for its incredible carvings, began as a Hindu religious center that was later transformed into a Buddhist site, and fell into neglect in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, it was never completely abandoned, and traces of its use are secreted in the scraps of paint on the walls.

“What these paintings do is attest to the continued vitality of Angkor during this period of history, which is something that’s too often ignored or downplayed. […] Our understanding of this ‘middle period’ of Khmer history is extremely poor, and almost no archaeological work has ever been done on it,” University of Sydney archaeologist Damian Evans told the Phom Penh Post.

A music ensemble revealed in the paint at Angkor Wat (© Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

The research was carried out by rock art specialist Noel Hidalgo Tan of the Department of Archaeology and Natural History at Australian National University, along with Im Sokrithy, Heng Than, and Khieu Chan of Cambodia’s APSARA Authority. According to Lizzie Wade at Science magazine, many archaeologists have long believed that parts of the temple were once covered in paint, and traces of pigment have been frequently noticed on the walls. What makes this new research a breakthrough is its application of decorrelation, a digital enhancement technology. As the researchers state, although “difficult to see with the naked eye, [the paintings] can be enhanced by digital photography and decorrelation stretch analysis, a technique recently used with great success in rock art studies.”

The technology has also been used by NASA‘s Opportunity rover to analyze the terrain of Mars (here’s a discussion of the process from 2005 at the Society for California Archaeology). The revealed paintings, long thought to be only vandalism, include among the disorderly drawings some very deliberate work depicting ships (indicating European contact), animals like elephants, buildings, and even a mural of Buddha harkening to the temple’s spiritual transition. The researchers note: “The paintings found at Angkor Wat seem to belong to a specific phase of the temple’s history in the sixteenth century AD when it was converted from a Vishnavaite Hindu use to Theravada Buddhist.”

This is yet another example of old vandalism and the art of lay people revealing forgotten stories of the world. Other researchers have recently examined the messages scratched at Pompeii showing social relations in the society, tags from gladiator afficianados at the Colosseum discovered last year during its cleaning, and a 3D laser scan at Stonehenge showing axehead graffiti and inscriptions from later Victorian visitors.

Angkor Wat (photograph by Narin BI, via Flickr)

More on the graffiti at Angkor Wat can be found at “The hidden paintings of Angkor Wat” in Durham University’s review, Antiquity.