Mobility/Exchange

Creativity frequently springs from the movement of people, ideas, and objects across frontiers and boundaries and into places deemed new, foreign, strange, or remote.  These encounters produce highly charged, often violent, contact zones, stimulating the desire to collect, to map, to trade, and to possess. We investigate the things that result from such encounters and the ways in which these things affect the people who make, recreate, and use them.

Read more...

Mobility/Exchange

  •  

    Local Collectors and Global Gestures

    Author: Alex Taylor

    Assistant Professor and Academic Curator, History of Art and Architecture

    In a new collection display at the University Art Gallery (UAG), Pitt graduate students Emi Finkelstein, Rebecca Giordano, Adriana Miramontes, and Brooke Wyatt conducted object research on a group of abstract paintings from the late 1950s and early 1960s by artists from Britain, Japan, India, Italy and Venezuela. The result is an exhibition titled Global Gestures: Post-war Abstraction from the Lowenthal Collection, open until March 21, 2019.

    These works were all donated to the UAG in the 1980s by Oakland-based collectors Anne and Alexander Lowenthal and their children. The Lowenthals were actively involved in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community and enthusiastic art collectors, purchasing works from the Carnegie International and on their travels around the world. In addition to their donations to the University Art Gallery, their collection was also donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

    Their eclectic collection included eighteenth-century furniture, nineteenth-century French prints, Persian ceramics and twentieth-century paintings such as those included in the exhibition.“It’s more than collecting pieces or donating,” Anne Lowenthal once told an interviewer, “it’s important to us because this leads to a global vision." The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) records held by the University Library System includes oral history interviews with both Alexander and Anne Lowenthal that explore their diverse cultural interests.

    The works that the Lowenthals donated to the UAG exemplify just such a global vision. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Painting (1959) by Indian modernist painter V.S. Gaitonde (1921-2001) which was cleaned and treated by Rikke Foulke Fine Art Conservation for the occasion. Gaitonde’s was the subject of a major retrospective V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2015, and was recently featured in The Asia Society’s exhibition The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India.

    As Giordano explains in her label on Gaitonde’s work, his is a “modernist painting that is no mere imitation of western modes, instead pursuing hybrid forms that engaged with the crises and questions of India’s newly post-colonial society.” Japanese abstraction too had, as Wyatt uses the work of Hiroshi Kunimata to explain, “emerged from a repressive wartime climate into a period of intense activity.” Across all of the works in the exhibition, the political entanglements of post-war abstraction emerge as a persistent thread.

    The social resonances of these paintings are further revealed by the titles of several works that exploit the boundaries between abstraction and figurative content. In her account of Saroni’s work, Finkelstein notes how the Sergio Saroni’s Natura Morta di Carne uses a thick impasto to suggest the “tactile, visceral effect” of its titular subject, while Bernard Farmer’s Meridian deploys sharp linear and curved forms to suggest the ‘divisions in time and space’ marked by the prime meridian at Greenwich.

    Other works point towards the engagement of their makers with the broader expansions of avant-garde practice in the post-war decades. In Alberto Collie’s Spatial Rhythm #7, for example, Miramontes connects its formal expansion beyond the limits of the frame to the artist’s own ‘floating sculptures’ and more broadly, to the embrace of space, light and motion by many Latin American artists of the period.

    Global Gestures: Post-war Abstraction from the Lowenthal Collection is open until March 21, 2019.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Graduate Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Mapping Mobility in the UAG

    Author: Ellen Larson

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture and University Art Gallery graduate fellow

    As University Art Gallery (UAG) graduate fellow, I am collaborating with HAA Professor Michelle McCoy, along with five undergraduate students on a pop-up exhibition to take place in the UAG mid-March. This exhibition supplements Professor McCoy’s HAA 1010: Approaches to Art History undergraduate course, focusing on Chinese art objects within the UAG collection. Students selected Chinese work, as a means of initiating in-depth original research on themes and ideas related to the art objects themselves or broadly connected to socio-cultural contexts from which these materials emerge. 

    In my role as a curator and mentor to undergraduate students, I am working with the class to conceive a short-term exhibition that presents these objects as portable agents of culture, whose value lies not only within the realm of connoisseurship and museum collecting, but also as transient catalysts of new knowledge activated through their physical positions within an exhibition-setting. Rather than uncovering specific temporal histories, the exhibition seeks to extend spatial and thematic connections between works centered upon mobility and exchange. 

    Selected artworks include ink paintings by Chinese master painter, modern nomad, and notorious forger Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). Following the Communist takeover and subsequent establishment of the People’s Republic of China on the Mainland in 1949, Zhang Daqian traveled to Macau, Argentina, Brazil, and Carmel, California, before settling in Taipei in 1978. Other featured works include rubbings depicting seventh-century Buddhist monk Xuanzang, whose travels led him to regions throughout central Asia including parts of modern India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Xuanzang’s writings inspired the sixteenth-century Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. Additional objects include a selection of Chinese snuff bottles, whose aesthetic utilitarianism is juxtaposed with the non-utilitarianism of a ritual ceramic vessel displaying the abstracted character , meaning “good fortune.” This object references a common practice of pasting the upside-down character  in one’s doorway, allowing good fortune to descend upon the dwelling, as the words for “upside-down” and “to arrive” are homophonous. This is further suggested by the same Chinese term, which indicates the performative action of pouring liquid from a vessel. While the selection of snuff bottles and  ritual vessel are commodity objects, the latter serves as a striking example of totality found within the context of written language, material objects, and ritual practice. 

    Echoing the words of Susan Stewart, this particular presentation of objects replaces the notion of origin with classification, presenting “temporality as a spatial and material phenomenon.” [1] In addition to displacing one’s understanding of time, the collection’s relational organization highlights the exhibition’s function as a three-dimensional map into which gallery visitors are invited to physically enter. These objects represent points of exchange and connection; concealed and revealed only through their spatial relationships to each other. Thus, new knowledge is produced through space, and is further activated through the creation of multiple networks that traverse and transition from Pittsburgh to China, and beyond. 

    [1] Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, (Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1984), 153. 

     

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • UAG
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  •  

    Itinera's Best Practices

    In the Fall semester of 2016, I started training potential Itinera contributors outside the post of project manager. These individuals included Eleanor Harvey, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Fracesca Torello, professor of architecture at Carnegie Mellon, S. E. Hackney, fellow Visual Media Workshop project manager, and Lindsay Decker, VMW graduate assistant. Through their feedback and questions during the trainings, I was able to refine my Spring semester project, which is to develop a Scalar site dedicated to outlining the best practices for Itinera. My vision for this project is to provide a platform for scholars interested in the mission of Itinera to be able to view and appreciate its networked complexity and readily envision themselves contributing to that complexity with their own objects and processes of inquiry.
     

    Scalar
    Currently, the content manager I am looking into is Scalar, an open-sourced authoring and publishing platform developed by the University of Southern California. Their mission is to enable their authors to assemble various media with text to create and structure easily navigatable, long-form and essay-length pages. From Itinera's point of view, the benefit of organizing information in this digital format is creating a business-card-like deliverable that, when given to interested parties, demonstrates the networked and relational complexity–while still, I hope, the do-ability–of working with Itinera through Collective Access, the University of Pittsburgh's web-based cataloging tool. (Collective Access is used to catalog the digital images for both the University Art Gallery and Decomposing Bodies project here at the University of Pittsburgh.)
     

    Itinera's Best Practices
    In using Scalar, I am building an online manual that: one, walks the user through the process of data input, both in text-based and video/screen capture directions; two, outlines common issues that arise when the historical record is translated into structural hierarchies in flattened input forms; and three, answers to frequently asked questions. I am certain to include the workflow, diligently put together by Jen Donnelly and Meredith North before me. Also, my growing list of chapters include: Source Authorities, Highlighting Narrative and Historical Tone, Location Specificity, Object Metadata, Supporting Agents Input, and a template for Users' Logging and Reflections. The aim of these chapters is to highlight issues that have emerged for the art historians working on Itinera that concern the nuances of the historical narrative that are lost in the metadata.

    For example, "Highlighting Narrative:"
    Tour Case Study:

    AG16051001_mn, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:

    This is a factual overview of Montagu’s Turkish tour:
    With her husband and ambassador Edward Wortley Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu set out to Turkey from Westminster, England by way of the Netherlands, Austria, and Serbia from August of 1716 to November 1718.

    This is historical context suggesting the motivations behind the tour:
    At that time, Turkey was at war with the Venetian Republic, whereby Mr. Montagu was assigned to mediate on behalf of England an agreement with Austria, in the attempt to prevent Austria from engaging with the Spanish power in the Mediterranean.

    This is my interpretation of the historical account, preserving the voice of the original historical record:
    During this time, Lady Montagu entertained at court while studying Arabic and reading Arabic poetry. Toward the end of their tour, her husband inevitably failed at establishing a truce with Austria, his position was usurped by a competitor, and he failed to ascend to a political post of any import, resulting in a general, bitter demeanor. Shortly after they separated. Lady Montagu turned her sights to Italy for almost the rest of her life, keeping up with her studies and correspondence with her stately and artistic friends abroad. She died in 1962, reviled and adored across Europe and the Near East.

    In short, my intention is to create an editable and mutable document that demonstrates the complexity of historical and social histories for Itinerant posterity.

    Categories: 
    • Environment
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Itinera
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Site Specificity and Diversity Concerns within Itinera

     

    Since starting on Itinera, I've focused on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an 18th-Century aristocrat and poet. Specifically, I focus on her tour from London, through Eastern Europe, and into Istanbul with her hubsband, the English ambassador to Turkey. As her introduction reads:

    With her husband and ambassador Edward Wortley Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu set out to Turkey from Westminster, England by way of the Netherlands, Austria, and Serbia in August of 1716. At that time, Turkey was at war with the Venetian Republic, whereby Mr. Montagu was assigned to mediate on behalf of England an agreement with Austria, in the attempt to prevent Austria from engaging with the Spanish power in the Mediterranean. During this time, Lady Montagu entertained at court while studying Arabic and reading Arabic poetry. Toward the end of their tour, her husband inevitably failed at establishing a truce with Austria, his position was usurped by competition, and he failed to ascend to a political post of any import. Shortly after they separated. Lady Montagu turned her sights to Italy for almost the rest of her life, keeping up with her studies and correspondence with her stately and artistic friends abroad.

    Originally, I saw my take on this project to be one that diversifies both the travelling agent and their destinations. As it was, and, in light of recent electoral events, selecting and following a wealthy, white woman as she travels through Eastern Europe and Turkey was not going to suffice. Thus I've redirected my thinking on what it means to do diverse digital humanities and scholarship as far as I can see: though it would be wrong to ignore the readily available histories of white travellers during this time, I use Montagu as locus to investigate the structural biases built in to the historicization and visualization of these white, European travellers.

    In doing so, I hope to place at the forefront practical and conceptual best practices: practically, I aim for site specificity in order to visually differentiate the plot points on Itinera's map. When an agent, Montagu, visits Rome, for example, she lists details such as churches, squares, villas, often without naming the building or describing its function. So I focus my attention on teasing evidence foremost from the primary material, (i.e., Montagu's Turkish Embassy Letters) and historical data (i.e., histories of medieval bridges, churches, etc.) in order to best differentiate between sites. I ask myself questions such as:

    • Architecturally, which sites, details, buildings were extant while she was visiting and what buildings are known to have been demolished? This question might lead to understanding what peoples were displaced with the destruction of their communities and spaces both during the Austrio-Turskish War as well as more contemporary wars.
    • Socio-politically: what positions did her hosts hold? I can find much of this information in the endnotes, but sometimes this would still need further investigation, especially with the misspelling of a name or location. Certainly, this question can help in determining in what "castle on the hill" she stayed while in Budapest in January 1717, but even more importantly this specificity can shed light on her hosts' alliances and what hand they had in the erasure of other histories.
    • Also socio-politically: what historically significant meetings and events occurred while she was in that city that would indicate the location of a town center, assembly hall, or city center? This question could shed light on significant events in the history of the Habsburg Empire and could point to the location of other points of interest in uncovering other histories. For example, what effects, if any, did Montagu's epistolary criticism of the Imperial German Diet's assembly to other aristocrats (i.e., Alexander Pope) have on court life? Would the ramifications of her criticisms have any political or legistlative effect?

    Practically, if I'm able to piece together pieces of evidence that in some way answer questions such as these, I am able to narrow down a specific location with some degree of certainty. And if such details are not available, I do not take it upon myself to differentiate the location and will, as necessary, defer to others who specialize in these histories. I recognize at this point I am an interlocutor to interpret subjective data and place it into a flattened network of other data points on a map. In this case, if I name the site simply as "Rome instead" of "the north wall of the Colosseum," I leave the reponsibility of further specification to a future historian that may perhaps work with a new visualization and evidence.

    This attention to site specificity, of course, serves a worthwhile conceptual function as well. Although I am still working on this connection, attention to historio-politically mediated spaces in turn draws attention to the systems of power and the erasure of other histories. 

    Categories: 
    • Environment
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Itinera
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  • Race-ing the Museum participants, May 13, 2016, in Braddock PA (minus Marina who had to leave to catch a plane)

     

    Race-ing the Museum: Some Afterthoughts

    Our workshop ended on Friday the 13th with a beautiful day at the Carnegie Library of Braddock with the artist collective Transformazium, after a packed week of field work and intense conversation with an amazing group of graduate students and faculty from across Pitt's campus.

    Over the course of the week we met and talked with various curators, educators, and archivists at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Teenie Harris Archive, the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, the Heinz History Center, the Allegheny City Gallery on the Northside, Pitt’s special collections and multiple archives, and the Art Lending Library in Braddock.  We interacted in various ways with objects on display and brought from storage, as well as curated selections of mixed materials from larger collections, and on the last day had a chance to do some speed-curating of our own in the art lending space at the Braddock Library.  In between, we talked a lot about what we had seen and heard and about what we should do to put ideas in practice and push the conversation forward in public.

    For me personally it was a revelation to move from one radically different collection to another and to ponder the structural differences that help determine their narratives, audiences, and engagements.  Each institution has its own criteria of quality and value.  These value systems in turn create communities around them.  Some systems are inherently more exclusive than others and therefore present particular challenges for an ethic of inclusion.

    At the Hunt Institute, for example, with the help of their generous staff we spent a couple of hours examining prints and books mostly against the grain: we looked through botany books and various records of collecting expeditions by European and Anglo colonizers to see how they represented the indigenous and enslaved peoples who actually supplied much of the knowledge.  Against the hierarchy of power and knowledge communicated by the materials themselves, we worked to recover the devalued voice and expertise of the peoples at the bottom of the hierarchy. At the Teenie Harris Archive, in the Carnegie Museum of Art, with the help of their equally generous curators, we had the privilege of entering a lost world – the largely African American Hill district before the destruction wrought by urban renewal – through the eye and lens of the maker himself, a man who did not self-identify as an artist and who rarely entered the art museum where his huge collection eventually found a home.  Here the institution has the good fortune to mine the knowledge of the community, because many of them from those days are still alive and come in to talk about their pictures and their world.  And so an archive of images has also become an archive of oral memory and of written history, all deeply interwoven into a still living community fabric.  A quote my co-facilitator Shirin read to us two days later keeps returning to my mind: If one no longer has land, but has memory of land, then one can make a map.

    And in Braddock, where Shirin read that passage – one of the poorest municipalities in our region – we thought about the value system of an art lending library in the context of a community whose resources, knowledge, and creativity tend to be ignored in a racialized master narrative of blight and distress.  Here is a public library that lends original art for three weeks to anyone with a county library card – art that includes work donated by every artist represented in the 2013 Carnegie International, black arts printmakers, emerging artists, and paintings by incarcerated men in a prison art program.  All of it surrounded by books on art and society in a light-filled room with salaried art and culture facilitators from the nearby community to discuss the art and its makers and stories.  From these artworks and books we curated our own multi-media displays on various themes which had emerged here and there in our week-long conversation.

    That conversation was simultaneously challenging, contentious, draining, and energizing.  But the big question we returned to all week was what can we do?  Many interesting ideas for real projects came out over the course of the week, and some initiatives have gotten started.  We are talking about exhibitions and websites and courses and new partnerships and pedagogical initiatives.  I’m sorry I won’t get too specific at the moment, because we are in the early stages and some ideas may blossom and others may not.  But, with a little patience and some more work, we’ll start to roll out ideas and proposals and solicit advice and feedback.  We promise to keep you posted.

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Environment
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • Crivelli, Boston MFA
    • Crivelli 1
    • Porto San Giorgio
    • Restoration Lab 2
    • Restoration Lab 1
    • Restoration Lab
    Crivelli, Boston MFA

    Figure 1. Carlo Crivelli, Deposition. Ca. 1485. Boston, MFA. 

     

    1010 Boston Field Trip

    Boston report

     

    Now that the semester has finally come to an end, I’ve had a chance to recover and wanted to bring you all up to speed on the special opportunity that I had with my 1010. The course was titled Venetian Renaissance Art: Local Histories, Global Stakes. One major theme that I tried to highlight in the class was the issue of mobility – how artists traveled through the Venetian empire, and even beyond it into the Ottoman world. One artist that I had planned to use to highlight this point was Carlo Crivelli. He is an amazing painter from the fifteenth century. The quick description that makes him intelligible to smart people outside of the field of Med/Ren art history is to say that he straddles the border between what we generally recognizes as “medieval” (gold ground, lots of pastiglia, etc.) and “Renaissance” painting (perspective, sophisticated tonal modulation, the use of some oil binders, etc.). He’s an interesting fellow (read the footnote if you want some details).[i]

     

    In October the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened the first-ever exhibition of Crivelli’s work in the United States. The exhibition promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see his paintings together, and since the exhibition aligned so well with the objectives of my class, I petitioned Dean Twyning for funding to take my seminar to Boston. The Dean’s office generously supported my proposal, and I organized what I hope will be a memorable trip for my students.

     

    We departed for Boston on 19 November and stayed through the evening of the 21st. We arrived late on Thursday night and stayed in a hotel near the Gardner. Our “work” began on Friday morning when we met Nat Silver, who is an Assistant Curator at the ISGM. He was responsible for the installation of the show. Nat was great – not only did he let us into the exhibition before the museum opened to the public, but he spent nearly three hours with my class walking us through the exhibition. Crivelli’s paintings are amazing, but they can often be very “dense,” and it was wonderful to have someone help my students see the myriad techniques that Crivelli used in each painting. I particularly remember the conversation that took place in front of this painting, which is from the Boston MFA (figure 1). Nat was a great interlocutor, and pushed the students to identify the many ways that Crivelli deploys gold: in his hands gold isn’t merely the ground onto which figures are applied, but it is also used almost as though it were a pigment to construct the volume and give form. Nat was able to help us see at least five different ways in which Crivelli deploys gold leaf in this painting: the gold ground is exquisitely worked with punch tools; gold is spread throughout the Magdalene’s hair (Christ’s as well, though to a lesser extent); the pastiglia of the Magdalene’s sleeve is gold leaf laid on top of plaster; the cloth of honor in back is gold leaf that has been painted over with black pigment to make it seem like a rich brocade; the red cloth of honor in the foreground is similar in effect but different in technique, as is the fictive marble parapet, which is accented with gold leaf.

     

    With Crivelli, the sheer physicality of painting comes into sharp focus. I’d prepared the students by taking them to the Renaissance gallery of the CMOA where we looked at the painting by an artistic “cousin” of Crivelli. In the CMOA I shared two secrets with the students: 1) paintings don’t bite, and 2) you’ll always look smart if you crouch in front of a painting. I was very happy that Nat and I were on the same page. He had the students standing, kneeling squatting… adopting every posture imaginable in order to better understand the paintings (figure 2). How light glints off the gold leaf can tell you a lot about the technique that Crivelli used. As Nat repeatedly made clear, Crivelli demands an active beholder.

     

    Nat was also able to talk to our students about the practical aspects of organizing an exhibition like this. One of the major “gets” of the exhibition was to reunite all of the panels of the Porto San Giorgio altarpiece in one place. However, the curators decided not to reconstruct the altarpiece. Had they reconstructed the polyptych, the top panel of the painting would have been about 10 feet off the ground, making it almost impossible to examine in a detailed way. So they elected to show the painting individually and offered a photographic reconstruction of the polyptych on the adjacent wall (figure 3). Nat is a young but very experienced curator, so it was very heartening to have him talk to the students. He was able to offer some insight and encouragement to the many students who want to pursue a career in museums.

     

    After a quick trip through the permanent collection of the ISGM, we broke for lunch. We then reconvened across the street at the Museum of Fine Arts. We were met by Frederick Ilchman who is the Chair of the Art of Europe at the MFA. Frederick had arranged an incredible visit for my students. First we went to the MFA’s “Conservation in Action” lab – this is a sort of fishbowl conservation lab, where the public can get a look at what the MFA is working on. We were fortunate to be able to go into the laboratory, where we met Caitlin Breare, the conservator in charge of the Monopoli Altarpiece Project. The project centers on a fifteenth-century polyptych produced in Crete, which was then a Venetian colony, for export to Southern Italy. It is a truly “Mediterranean” painting. Caitlin offered us an incredible look at the work that a conservator does, from evaluating the stability of the object to making decisions (in consultation with curators) about what to fix, etc. She walked us through all of the evidence that they have gathered, explaining how one interprets different kinds of visual evidence, like UV scans, IRR, and x-rays (figures 4 & 5). This was a wonderful experience for the students who hope to pursue careers in museums.

     

    I must say that our time in the lab was also a bit strange, since the entire time we were in the conservation lab one couldn’t help but notice the enormous painting by Benjamin West, Devout Men Taking the Body of St. Stephen, which loomed in the background (figure 6). That painting is enormous – almost 20 feet tall. In order to work on it, they’ve laid it on its side and it is definitely disconcerting to see a painting of that size laying on its side. It was useful for the students to see this alienating perspective on a painting – occasionally priceless works of art get treated like any other object.

     

    The day concluded with a visit to the MFA’s Renaissance galleries with the chief curator of European art (figure 7). Frederick shared with us some of his favorite works in the collection, and was able to walk us through the process of develop an international loan exhibition (of which he has done many) from start to finish. This was an illuminating conversation, and it was a nice way to conclude the day. By the end of the day the students were very tired – we’d started at 10am and didn’t finish with Frederick until almost 7pm. But it was absolutely worth it. They were then free to go explore Boston and fill themselves on lobster rolls. The students were very well behaved… at least as far as I know!

     

    The next day the students had time to return to the MFA and the ISGM and to visit them on their own. I gave them one assignment, which was to engage in a “slow looking” exercise with an object of their choice (from any period, any medium). This meant picking an object and dwelling with it for thirty minutes. Once back in Pittsburgh, they had to write a brief paper in response to that experience. Those papers were perhaps the most gratifying assignments I’ve ever read.

     

    The trip required a lot of organization, but the payoff was immense. The students had a chance to look at art in person. Throughout the weekend I tried to spend at least a few minutes with each student looking at a work of art, and those moments were unforgettable. It was fantastic to see the students drawing on the reservoir of knowledge that we’d been building throughout the semester. I’ll certainly never forget this trip, and I hope that it will stay with my students as well.

     

    I must extend a special thanks to Nat and Frederick for their exceptional generosity. The trip would simply not have been possible without the financial support of Dean Twyning, to whom my students and me owe our most sincere gratitude.

     

     

     

    [i] Crivelli was born in Venice and learned to paint there and in Padua (he was probably a “classmate” of Andrea Mantegna in the “school of Squarcione”). He then went back to Venice and began painting. He was a colorful character, and in 1457 he was sentenced to six months in jail for having had an affair with a married woman (the legal documents state that he “abducted her from the house of her brother-in-law and kept her hidden for many months, having carnal relations with her in utter disregard of God and the sacred bonds of marriage”). After that he traveled around quite a bit and spent a few years in Croatia. Around the end of the 1460s he set up for good in the Marche, a completely “provincial” part of Italy, somewhere around the Achilles tendon of the boot. His choice to work there really took him out of the “mainstream” of Italian art – Vasari and all of the early historians of art essentially ignored him. His career was only reconstructed through documents in the 19th century. But essentially all of the paintings he made are signed, and most of them are signed Karoli Crivelli Veneti, meaning that he was really insistent upon being identified as a Venetian artists even though he was nowhere near Venice.

     

    Categories: 
    • Research Groups
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Undergraduate Work
  •  

    Lamenting Lord Elgin

    Today is my last day working on the Itinera database until my presentation tomorrow.  While gearing up for the end of the semester, let's take a moment to look back at the unfortunate life of Thomas Bruce.

    Thomas Bruce suffered from asthma throughout his life, so under his doctor's orders, he doused his face with mercury for his frequent lung complaints.  Medical treatment in the 1700s certainly is not what it is today. The mercury caused abrasions on his nose, which prompted doctors to cut off the tip of it, disfiguring Bruce's face.

    In August 1803, Bruce was traveling with his wife, Mary Nisbet, and got detained by the French in Bareges, because he was a British ambassador with a travel schedule that coincided with the Napoleonic Wars.  From there, he was eventually sent to prison at Lourdes.  While he was incarcerated, Nisbet was allowed to leave France, accompanied by a man named Robert Fergusson.  The two were secretly engaged in an affair, and Fergusson would go on trial in May of 1808 for adultry.

    In 1816, facing bankruptcy, Bruce sold his prized marbles to the British Museum.  He said that the marbles were worth about £75,000 (roughly $111,360), but the museum bought them for £35,000 (about $51,950).  Needless to say, he was not happy about the sale.

    Between his cheating wife, partial nose and massive debt, Bruce was not a happy person.  Because he bought the marbles and messed with Greek culture, people still don't like him after his death.  And they certainly don't pity him.  He will always be remembered as the man who brought antique culture to Britian, but at the expense of ancient Greek identity.

     

    The picture, of Thomas Bruce with his full nose, is courtesy of http://www.athensguide.com/elginmarbles/photos/elgin.JPG

    For more information, check out these books:

    Nagel, Susan. Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin. New York: William Morrow, 2004. Print.

    Vrettos, Theodore. The Elgin Affair: The Abduction of Antiquity's Greatest Treasures and the Passions It Aroused. New York: Arcade Pub., 1997. Print.

    Categories: 
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Itinera Got An Upgrade

    We reworked Itinera because it was glitching on some tour stops for agents.  Now that it's been updated, all the tour stops are functioning, and it looks a lot nicer.  This is great because coincidentally, my FE-R presentation is next week.

    Today, I finished up all the goals that we were trying to achieve with inputting the Parthenon Marbles into Itinera.  All the sculptures are linked to each other, the people are linked to each other and (hopefully) I inputted all the relevant data.  I've done a lot of mouse-clicking in the past couple months, and I'm happy that we've been able to complete so much for this project!

    Next week, I'll be able to go back into Itinera and fix anything that I missed.  I'm relieved that I finished most of the programming today, because I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to input all the Marbles in time.

    Photo courtesy of the new Itinera site: https://itinera.pitt.edu

    Categories: 
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Why the Parthenon Marbles are Controversial

    Last week, I got into the story surrounding Thomas Bruce and the Parthenon Marbles.  Now, let me tell you about the controversial past (and present) of these artifacts.

    As I mentioned, Bruce had to get a firman from the Ottoman authorities in order for his workers, including Giovanni Battista Lusieri and William Richard Hamilton, to continue sketching the Acropolis in Athens.  He eventually got this letter of permission in early 1801, and the document was deemed official by July 1.  However, due to transnational tensions that culminated into the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815), government paperwork and rules at the turn of the century were a little murky.  This led to a disagreement on the true owners of the Parthenon Marbles.  People who want the Marbles to stay in London say that Bruce obtained the firman with the full knowledge and permission of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Greece at the time, so his actions were completely legal.  But people who want the Marbles returned to Greece say that the Marbles should be replaced to their homeland, stating that Bruce illegally stole the Marbles during Greece's Turkish occupation.

    Bruce removed the Marbles between 1800 -1811, but then sold them to the British Museum in 1816 because he was facing debt.  Controversy about the Marbles was reintroduced in 1925 when a newspaper argued that Greece should be able to reclaim the Marbles.  Today, why do people care about the movement of the Marbles if it happened almost 200 years ago?  In October 2014, the London-based lawyer/activist/author Amal Clooney said that Greece had "just cause" for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.  So even today, the plot thickens.

    Why does this even matter?  Well, the controversy about the Parthenon Marbles is important for a couple of reasons.  Pro-London supporters say that the Marbles are "an important representation of ancient Athenian civilization in the context of world history" and they give "maximum public benefit" to the people of England, so it is more important that they should stay in London than go back to Athens.  To these supporters, the Marbles represent a moment in antiquity and continue to emphasize the ancient Athenian culture to the modern public.  Pro-Athens supporters say that the Marbles are an important symbol of the whole nation's heritage - in the present, not just in antiquity - and they should be returned for the sake of national pride.

    The significance of the Parthenon Marbles is completely defined by society, meaning that people assign importance to these ancient sculptures.  These artifacts are symbolic of an all-but-lost ancient culture, and if Greece ever gets the Marbles back, the nation will have to reevaluate their cultural significance in a modern context.

    In late March, Greece requested the return of the Parthenon Marbles for the second time.  The British Museum turned down the request, and it is unlikely that the Marbles will be returning to Athenian soil anytime soon.

    Check out these sources if you're interested in learning more about the controversy about the Parthenon Marbles:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11274713/Why-are-the-Elgin-marble...

    http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/03/27/double-rejection-for-partheno...

     

    Photo courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/14/amal-alamuddin-advis...

    Categories: 
    • Temporalities
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    HA&A Graduate Student Trip to the College Art Association Annual Conference

    With generous support from the Dean of Graduate Studies, ten HA&A graduate students (Maria Castro, Nicole Coffineau, Clarisse Fava-Piz, Annika Johnson, Isaac King, Colleen O’Reilly, Ben Ogrodnik, Nicole Scalissi, Krystle Stricklin, and Marina Tyquiengco) traveled to New York to conduct individual research and attend the annual conference of the College Arts Association. In a colloquium on March 25th, these students discussed their research, their newly acquired tools and knowledge, and the presence of the constellations at CAA.

    Attached is the slideshow from their discussion which includes some resources and potential jumping off points for further discussion in the department.

     

    Categories: 
    • Agency
    • Temporalities
    • Environment
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work

Pages