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Art Food History Science

A 17th-Century Stanchi Painting Reveals the Rapid Change in Watermelons through Selective Breeding [Updated]

July 30, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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Giovanni Stanchi (Rome c. 1645-1672). Oil on canvas. 38 5/8 x 52½ in. (98 x 133.5 cm.) / Courtesy Christie’s

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Old master work paintings are frequently cited for their depiction of historical events, documentation of culture, or portraiture of significant people, but there’s one lesser known use of some paintings for those with a keen eye: biology. One such instance is this Renaissance still life of various fruits on a table by Giovanni Stanchi painted sometime in the 1600s that shows a nearly unrecognizable watermelon before it was selectively bred for meatier red flesh.

Horticulture professor James Nienhuis at the University of Wisconsin tells Vox that he’s fascinated by old still life paintings that often contain the only documentation of various fruits and vegetables before we transformed them forever into something more desirable for human use. You can read a bit more about the science behind the changes in watermelons over the last 350 years here. (via Kottke)

Update: Greg Cato writes: “The painting depicts a rare outcome of sub-par growing conditions, known as ‘starring.’ It’s perfectly normal, still happens, and is not the result of selective breeding (although it would be cool if it were).” You can see an example here.

 

 



Art History Photography

Remake: Master Works of Art Reimagined, a New Book by Jeff Hamada

July 27, 2015

Kate Sierzputowski

Salvador Dali, "The Ship," 1942-43, watercolor on paper, remake by Justin Nunnink

Salvador Dali, “The Ship,” 1942-43, watercolor on paper, remake by Justin Nunnink

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The Day Dream,” 1880, oil on canvas, remake by Tania Brassesco and Lazlo Passi Norberto

Four years ago, Booooooom creator Jeff Hamada asked the internet to join in on an art challenge to recreate their favorite old master paintings as contemporary photographs. The Remake Project sparked many professional and amateur artists to create elaborate sets, paint their bodies, paint their friends’ bodies, and take their own shot at works by artists from Dali to Magritte. This collection of original paintings and their contemporary counterparts has now taken the form of a book released through Chronicle Books titled Remake: Master Works of Art Reimagined.

The book features side-by-side page layouts of a selection of works from the original contest, displaying the photographic re-interpretations next to their old-world inspiration. Photographs range from the strikingly similar to loose interpretations, a grand spectrum of re-creations represented from the project’s open call.

Rene Magritte, "The Lovers," 1928, oil on canvas, remake by Linda Cieniawska

Rene Magritte, “The Lovers,” 1928, oil on canvas, remake by Linda Cieniawska

Ramon Casas i Carbo, "After the Ball," 1895, oil on canvas, remake by Tania Brassesco and Lazlo Passi Norberto

Ramon Casas i Carbo, “After the Ball,” 1895, oil on canvas, remake by Tania Brassesco and Lazlo Passi Norberto

Jacques Louis David, "The Death of Marat," 1793, oil on canvas, remake by Adrianne Adelle

Jacques Louis David, “The Death of Marat,” 1793, oil on canvas, remake by Adrianne Adelle

Edward Hopper, "Nighthawks," 1942, oil on canvas, remake by Bastian Vice and Jiji Seabird

Edward Hopper, “Nighthawks,” 1942, oil on canvas, remake by Bastian Vice and Jiji Seabird

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History

Archaeologists Unearth Trove of 2,000 Mysterious Gold Spirals in Denmark

July 15, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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Bronze Age gold spirals found in Boeslund, 900-700 BC. Credit: Morten Petersen / Zealand Museum.

A team of archaeologists working in Boeslunde, Denmark recently stumbled onto an intriguing mystery: nearly 2,000 tightly-wound golden spirals dating back to the Bronze Age. The discovery of gold in Boeslunde isn’t uncommon, as numerous gold objects have been unearthed in the region over the last few years. But the purpose of these coils has stumped archaeologists who refer to the find as the “golden enigma.”

The spirals are made from extremely pure gold that was hammered flat to just 0.1 millimeter thick. Some pieces measure up to 1.18 inches long and all together weigh between 200 to 300 grams (7-10 ounces). Their exact purpose is anyone’s guess, but Flemming Kaul, a curator with the National Museum of Denmark, believes the coils are most likely related to prehistoric Bronze Age people who were known to offer gold to higher powers as part of sun rituals.

“The sun was one of the most sacred symbols in the Bronze Age and gold had a special magic,” Kaul writes. “Maybe the priest-king wore a gold ring on his wrist, and gold spirals on his cloak and his hat, where they during ritual sun ceremonies shone like the sun.” It’s also suggested the gold was simply buried as part of an elaborate sacrifice.

Whatever the use or meaning behind the pieces, it’s an extraordinary and priceless find. The local museum in
Skaelskor already held a temporary viewing before the spirals find a permanent home. You can read more over on the History Blog. (via Neatorama, Gizmodo)

Update: Adam Swickle writes: “The shavings are from shaving gold coins down. Merchants did this when they paid in quantity instead of weight, and that is why coins have ridges now, to show they haven’t been shaven down.”

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Gold spirals surrounded by flakes of birch pitch. Credit: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

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Gold spiral in situ. Credit: Flemming Kaul / National Museum of Denmark.

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Credit: Morten Petersen / Museum Vestsjælland.

 

 



Art History

The Meticulous 10-Month Restoration of a 355-Year-Old Painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

June 30, 2015

Christopher Jobson

Completed in 1660, Charles Le Brun’s painting of Everhard Jabach and His Family had seen better days. The 355-year-old family portrait was covered in a badly tinted varnish, had multiple superficial scratches and structural damage had split the painting nearly in half. This video documents the 10-month restoration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art lead by Michael Gallagher that involved retouching, structural work, re-varnishing, and numerous other conservation techniques to bring this giant painting back to life. The Met also documented the process in some 20+ blog posts over on their website. (via Sploid)

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Art History Photography

Vincent van Gogh Possibly Identified in Newly Discovered Group Photo of Famous Artists from 1887

June 22, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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JULES ANTOINE (1863-1948) ATTR. Vincent Van Gogh in conversation with friends, Paris, 96 rue Blanche, December 1887 Melanotype, direct positive and reversed image on blackboard (carton photographique), 86×112 mm, “Gautier Martin” stamp, recto.

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Vincent Van Gogh in conversation with Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Félix Jobbé-Duval. André Antoine is standing between them.

Some experts believe this recently discovered 1887 melainotype showing six men drinking around a table may include a rare sighting of painter Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh famously recorded himself in numerous self-portraits, but was known to abhor photography and supposedly never sat for a photo as an adult; only two rare photos of the artist as a child are known to exist, taken when he was 13 and 19.

The image first came to the attention of French photo expert Serge Plantureux when two individuals acquired the photo at an estate sale and thought they recognized a few of the faces, among them, artists Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard—a significant discovery in and of itself. Analyzing the photographic process, the photographer (thought to be to Jules Antoine), and pinpointing the when the photo was taken raised the chances significantly that a bearded figure who appears amongst the gathering of stoic men might be Van Gogh. Serge Plantureux writes for magazine L’Oeil de la Photographie (The Eye of Photography):

The photograph they had brought to show me was small, dark, and rather difficult to see. Six characters were around a table. The light was pale, perhaps it was a winter afternoon.

They told me, still hesitant, that they thought they recognized the people in it, artists in whom they had long been interested. They were collectors and liked the painters of the late 19th century, in particular the neo-impressionists. They also said it was possible that one of the figures around the table was someone whose true face had never been seen.

The photo went to auction just this weekend and was expected to fetch between $136,000 to $170,000, though a final sale price hasn’t been made public. Still, some experts aren’t convinced. The photo expert for the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam feels it can’t be the artist “because it simply does not look like him,” and also mentions the artist’s desire to never be photographed. Others note that Van Gogh didn’t mention the gathering in his meticulously written letters from the time period.

Regardless, the photo is still of significant historical value and only time will tell if experts reach a consensus in the identities of everyone depicted. (via PetaPixel, Hyperallergic)

 

 



Animation History Photography

Historical Photos and Artworks Set in Motion by Nicolas Monterrat

June 10, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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One of my new favorite Tumblrs to follow is Un gif dans ta gueule… (roughly ‘A gif in the mouth…’) run by French photographer and animator Nicolas Monterrat who brings his surreal sense of humor to historical photos, paintings, and other borrowed imagery by creating bizarre and humorous animations. Collected here is just a sampling, do yourself and dive into his archive, you won’t regret it. (via Lustik)

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