Sheltering at home these past two-and-a-half months, I feel a small pang of sadness every time I spot a talk or tour on my calendar that I was scheduled to lead at the museum. Despite — or perhaps in recognition of — the suffering of so many worldwide amidst the global pandemic, today, May 22, myriads of shrouded souls across the globe celebrate World Goth Day. While I may not be able to guide friends and strangers through the museum galleries in an exploration of iconic Goth music paired with masterful works of visual art, I can at least share my own personal pairings in this highly abbreviated manner. I hope you enjoy.
This short excerpt from my lecture on the art and history of the Egyptomania phenomenon delves into its early origins. As Europe emerged from the Middle Ages, Egyptian antiquities pillaged during the Roman Empire were excavated from their slumber under Roman soil and newly erected across the city. Even before the translation of the Rosetta Stone, before Napoleon’s epic Egyptian expedition and publication of Description de l’Égypte, artists such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Louis Jean Desprez were already experimenting and defining what we would come to call Egyptomania. In the subsequent generation, academic painter Jean Léon Gérôme reveals a mature appreciation for ancient Egyptomania in his meticulous renderings of the the Roman Empire.
This extended episode takes us on an unexpected journey across the Art Institute of Chicago to explore the artistry and influences of rings. We go well beyond personal adornment and discuss the significance and many meanings of “ring” as it appears in visual culture.
Le Grenouillard (Frog-Man), 1892
Art Institute of Chicago, 2007.78
In this excerpt from my lecture on the Art Institute’s recent special exhibition Painting the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection, I set the stage for what was Japan’s Floating World culture during the Edo Period of the Tokugawa Shogunate, 1615-1868. We touch on the origin of the term, the cultural climate in which it rose the popularity, and how the floating world psyche was expressed in Japan’s visual arts at the time.
Flower-Viewing Party with Crest-Bearing Curtain, from the series Flower Viewing at Ueno
Art Institute of Chicago, 1925.1689
As citizens, immigrants, and perhaps some First Nation people sit down across the country, give thanks over an overflowing centerpiece of abundance, and celebrate Thanksgiving for the harvest, we pause to consider one of the earliest attested parallels to our concept of the cornucopia from Ancient Egypt.