… ‘Hawaii Before Statehood, 1959’ image series from Life magazine
Medieval smiley face
This is a true feel-good doodle, drawn by a medieval reader and found in the lower margin of a 13th-century page. The surprisingly modern-looking smiley face is wearing glasses and seems to float towards the text in a balloon, quite content. This little scene made my day.
Pic: Conches, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 7 (main text 13th century, doodle 14th or 15th century). More medieval doodles in this Tumblr.
A 2500 year old mummy that had some amazing tattoos.
NO FUCKING WAY.
YO HOLD ON.
IT GETS BETTER.
This mummy, found in the Altai mountains of Siberia, is actually that of a young woman who died at about the age of twenty-five; she is thought to have been a member of the Pazyryk tribe.
She was buried with six horses and two similarly-tattooed men (the horned griffon that decorates her shoulder also appears on the man buried closest to her, covering most of his right side), possibly escorts. She was also wearing a horse-hair wig, silk, and elaborate boots, which is all a level of ceremony that would have likely only been accorded to a woman of high rank. You didn’t get inked like this unless you were very important, and had worked your way up to that importance.
…Hence, of course, the references to her by researchers as ‘The Ukok Princess,’ although due to the lack of weapons in her grave they have concluded that the woman was in fact a healer or a storyteller.
And now I’m all consumed with curiosity: Who was she? What amazing things did she accomplish? Why these symbols, and what did they mean? Who were the two men alongside her?
The most informative article about it can be found here, although I would completely eat up any other information you guys could find.
“One of the most fascinating archeological finds in Russia has been the discovery of hundreds of “birchbark documents” (messages written on the bark of birch trees with a sharp stylus) that were created from the 11th to the 15th century.
The birchbark documents of Novgorod are a major source for information about life in Medieval Novgorod because they are not the writings of church theologians or political leaders, but rather, personal messages, IOUs, love letters, shopping lists, and so on. One of the most fascinating items, in my mind, is a collection of children’s drawings that have been unearthed.
Children’s drawings in the Middle Ages?! Even if such things were created in period, how could they have survived to the present day? After all, finger paints, magic markers, and crayons were not yet in use, paper was far too valuable of a commodity to waste on children, and refrigerator doors were unavailable for the display of Junior’s artistic genius. Most of the products of childhood inspiration probably were expressed on the ephemeral canvas of dirt or sand.
But birchbark was a different story. The bark was widely available (although there are indications that excessive use of the medium caused a decline in the local birch population) and easily cultivated. Anyone could use it. When one was finished with the message, it was simply thrown into the mud, where the presence of water and clay created an unusually bacteria-free environment which preserved the documents. So, we have the ideal medium: cheap, easy to come by, and (thanks to unique geology) preserved for hundreds of years.
The drawings from Novgorod that we have found appear to all come from a Russian boy named Onfim, who lived at the end of the twelfth century or beginning of the thirteenth century in the city of Novgorod. By the estimate of the archaeologists who unearthed his works, he was around seven years old at the time that he made these drawings.
Onfim was being taught to write, but he was obviously restless with his lessons and when he could get away with it, he intermixed his assignments with doodlings. In this first example, he started to write out the first eleven letters of the alphabet in the upper right corner, but got bored and drew a picture of himself as a grown-up warrior impaling an enemy with his spear. To remove any doubt about the identity of the warrior, he even labeled the person on the horse as “Onfim.”
Fantasies of becoming a mighty warrior were not the only things that Onfim thought up though. In another example, he took the piece of bark that he was practicing on (left), turned it over (right), and drew a picture of himself disguised as a wild beast (which he identified by writing “I am a wild beast” [Ia zver’] over it). The beast, with its long tongue (or fiery breath), is apparently still a friendly beast as it is carrying a sign that reads “Greetings from Onfim to Danilo” [Poklon ot Onfima ko Danile]. Danilo (i.e., Daniel) was probably a friend, perhaps even a schoolmate sitting next to Onfim.
Onfim liked to draw people and while his artistic aptitude may have been lacking, he was prolific.”
art history meme | 7/9 paintings: Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) by John Singer Sargent (1883-84)
When Madame X was finally completed and revealled at the Paris Salon of 1884, its reception was scathing. Although identity of the subject wasn’t revealed (hence the title Madame X), Madame Gautreau’s distinctive profile made her recognizeable. Critics complained that her skin had lavender undertones (she apparently dusted herself with lavender powder) and that her right arm was oddly and unnaturally contorted. These comments, however, paled in comparison to unanimous outrage over her dress: in Sargent’s initial version of Madame X revealed at the Salon, her right strap had slipped off to bare her right shoulder. The decolletage hinted to some viewers of sexual impropriety or infidelity. Gautreau’s family was mortified, and after begging Sargent to withdraw the painting, he offered to repaint the offensive strap. The Paris, however, forbade him altering Madame X until the exhibition closed. In efforts to placate the public, Sargent ultimately repainted the strap, resulting in the portrait we now see.
[Credit : Danny Lyon]
RIP to legendary Tanzanian Taarab singer Fatma binti Baraka, popularly known as Bi Kidude, who passed away on April 17th, 2013, at her home on the island of Zanzibar. She is believed to have surpassed 100 years of age.
As a child, she was singled out for her fine voice and, in the 1920s, sang locally with popular cultural troupes, combining an understanding of music with an equally important initiation into traditional medicine.
At age 13, after a forced marriage she fled Zanzibar to mainland Tanzania. Bi Kidude toured mainland East Africa with a taarab ensemble, visiting the major coastal towns and inland as far west as Lake Victoria and Tanganyika.
She walked the length and the breadth of the country barefoot in the early 1930s fleeing another unhappy marriage. In the 1930s she ended up in Dar es Salaam where she sang with Egyptian Taarab group for many years. In the 1940s she returned to Zanzibar where she acquired a small mud hut to be her home.
She is known for her role in the Unyago movement which prepares young Swahili women for their transition through puberty. She is one of the experts of this ancient ritual, performed only to teenage girls, which uses traditional rhythms to teach women to pleasure their husbands, while lecturing against the dangers of sexual abuse and oppression.
Cape. 1912, French.
House of Worth.
Source: Met Museum.