Skip to Content
  • Language
  • End User
  • Educational Use
  • Time Required
(335)
(1,023)
(1,174)
(1,030)
(1,313)
(22)
(529)
(418)
(208)
(755)
(273)
(290)

Found 1,358 Collections

 

Communication with the spiritual in ancient to modern art

This collection will examine examples of art as a form of communication between the human and spiritual worlds. These forms of communication may include examples of direct communication — in which an individual or group uses art to speak to and influence the spiritual world — as well as examples that serve to document practices, beliefs, and the place of spiritual practices in society at large.

The form and focus of these communications expressed through art can help to explain the values of particular cultures or individuals, or may serve to question or enforce certain cultural beliefs. This type of art may be the expression of the needs of a social group or culture, such as prehistoric cave paintings that might have functioned in rituals to ensure successful hunts or plentiful game. It may serve to enforce a political agenda such as the Law Code of Hammurabi. Or it may express an individual's personal interpretation and experience of spirituality such as the illustrated poetry of William Blake. However, form does not always imply the expected function: the 19th century English painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti sometimes drew on religious subjects or themes and much of his work has a mysterious and mystical atmosphere. Yet Rossetti, describing his spiritual beliefs, called himself an “art Catholic,” implying that if he engaged in a spiritual dialog through his art, it was with art itself (Faxon, 1989).

This collection will look at examples from the prehistoric era through the early 20th century. These examples help to contextualize the inner lives of individuals, and the collective inner life of the cultures, their environments, wants, needs, and values, to foster a greater appreciation of and respect for these peoples and cultures.

Although there is only limited firm evidence of the purpose of cave art found at sites such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Les Trois-Frères, scholars generally agree that it served some religious purpose. Various theories have been proposed to provide more specific explanations. Cave art, particularly Paleolithic cave art, depicts almost exclusively animals. Hunting was crucial to the survival of early humans, and it is possible that the images were created as part of hunting rituals. Images of animals superimposed over each other many have represented fertility rituals aimed at increasing the amount of game animals. Some images appear to have been deliberately scratched or gouged with spearheads — in some cases blood was painted flowing from these wounds — suggesting that the images may have been intended as a type of sympathetic magic giving hunters power over and protection from large and dangerous animals (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).

Other images are less easy to explain and have given rise to controversial theories such as the bird-faced human figure in the Lascaux Shaft Scene, that combine elements of humans with other animals in a single figure. The Shaft Scene appears to describe a narrative although the exact meaning is not completely clear. A wounded bison stands ready to charge; the animals intestines appear to be pouring out of its abdomen and a spear is shown near its hindquarters. In front of the bison is a stick figure human with a bird's face. The human figure appears to have fallen or been knocked over. Just below this odd figure is a line topped by a bird, perhaps an object belonging to the bird-faced man. This figure and others that combine humans and other animals into one figure such as The Sorcerer in Les Trois-Freres may document early humans' mythology, and could suggest the origins of certain beliefs and practices (Curtis, 2006).

The meaning of the Law Code of Hammurabi is less ambiguous — the spiritual and the legal/political aspects of the culture are united. The stele dates to approximately 1760 BCE and is divided into two sections. The lower section, which takes up the majority of the stele, consists of the code of laws in effect at the time. The relief at the top depicts the Babylonian king Hammurabi receiving the laws from the god Shamash. The implication is clear: the law itself is a religious document and the social rules it describes are the will of the gods — and Hammurabi whose authority is bolstered by the approval of the gods (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).

The spiritual is not always a numinous experience in a cave. Some early laws and social codes were framed as divine communications that enforce social norms and rules — even now, witnesses in courts are generally sworn in by placing their hand on a Bible. Communication with the spiritual in examples such as the Law Code of Hammurabi is aimed at establishing and enforcing order and lending it a weight of legitimacy. It is as critical for the members of an urban culture, such as Babylon, to abide by rules to maintain peace with their neighbors as it was for the Paleolithic peoples to ensure successful hunts. And, kings such as Hammurabi believed it was critical to protect their power. By aligning themselves with gods, they could borrow some of the gods' power in the minds of the people and make rebellion or betrayal a kind of sacrilege. Hammurabi, in fact, was declared a god in his own lifetime (Van De Mieroop, 2005).

Music may also function as a form of communication between gods and humans. In pharaonic Egypt, religious festivals appear to have prominently involved music and dance. Music may have been used in religious rituals to communicate with the gods, invoke deities, or as a medium to transmit offerings. Some instruments were associated with specific deities: the sistrum with Hathor and Isis and the tambourine with Bes. Sistrums may have been played during rituals associated with Hathor to invoke her — and to placate her. Although images of deities playing musical instruments are relatively rare in Egyptian art, Bes is frequently depicted dancing and playing a tambourine. Unlike the other gods, Bes used music to communicate with humans. Bes was associated with the home and family — the front rooms of Egyptian homes appear to have contained shrines to Bes — and he remained a popular deity among the people throughout Egypt's history. Bes was believed to protect people, particularly women in childbirth, by playing music to frighten away evil spirits. Amulets of Bes dancing and playing a tambourine appear to have been a common type of protective amulet worn around the neck. It is worth noting that depictions of Bes differ markedly from depictions of most other Egyptian deities: he is represented in lively motion. In contrast to the image of Egyptian religion based primarily on royal tombs and, therefore, focused on death and the elite members of society, Bes was closely tied to life and the lives of common people (Simmance, n.d.).

Composed by the poet Valmiki in India the fifth century BCE, the Rāmāyana relates the deeds and adventures of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu. According to J. L. Brockington, in Indian tradition the Rāmāyana is designated the ādikāvya, which may be translated as “the first poetic work,” and is regularly referred to as being sung as opposed to spoken in contrast to the Mahābhārata. In one version of the framework story introducing the Rāmāyana, Rama is described as the perfect human being. His behavior is therefore worth emulating, and it is likely that as early as the first millennium BCE that was in a sense being done literally through plays and dances reenacting the story (Brockington, 1998). In that sense, the Rāmāyana represents a complex, evolving dialog, a lived experience of both artistic and spiritual expression.

Euripides' tragic drama The Bacchae is another example of theater acting as a complex dialog between the human and the spiritual worlds. The plot of The Bacchae revolves around the arrival of the god Dionysos in the city of Thebes where his ecstatic worship is opposed by Pentheus, the king of Thebes. As Segal writes, the play is morally ambiguous and may have been designed to implicate the audience in the action. Although Dionysos is a disturbance to Thebes, Pentheus' response is heavy-handed and unsympathetic. However, as the drama unfolds, the audience that may have been rooting for Dionysos is confronted with a climax that sees the god orchestra Pentheus' gruesome death. It is important to note that Dionysos was a well-established and liked god in Athens and that Classical Greek drama was written to be performed during annual festivals in Dionysos' honor. As Vellacott writes, during the festival a statue of Dionysos was brought from a shrine to the amphitheater to watch the plays. As Segal notes, it is unlikely that the play is meant to be critical of Dionysos (his actual worship was much more restrained than depicted in the play or the myths it was based on) but its presentation, at a fundamentally religious festival with the god literally in the audience, could not but have sparked another dialog within the audience, a reflection on their relationship to the god and the sometimes overwhelming forces he represents.

The Temple of Isis at Pompeii declares both the strength of her worshipers' belief and the endurance of her cult in the face of repeated official sanctions. The temple was damaged in an earthquake in 62 AD but was rebuilt by the time of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD; in fact, it was the only civic building in that area of Pompeii that had been completely rebuilt (Hackworth, 2006). The apparent preference for a foreign goddess in a Roman city is all the more significant in light of imperial persecutions and prohibitions against her worship dating back to Augustus and coming to a head in 19 CE when Emperor Tiberius exiled thousands of freedmen who were adherents of the religion (Heyob, 1975). However, the cult of Isis continued to flourish. By the time of Pompeii's destruction, her worship appears to have included individuals from all classes of society, from members of the imperial family and municipal officials to freedmen and slaves (Takacs, 1995). The remains of the temple can still be seen on the original site and at the nearby Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. Although Egyptian decoration was incorporated in the design of the temple and cult objects, the plan of the building and the style of the frescoes was Roman (Moorman, 2011). The navigium Isidis fresco appears to show a distinctly Egyptian scene, Isis resurrecting her husband-brother Osiris, but in a purely Roman style. The Pompeiian worshipers of Isis were part of Roman culture but may have been seeking an opportunity to engage in personally meaningful spiritual communication outside of the state-sectioned venues and deified emperors (Hackworth, 2006).

Early Buddhist art avoided direct representations of the Buddha. The first iconic representations of the Buddha were likely not created until approximately the 2nd century CE in the area of Gandhara, in modern-day Pakistan, under the influence of the Kushan emperors. After their conversion to Buddhism, the Kushan produced distinctive images of the Buddha that drew on Greco-Roman traditions while creating an iconographically unique image that was clearly identifiable as the Buddha (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).

Many of these early sculptures of the Buddha depict a serene, sublime figure, perfectly proportioned and untouched by time or the rigors of his life. However, a small group of statues presents a radically different image of the Buddha. One of these statues, Fasting Buddha, created between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE, depicts the physical effects of the Buddha's forty-five days of fasting and meditation before achieving enlightenment. In an interview with Hyperallergic in 2016 when Fasting Buddha was seen publicly at an Auctionata sale, Dr. Arne Sildatke, Auctionata's head of Asian art, explained that although the Fasting Buddha and similar images can be compared to depictions of the crucified Jesus Christ, the Buddhas are not images of death and resurrection. Instead, they are meant to communicate to followers Buddhism the concepts of self-empowerment and the overcoming of suffering, according to Sildatke. Despite the figure's protruding bones, sunken stomach, and hollow face, the image expresses the strength of the Buddha's will (Voon, 2016).

The Ajanta caves in Maharashta state, India, contain some of the finest examples of Indian Buddhist art and represent several centuries of complex artistic spiritual expression. The caves were created as a monastery and decorated in the Gupta style of sculpture and painting. The Gupta style moved away from the Greco-Roman influence and embraced a more fully Indian style in which characteristics of physical beauty associated with Indian art are adapted to symbolize spiritual beauty (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).

The monks' work on the caves was likely supported during its later phase by wealthy patrons, including the 5th century CE Emperor Harisena and his courtiers. These patrons sponsored the construction and ornamentation of specific caves to honor the Buddha and earn religious merit, as well as worldly praise, for themselves. According to Spink, Cave 1, created in the late 5th century CE, was sponsored by Harisena. Cave 1 contains some of the most sumptuous and well-preserved murals in Ajanta. It is likely that these images, including the Bodhisattva Padmapani, are so well-preserved because Cave 1 was never used for worship. Spink theorizes that Cave 1 was not used because Harisena died suddenly before the cave could be dedicated. An undedicated cave could not be used for worship; therefore, if the cave was indeed left undedicated, Harisena would not have achieved the religious merit he desired (Spink, 2008). In that case, Harisena's attempt to communicate with the spiritual, to have his faith validated, and his attempt to communicate his spiritual virtue to the human world were both left unfulfilled.

Rich ornament and stylization was also used to signify spirituality in European Christian manuscript paintings. As Christianity spread through Europe, representations were adapted to the local Celto-Germanic styles, which bore more in common with the luxurious, symbolic, and stylized Byzantine art than the naturalistic Greco-Roman tradition. The Book of Kells is an illuminated gospel created c. 800 CE by Irish monks. A figure of St. John on one folio is an exercise in elaborate stylization, a purely two-dimensional figure made up of patterns of decorative lines, emphasizing the image's spiritual rather than physical reality (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).

An illuminated gospel such as the Book of Kells was not merely a book — as the chalice used in Mass is not merely a cup — it was created as a sacred object (Calkins, 1983). Like the images in Chauvet cave or the ceremonial sistra used in Egyptian religious ceremonies, it formed part of the necessary accouterments of communication with the spiritual. And, therefore, its form and image took precedence over its physical practicality (Calkins, 1983). In that light, the entire object itself, not only individual folios, can be seen as a translation of spiritual experiences and a vehicle for spiritual communion.

Liturgical music has been a key part of Christian ritual since the earliest days of the religion. Most early Christian music was woven into the services and often consisted of chants based exclusively on scripture. Over time, the scope of music in Christianity grew and original pieces were composed. One notable composer in the Early Middle Ages was Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Beginning in early childhood, Hildegard experienced intense visions. She entered a community of nuns when she was eight and became a poet, composer, and playwright (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).

Hildegard also wrote several books detailing her mystical visions and theological instructions derived from them. One of these, Scivias, contained sections that Hildegard later adapted to the Ordo Virtutum, a sacred music drama (King-Lenzmeier, 2001). The plot revolves around the struggle between the devil and the Virtues for a human soul. The Ordo was not written to be performed as part of the Mass or liturgy and does not depict biblical events: the allegorical story is adapted directly from her personal visionary experiences (Potter, 1986). When performing the Ordo, the nuns were embodying and participating in Hildegard's visions by bringing these invisible spiritual experiences into the human world (Davidson, 1992).

The Unicorn Tapestries were made in Brussels c. 1500 and depict the hunt, capture, and death of a unicorn. The tapestries may have been made as a wedding gift and may have been intended to communicate a multilayered message that combined romance and fertility with Christian doctrine (Benton & DiYanni, 2012). The chivalric tradition of courtly love had introduced the idea that romantic love was a symbol of God's love: Marie de France's Eliduc employs this symbolism to suggest that when two individuals loved each other completely they could leave each other for God, separating to live in different religious communities (Potkay, 1994). In The Unicorn Tapestries, Margaret B. Freedman explores the complex interweaving of secular and religious messages encoded in the tapestries, including references that syncretize polytheistic deities into Christian mythology. For example, the fountain in the tapestries may be a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who was compared to a fountain in many medieval hymns, as well as Venus and Cupid, who were frequently depicted holding court in gardens dominated by a fountain. The highly detailed flora in several of the tapestries also simultaneously references Christ and Venus. In Freedman's analysis, the tapestries can be understood as symbolizing and communicating the doctrines and values of the overlapping Christian god of heaven and the god of love, a concept that was well-established by the late medieval period. In the context of the tapestries as a wedding gift, this dual meaning is perfectly appropriate to express, reminding the newlyweds of their spiritual, personal, and social duties and rewards.

In 15th century Florence, a renewed interest in and availability of Classical Greek and Roman scholarship fueled the development of Neoplatonism, a new school of philosophy that sought to merge the principles espoused by the Classical Greek philosopher Plato and the Roman philosopher Plotinus with Christian spirituality. Platonism and Christianity are dualistic and perceive a separation between the physical and the spiritual that humans should strive to breach. According to Neoplatonist thought, this could be done by recognizing the spark of the divine — the work of God — in beautiful things in the physical world; therefore, the love of beauty was a form of worship (Benton & DiYanni, 2012). Florentine Renaissance ideals of beauty were heavily indebted to Greco-Roman traditions that emphasized harmony, rationality, and balance. Therefore, in art and architecture, this could be performed by using geometry as a symbol.

The elaborate geometrical floor pavings in the Medicis' private chapel, the Chapel of the Magi, may be a deliberate geometric code that communicated Neoplatonic ideals and functioned as a type of devotional communication. Cosimo de' Medici, who commissioned the chapel, and several of the artists and architects involved in the design and construction of it were closely involved with the founding of the Accademia Platonica in Florence, an influential group of scientists, artists, and philosophers and which was the cradle of Neoplatonism. The chapel's pavings following distinctive, complex geometrical patterns and ratios tied to Neoplatonic thought. The chapel was constructed for the use of the Medici family and those close to them — it was not intended as a place of worship for the public. Therefore, the Medicis and the artists, scientists, and intellectuals close to them could freely express in a precise geometric language certain beliefs and modes of thinking that were not completely orthodox. In the carefully measured, sumptuous marble pavings of the chapel, they could demonstrate theories of elevated scientific and religious though: divine harmony communicated through mathematics (Bartoli, 1994).

The 17th century English poet John Donne combined sexual language and spiritual subject matter to express his concept of ecstatic love. In this concept, an individual achieves unity of body and soul and reaches spiritual truths through sexual union with another individual they love. The soul is capable of awareness and growth only through love, and during sex the souls of the individuals mingle, each soul gaining greater knowledge of itself in relation to the body. The individual is then a complete self: a being that is a synthesis of its physical and spiritual aspects (Thommen, 2014).

This concept is described in Donne's poem "The Extasie":

We see by this it was not sex,
             We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
           Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix’d souls doth mix again
         And makes both one, each this and that

“The Extasie,” therefore, communicates Donne's own understanding and experience of spiritual communion. Like the Neoplatonics, Donne's efforts to interact with the spiritual are focused on resolving the perceived conflict between the physical and the spiritual by seeking the divine in the physical — but uniting body and soul by being united with another individual.

Communication with the spiritual is also blended with sensuality in Gianlorenzo Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa (1645-52). The subject of the sculpture, St. Teresa of Avila, was famous for her ecstatic visions as described in her writing, particularly her c. 1567 Autobiography. Teresa described a process of mental prayer that resulted in spiritual union with God and produced visions and intense physical and emotional responses. As quoted by Thommen, Eleanor McCann pointed out that St. Teresa and Donne's descriptions of communication with the spiritual through the experience of physical ecstasy and union are, despite the author's differences, remarkably similar.

Bernini's sculpture is based on the episode from St. Teresa's Autobiography when an angel appeared to her and thrust a golden spear into her heart, producing an intense pain and an “infinite sweetness” that she described as the “sweetest caressing of the soul by God” (Benton & DiYanni, 2012). The sculpture, therefore, is in the interesting position of relating mystical communication third hand. Unlike the nuns in Hildegard of Bingen's community, Bernini had no direct contact with St. Teresa and his translation of her experience was inevitably colored by his own experiences and personality and the preferences of his patron. Although Bernini emphasized the sensuality of St. Teresa's experience, the sculpture occupies a supernatural sphere, distinct from the related sculpturing groupings that are placed firmly in the physical world and the space occupied by the viewer (Wittkower, 1980). The viewer is invited to witness the point of contact and communication between the physical and the spiritual (Boucher, 1998).

In The Book of Urizen, published in 1794, English poet and painter William Blake communicated a profoundly personal, visionary spirituality that expressed his major moral and philosophical concerns. Blake, like Hildegard of Bingen and St. Teresa of Avila, experienced visions. He saw himself as a prophet and believed that the duty of a poet was “To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought” (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).

The Book of Urizen is a creation myth structured along the lines of Genesis but with Blake's Urizen in place of God. Urizen is a god of reason and logic and law — a deity of pure materialism, enslaved and enslaving who creates the world so that he may have something to rule. Urizen represents both dogmatic, essentially materialistic religious laws and Newtonian reason. To Blake, these were both forces that blind humans to the spiritual by trapping and circumscribing human imagination, thereby preventing them from communicating with the spiritual, creative world that would otherwise be their birthright (Frye, 1990). By creating The Book of Urizen and his other illuminated books of poetry and painting, Blake attempted to communicate his experience of the spiritual and warn of the consequences of either rejecting personal communication with the spiritual and imagination or of ceding that direct, personal experience to a higher, worldly authority.

Communication between the human and the spiritual is not always easy nor does a familiar form always imply the expected function. These points are illustrated in the works of the English poet Christina Rossetti and her brother the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Christina was deeply religious and often used her poetry to explore both the rewards and struggle she associated with faith. Unlike St. Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, or William Blake, Christina's experience of the spiritual was not mystical. Rather than communicating with the spiritual through ecstatic visionary experiences, Christina's efforts to communicate and achieve union with the spiritual were the result of the effort of her faith, and that effort, and her doubts, are expressed in her poetry. In “Alas, my Lord,” (1874), Christina describes the difficulty of this process and expresses her doubts as well as her desire for spiritual affirmation — some communication, a response from the spiritual, that her efforts are not in vain (Avery, 2014).

      Alas my Lord,
How should I wrestle all the livelong night
With Thee my God, my Strength and my Delight?

      How can it need
So agonized an effort and a strain
To make Thy Face of Mercy shine again?

      How can it need
Such wringing out of breathless prayer to move
Thee to Thy wonted Love, when Thou art Love?

In contrast, her brother Dante Gabriel was not a practicing Christian, although he used Christian iconography and language, particularly in his early works. Dante Gabriel referred to himself as an “Art Catholic,” implying that his interest in the imagery of encounters with the spiritual was largely aesthetic (Faxon, 1989). In addition, he often used Christian iconography and language in the context of secular love poems (Roe, 2010). In Dante Gabriel's art, such as The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848-1849), representations of the spiritual were not strictly religious but rather an iconographical shorthand for the artist's sincere, personal communication with their imagination. Particularly in his early career when he identified as a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he believed that medieval art was more sincere, more closely connected to the natural world, in opposition to the British Academic tradition embodied by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which he believed was formulaic and insincere (Faxon, 1989). Therefore, the religious subject matter so prominent in medieval art took on a new meaning and the spiritual was transferred from the Christian God to the artist's quest for genuine inspiration.

The Dream of Geronitus, Op. 38, composed by Edward Elgar in 1900, is a powerful sonic portrait of an encounter with the spiritual. Set to the text of a poem by John Henry Newman, it describes the death of a man, Gerontius, and his soul's journey to the throne of God to receive judgment. A dramatic and technically challenging piece, it explores communication with the spiritual as a psychologically complex, and not always pleasant, experience. The rapture Gerontius experiences is counterpointed by the appearance of devils and his own doubts that his soul is worthy to face God. The Judgment scene, in fact, depicts that ultimate communication with the spiritual as an almost unbearable experience. For the scene when Gerontius beholds the glance of God and receives judgment, the score instructs: “For one moment, must every instrument exert its fullest force.” (Burton, 2003).

In 1974, The Dream of Gerontius figured heavily in Penda's Fen, a film written by David Rudken and directed by Alan Clarke for the BBC. The film's protagonist Stephen, writes about The Dream of Gerontius in the beginning of the film, which then unravels his nationalist and orthodox Christian certainty through visionary experiences that lead him to reject his former beliefs. Stephen's encounters with the spiritual challenge the priggish patriotism and the national and moral myth he embraced, embodied by a middle-aged couple who have successfully campaigned to ban a film exploring Jesus as a man rather than as a god. At one point Stephen plays the Judgment scene from The Dream of Gerontius on the organ in his father's church, triggering a vision of cracks appearing in the church floor, the crucified body of Jesus, and a voice commanding Stephen to unchain Jesus from the strictures of conservative Christianity. Later, he experiences a vision of King Penda, the last pagan king of England, and, grasping that his culture is ultimately a hybrid one comprised of a mingling of various religions, languages, and peoples, rejects his former beliefs (Sandhu, 2014). The experience is as unsettling for the viewer as it is for Stephen. in Penda's Fen the spiritual intrudes on assumptions and certainties and by irrupting reality leads both Stephen and the viewer to question their assumptions and demands that they take part in a wider, richer communication with the spiritual and the world.



References

Avery, S. (2014). Christina Rossetti: Religious poetry. Retrieved from https://www.bl.uk/romantics-an...

Bartoli, M. T. (1994). A Neoplatonic pavement. In The Chapel of the Magi: Benozzo Gozzoli's frescoes in the palazzo Medici-Riccardi Florence (p, 25-28). New York: Thames and Hudson.

Benton, J. R. & DiYanni, R. (2012). Arts and culture: An introduction to the humanities. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Boucher, B. (1998). Italian Baroque sculpture. London: Thames & Hudson.

Brockington, J. (1998). The Sanskrit epics. Boston: Brill.

Burton, J. (2003). The Dream of Gerontius - Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934). Retrieved from http://www.choirs.org.uk/prognotes/Elgar%20Gerontius.htm

Calkins, R. G. (1983). Illuminated books of the Middle Ages. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Curtis, G. B. (2006). The cave painters: Probing the mysteries of the world's first artists. (2006). New York: Knopf.

Davidson, A. E. (1992). Music and performance: Hildegard of Bingen's Ordo Virtutum. In The Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical studies (p. 1-29). Kalamazoo, Michigan: Western Michigan University.

Faxon, A. C. (1989). Dante Gabriel Rossetti. New York: Abbeville Press.

Freeman, Margaret B. (1983). The Unicorn Tapestries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Frye, N. (1990). Fearful symmetry. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hackworth, P., L. (2006). The freedman in Roman art and art history. Oxford: Cambridge University Press.

Heyob, S. K. (1975). The cult of Isis among women in the Graeco-Roman world. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

King-Lenzmeier, A. H. (2001). Hildegard of Bingen: An integrated vision. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press.

Moorman, E., M. (2011). Divine interiors: Mural paintings in Greek and Roman sanctuaries. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press.

Potkay, M. B. (1994). "The Limits of Romantic Allegory in Marie de France's Eliduc," Medieval Perspectives, 9 (1), 135-145. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/55697230/limits-romantic-allegory-marie-de-frances-eliduc

Potter, R. (1986). The “Ordo Virtutum”: Ancestor of the English moralities?. Comparative Drama, 20 (3), 201–210. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41153244

Roe, D. (2010). Introduction in The Pre-Raphaelites from Rossetti to Ruskin (p, xvii-xxxvi). London: Penguin.

Sandhu, S. (2014). Penda’s Fen: A lasting vision of heresy and pastoral horror. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com

Segal, C. (2001). Introduction. In Euripides, Bakkai (3-32). New York: Oxford University Press.

Simmance, E. (n.d.) Communication through music in ancient Egyptian religion. University of Birmingham. Retrieved 2/4/2019 from https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/connections/Essays/ESimmance.aspx.

Spink, W. (2008). Ajanta lecture: Korea 2008. WatlerSpink. Retrieved February 22, 2019, from https://www.walterspink.com/ajanta/ajanta-lecture

Takacs, S., A. (1995). Isis and Sarapis in the Roman world. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Van De Mieroop, M. (2005). King Hammurabi of babylon: A biography. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing.

Vellacott, P. (1959). Introduction. In Aeschylus, The Orestian trilogy (9-40). New York: Penguin.

Voon, C. (2016). The raw expression of a rare, emaciated Buddha. Hyperallergic. Retrieved February 21, 2019, from https://hyperallergic.com/3448...

#AHMC2019

Nicole Votta
22
 

"The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien

This collection reflects the works of art included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's exhibit: “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975."    #SAAMTeach

Annette Spahr
24
 

Culture and Aesthetics Meet Physics: Why Soviet and American Spacesuits Look Different

This collection serves as a preview for the fifth of six seminar sessions in the 2019 Smithsonian-Montgomery College Faculty Fellowship Program. This year's theme is “The Search for an American Identity: Building a Nation Together.”

National Air and Space Museum curator Cathleen Lewis will discuss objects from the Space Race gallery, in particular how spacesuits from the USSR and the United States indicate differing cultural and aesthetic answers to similar engineering challenges. 

Resources included in this collection have been recommended by the presenter for participants to explore before the seminar itself.

#MCteach

Philippa Rappoport
16
 

Women and Their Literary Work in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the Church exerted the greatest influence over how women were perceived, women did not have the opportunity to raise as warriors or queens as in the Ancient Times. 

The two main alternatives for a medieval woman were to marry, or to 'take the veil' and become a nun. Almost all female orders required women to live behind the walls of a monastery or within an individual cell, living a life of contemplation, prayer and work. However, there were some women, who broke with the traditional roles assigned to them in several ways during a time when women had no legal rights and were considered a man's property.

Take Heloise for example, she scandalized the 12th century France by having an love affair with her tutor. The letters she exchanged with Abelard  are being read to this day, through them we follow their tragic and passionate love affair. Another women, Hildegard of Bingen is known for her writings and music, her music is still performed today, and her spiritual works are read as examples of a feminine interpretation of church and spiritual ideas. 

Marie de France, was considered the most revolutionary writer of her time, as it was not common practice for women to author any texts at all, and so was Christine de Pizan, who become the first women to support herself and her children through writing after her husband died and she was left alone.

I have also included a fictional character in this collection, Sheharazad, the narrator of The One Thousand and One Nights.  The female characters in the stories fight to make their own choices and live according to their beliefs about freedom, sexuality, and love, as the other women in this collection.













bbridgette
6
 

Blacksmith Shop

Come along and explore the Blacksmith Shop at La Purisima Mission.  Are you ready?  Let's go! 

La Purísima Mission CA State Historic Park
12
 

The Portrayal of Powerful Women In Visual Art: A Study Spanning Ancient Egypt, Baroque and Renaissance eras, Through Impressionism, and Pop and Modern Art

This third and final collection “The Portrayal of Powerful Women In Visual Art: A Study Spanning Ancient Egypt, Baroque and Renaissance Periods, Through Impressionism, and Pop and Modern Art” has been building up since the beginning of this project. I cannot stress enough how passionate I am about representing women as strong and powerful beings and I think it is so important to look back over history and find the times that was done despite attitudes towards women. Women have always been viewed as the weaker sex, until very recently in fact. However, the quiet and prevailing strength of women has a thread that is woven back to the dawn of time. As I have stated in a previous collection, visual art is an important way to document our collective present so that future generations may have greater understanding of our ways of thinking, values and more. My goal for these collections was to exemplify the power that was evident in a woman over time and I feel that I have achieved that. This collection spans time and cultures including ancient Egypt, the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Impressionism, and pop and modern art. Influential, resilient, and robust women always have and always will have a role to play in visual art.

For my museum paper, I took a close look at impressionism, especially Claude Monet (see the final tile in the collection). “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet is an oil on canvas, impressionist painting capturing Monet’s first wife, Camille, whom he painted often.  Impressionism came to be in France in the middle of the nineteenth century and Claude Monet is one of the names you immediately associate with this style of painting. Monet is a household name in the realm of impressionist painting and “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” is just one of the many famous works he produced in his lifetime. In this painting, her expression is one of quiet defeat and her large, dark eyes seem exhausted as if she is mentally somewhere else while her gaze is fixed directly on the viewer. Her body is hunched over rather than up straight to greet her neighbor. The viewer feels her sadness and I think that is in part because of the contrast in the image. The rest of the painting is bright, sunny and filled with color, things associated with happiness and lightness. Camille is clothed in a dark, heavy looking dress seemingly under the shadow of a tree which I interpret as the metaphorical cloud hanging over her with the sad news of her fathers passing. Monet captures her strength and femininity all at once.

Pop and modern art seem much more literal in what it expresses and is an excellent reflection of society at that point in time. While women still weren’t considered equal, they were still being depicted in visual art and it was typically women of high standard and fame. These women were respected in their fields and were considered icons of their generation; women like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, even Queen Elizabeth II. Visual art and its representation of a woman’s place in society still had a long way to go, but by looking at the women, we can tell they know their strength and that is what’s most important.

What I have put together in this collection represents the significance of women at points through history and I hope you will take something away from it. I hope it will spark debate, deeper thought, an emotional response, or even desire to learn more about the culture or time period being represented.

#AHMC2019 

Dana Cox
19
 

The Power of A Woman Represented in Visual Art During A Time Of Repression: Renaissance and Baroque Periods

I created this second collection to build on the topic of my first: The Portrayal of Powerful Women Through Visual Art. I began the introduction of my previous collection with an explanation of why I chose this topic. I will repeat that when I began at UMASS online, I immediately chose Gender Studies as one of my concentrations as I am fascinated with woman’s evolution through time. Art is the perfect time capsule to look at such a topic over time and I began with the first collection focusing on Egyptian Art. In this collection I will look at the representation of women in Renaissance art and some Baroque art. Again, my hope is that this collection will exemplify the power that was evident in a woman in this time period. My main sources of study were Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities, and the Smithsonian Lab.

Art is an important way to document our collective present so that future generations may have greater understanding of our ways of thinking, values and more. Norman Rockwell's iconic paintings are a window into the lives of ordinary people in the 20th century. Reaching further back into time, the cave paintings of the prehistoric era provide one of the last few glimpses into how these people lived and their religious and moral values. Art is a product of its time. It is a result of the social, political, and religious context in which it was made. Visual art is one of the best ways to understand women of a certain time period. In the Renaissance Era, women had no personal option in the choice of a marriage partner. The role of women continued to be to serve their husbands because the church, communal and judicial laws that at this time favored the ambitions of men. It seemed that Renaissance women were cast into a subservient state from the time of birth. Despite these values, I think that the power of a woman is still evident in art.

One piece in particular, which I have included in the collection, is The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. It immediately caught my eye when I turned to that page in our textbook. Venus is depicted standing upright in an oversized clamshell, her posture is unstable and off balance, her hands attempt to modestly cover her statuesque beauty as her long, golden hair billows in the breeze. She rises from the sea looking like a classical statue and floating on a seashell. Time seems to stop around her, and she stands alone, captivating the viewer with her gaze. She is the goddess of love and holds us all under her spell. This is just one example of representation of a woman in Renaissance art.

What I have put together in this collection represents the significance of women at this point in history.   

Benton, Janetta Rebold, and Robert DiYanni. Arts and Culture: an Introduction to the Humanities. Pearson, 2014.

#AHMC2019  

Dana Cox
6
 

The Respect of Ancient Egyptian Women and Their Role In Society Through Visual Art

I come from a family of very strong and independent women, and I was raised in a feminist household and was taught that there is power in femininity. When I began at UMASS online, I immediately chose Gender Studies as one of my concentrations as I am fascinated with woman’s evolution through time. While we are only just now on the brink of true equality, there are some examples from specific cultures in history that show the power of women. I chose to look closely at Egypt from its earliest cultures through the New Kingdom. My hope is that this collection will exemplify the power that was evident in a woman in this time period. My main sources of study were Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities, and the Smithsonian Lab.

Visual art can be an influential force. I feel that it is a direct and tangible example of how the artist sees it’s subject (person, place, object, thought or idea), and that perception is molded by culture, values, lessons, and history. Reactions to visual art can spark debate, deeper thought, an emotional response, or even desire to learn more about the culture or time period it was created. I hope what I have put together here will spark one of those things in my viewers. I really hope that it will put our view of women into perspective. We have evolved so much since this time in our thoughts of equality, worth, capability, representation and I hope to show that in following collections with examples from different cultures and time periods.

In Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities there is a section in Chapter 1 about Queen Hatshepsut and how she was viewed as a powerful and important ruling figure in a male dominated world. I think this is important to note as we don’t read very much about women figureheads during this time. She was respected, trusted, and listened to. She was valued by her people which is exemplified in her tomb. It is described in the text as, “constructed of repeated elements- colonnaded terraces with columnar porticoes…halls, and private chambers. The three terraces are connected by ramps to the cliff…These chambers are chapels to the god Amen; to the cow-headed goddess Hathor, who protects the dead; and to the queen herself…sculpture was used lavishly; there were perhaps two hundred statues in Hatshepsut’s funerary temple” (Benton 27). It bears noting the love and respect for one woman in 1458 B.C.E. Women were also praised in the form of goddesses, ruling over things such as truth, justice, order, hunt, etc.

What I have put together in this collection represents the significance of women at this point in history.    

Benton, Janetta Rebold, and Robert DiYanni. Arts and Culture: an Introduction to the Humanities. Pearson, 2014.

#AHMC2019

Dana Cox
6
 

Evaluating the Atomic Bomb - Modern World History

Students will be assigned to argue for the dropping of the atomic bomb, or against the dropping of the atomic bomb. Your task is to find at least 6 of these resources that will help you form your argument. While you are filling out your graphic organizer, make sure to click on the actual resource to see the guiding question to consider (there will be a paper clip next to a "1" on the upper left hand corner - click on that). Note your answer on your graphic organizer.

If you would like to fill out your graphic organizer electronically, here is the link - PLEASE MAKE A COPY: https://docs.google.com/docume...

Lea Silverstein
10
 

Music and Dance in Visual Art

Music and dance have always been an integral part of life. They serve to unite and harmonize people, and inspire our lives. There are many types of music and dance, some of which are highlighted in this collection. You will see cultures from the Egyptians, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Rococco, Harlem Renaissance. Types of dance such as the Flamenco dance. Mid-twentieth century musicians such as Elvis Presley, and The Beatles. To modern day music and dance events such as, Coachella Music Festival. There are many purposes and reasons why people dance, with each type of dance either exhibiting a message, a communion with God, or simply imparting inspiration, therapy, happiness, and a way to simply express themselves and give life to their soul or come together as a social experience. Visual images such as these, have given us knowledge that dancing has existed for all of human existence and has played an integral part in connecting humankind together. You will learn of the many types of dance and ritual they were involved, along with the music which was so important for any dance to occur. Music served to enlighten and lift people's spirits, or show them the depths of their soul. It has always had the power to change how a person feels, or move them emotionally in one way or another. Music and dance combined can serve to evolve people time in and again. They are a way to channel into higher gods or into our higher selves. When people participate in these kinds of rituals, it not only brings them together, but bonds and teaches us that there is not only an endless amount of beauty but great depths that we can travel and transcend social barriers. Music and dance are two of the ways in which our human race has advanced forward, all while connecting to the very essence of our beings, and giving us fun, laughter, elevation, and meaning. I hope many people can enjoy this collection, particularly people from the ages of middle school and up. I hope it can supplement many types of learning and anyone else who may be interested in learning more about who we are and what makes us live and grow spiritually. 

#AHMC2019

Jessica Covert
20
 

Investigating: Civil War Portraits

In this student activity, students will investigate nine portraits of people involved in the Civil War, both from the Union and the Confederacy. Through these portraits, students will gain an understanding of: experiences of people on both sides of the war; why these people are seen as historically significant; and how portraiture can communicate how a person wanted to be seen, or how others wanted them to be seen. Included with each portrait is a video that explains the historical significance of the person depicted.  Activity extension ideas can be found by clicking "Read More."

Big Ideas: 

  • Why are these people, and the developments they shaped, seen as historically significant? 
  • How does portraiture communicate how a person wanted to be seen, or how others wanted them to be seen?

Keywords: thomas stonewall jackson, william tecumseh sherman, john pelham, elmer e ellsworth, george armstrong custer, jefferson davis, abraham lincoln, clara barton

Tess Porter
10
 

Visual Connections between Buddhism and Ancient Greece

Using the Project Zero Visible Thinking routine "See Think Wonder," this activity investigates the cultural connections between Ancient Greece, Rome, and Gandhara* as seen through a sculpture of the Buddha created in the 2nd century CE. Buddhist sculptures from Gandhara are significant not only because they show the extent of Alexander the Great's influence on Asia, but also because they are some of the first human depictions of the Buddha in the history of Buddhist art.

Even without a deep knowledge of the art of this period, students can make visual observations and comparisons that reveal the blending of Asian and Greco-Roman culture in this particular region.

*Gandhara is a region in what is now modern Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Keywords: greek, kushan, mathura, india, inquiry strategy, classical, roman, gautama, siddhārtha, siddhartha, shakyamuni, lakshanas, signs of the buddha

#visiblethinking

Tess Porter
6
 

PZ Perspectives Conference

While they may be little, young children are capable of deep thinking, perspective taking, sharing ideas and taking action; all skills necessary to be an active participant in society. Not only should young children be included and respected as citizens of both the local and global community, fostering these skills encourages the next generation to be invested in the betterment of society. Art is an effective and engaging catalyst to build these civic skills with young children. In this collection, educators from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center and the Quaker Valley School District share their use of artwork and thinking routines in their practice with young children. Through hearing stories, seeing examples, and engaging in model lessons, participants will experience relevant thinking routines, have opportunities to reflect on techniques presented and work cooperatively with peers as they create lessons inspired by provided artworks modeled techniques. Participants will leave the session feeling inspired and confident to incorporate art into their practice to build civic skills using demonstrated techniques.


Andrea Croft
49
 

America & the Holocaust Museum Curation Project


The Holocaust was a horrific genocide that killed 6 million Jewish people. It is one of the best documented genocides, but many people do not understand the small role that America played in aiding the Jews during the Holocaust. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the president during World War II took minimal efforts to help the Jews in concentration camps throughout Europe. The American government passed Immigration Policies that prevented Jews from immigrating to the United States and covered up the severity of the atrocities that were being committed in Europe during the Holocaust. Anti Semitism was prevalent in the United States and many americans fought against aiding Jews in the Holocaust because they did not accept them. Finally, the American Media made efforts during the Holocaust to help the people of the United States become aware of the horrendous treatment of Jews that was occurring in Europe during the Holocaust. However, the media’s efforts like those of some Americans, who tried to sway public opinion to support American intervention in the Holocaust, were unsuccessful in bringing the United States to help Jews during the Holocaust.

Meaghan Rossignol
16
 

America and the Holocaust

This collection will take a deeper look into anti semitism in America juxtaposed to the upstanders who fought back.  By looking at the Holocaust in American society through this dual lense, it illustrates the two extremes in the society.  Bitter and severe hatred was seen on one side as anti semitsm was fueled by racist and elitist attitudes.  But this does not tell the whole story; many efforts were taken by Americans, specifically the Jewish American community, to raise awareness for the cause and in many instances take active steps to help those suffering in Europe.

Allie Doyle
17
 

America and the Holocaust

This collection serves as an exploration of America’s direct involvement in the Holocaust. Through the use of American propaganda, stories of the rescue and liberation of Jewish people in Europe, and images of remembrance and memorial, this exhibit intends to shed light on the bleak but often romanticized narrative that is the United States’ response to the Holocaust. The exhibit focuses on America’s role in helping to stop the Holocaust, or at certain points their lack thereof, though the nation’s contributions to the situation through their belief systems, actions, and policies. The exhibit seeks to explore the contrast of anti-Semitism in American citizens and those who fought to free the victims of anti-Semitism in Europe, in addition to However, what is drawn from this idea is what we remember in our collective memory. While remembering those who suffered, as well as those who rescued the suffering, the United States must not dismiss the prevalence of anti-Semitism in America at the time of the mass genocide, whether it was in the form of anti-Jewish rallies or in the form of legislation.

sarah afromsky
16
 

The Story of America in the Holocaust


Through this curation, one can see a clear story path. It all begins with the struggles that started in Europe that forced these refugees to attempt to flee to asylum. Getting to America, for those trying to escape, was a very difficult feat due to new legislation and American stubbornness towards immigrants. For those lucky enough to get to America, they soon discovered that this “sanctuary” held many of the same prejudice and anti semitic beliefs that were forged in Europe. Overall, this curation was made to track the struggles of Jews through all stages in their journey to America.

MADDIE YP
16
 

America and the Holocaust

This collection addresses the issue of antisemitism in the United States leading up to and during the Holocaust.  Anti semitism was displayed in America through cartoons, preferences of American citizens, discriminatory policies, as well as support for the Nazi party. There was anti semitism present throughout America, and such anti semitism became obvious through a lack of action during the Holocaust.  Juxtaposed against this striking anti semitism are the American people and groups that worked to help Jews and fought for their equality.  Despite the inaction promoted through anti semitism, many groups did work against discrimination and the Nazi goal.

Fiona Mulla
17
 

Migrations in American History: The Making of "Many Voices, One Nation"

This collection serves as a preview for the fourth of six seminar sessions in the 2019 Smithsonian-Montgomery College Faculty Fellowship Program. This year's theme is “The Search for an American Identity: Building a Nation Together.”

National Museum of American History colleagues Steve Velasquez and Lauren Safranek will discuss the making of the exhibition, "Many Voices, One Nation," and its accompanying educational website, "Becoming US." Together the exhibition and educational website aim to explore not only how the many voices of people in America have shaped our nation, but also to guide high school teachers and students in learning immigration and migration history in a more accurate and inclusive way.

Resources included in this collection have been chosen by the presenters for participants to explore before the seminar itself.

#MCteach
Philippa Rappoport
7
 

Goryeo Period Celadon Etched and Inlaid Decorative Techniques Translated into Watercolor Painting

Korean Goryeo period (918-1392) celadon  has famously elegant surface decorations. The delicate flowers, birds, and fish are incised with thin perfection into the clay pots and accented by inlaid white and black slip. Then the whole design is softly but beautifully highlighted by the glass like jade-green glaze. Using this six part lesson plan, students will research Goryeo celadon, compare its decorative techniques to other similar etched techniques, experiment with unique watercolor techniques to create similar effects, plan their own art work using a celadon like look, create their masterpiece, and evaluate whether they have achieved the desired goal of reproducing the look of Goryeo celadon decoration in watercolor. Completing this process, they will have created a painting that they could not have imagined before they began the exploration into  Goryeo celadon pottery decoration. In the first addendum students will be introduced to techniques using acrylic paste and pouring mediums which can produce an even more realistic appearance of Goyreo celadon incised and inlaid decoration.

Here in part 1. are some examples of green glazed, incised ceramics from Korea's Goryeo period. They are from the Freer Art Gallery's collection. Sort them into three groups according to their type of decoration. Then determine if the type of decoration is related to the time period in which they were created.  Next, take time to explore where this particular decoration style originated and how the Goryeo period potters in Korea perfected the technique. In part 2, compare these pieces to other types of art that are made using  similar etching techniques, such as scrimshaw and leather stamping, Then compare them to watercolor paintings of similar subjects to determine how to reproduce the Goryeo celadon look in watercolor painting. One goal of this learning lab is that students will make connections between different mediums and periods and in that process, discover new ways to use the mediums that they are familiar with. Later, in parts 3 and 4, students will be using the Goryeo celadon designs for inspiration when they practice new techniques and plan their own artwork which they will create in step five of the learning lab. In step 6 the students will evaluate their art works to see if they have achieved their goal of making a painting with the look of Goryeo celadon decoration. Addendum 1.  is not intended to be part of the watercolor lessons because of the time required to do the activities and the considerable mess involved, but it introduces the student to Acrylic mediums that can be used to make pictures that not only look like incised and inlaid Goryeo celadon, but are made with very similar techniques. #AsiaTeachers, #Watercolor, #GoryeoCeladon, #Ceramics, #NewAndCombinedPaintingTechniques. #Etching, #StudentArtProjects, #KoreanHistory, #ScratchedAndImpressedWatercolorPaper. #AcrylicPouringMedium, #AcrylicPasteMedium.

Elizabeth Anne Cox
88
 

Discovering Four Asian Countries Through Celadon Ceramics

In this collection, beautiful celadon ceramic pieces are used to help students explore the art of Celadon. While learning more about the ceramics students will also
 explore the following things: kingdoms, personal objects of value, burial practices, cultural similarities and differences, religious and ceremonial pieces, political influence, kings and noble men,  dynasties, artistry, skilled craftsmanship, treasures, geography and the continent of Asia.

This collection is not comprehensive but hopefully will serve as a starting point to encourage students to research and study  more  about some aspect of Asian-related ceramics, arts, geography, history, cultures, customs or trade . Hopefully  it will encourage interest and value in  field trips to Museums such as the Smithsonian Freer Gallery, as well as short-term /long-term study abroad trips to Asian countries.


Eniola O
14
 

Women and Fitness

What was the significance of womens fitness in the 1900's?

Jeremy Efferin
5
 

Women and Sports

Essential Question :
How did the women at the forefront of the sporting frontier use sports as a career to help gain women acceptance?

Ryan Devoss
5
 

Exploring the Cultural Markers of Identity

This collection serves as a preview for the third of six seminar sessions in the 2019 Smithsonian-Montgomery College Faculty Fellowship Program. This year's theme is “The Search for an American Identity: Building a Nation Together.”


The National Museum of African American History and Culture tells American History through an African American lens. Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Elaine Nichols, and Ariana Curtis will engage participants in an exploration of the cultural collections of the museum as markers of identity. A fuller description and presenter bios are included inside the collection.


Resources included in this collection have been chosen by the presenters for participants to explore before the seminar itself.


#MCteach

Philippa Rappoport
12
97-120 of 1,358 Collections