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The Stuff that Dreams are Remade of

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Artists sometimes rethink what materials can even be used to make art.  

The artwork above is made out of butter (yummy), is a bas-relief titled The Dreaming Iolanthe (1876) by Caroline S. Brooks.  Amazing! Art is transformational and definitely surpasses traditional mediums. Your imagination is the limit. 

The origin of butter sculpture traces back to "banquet art" of the Baroque and Renaissance period. The earliest recorded butter sculpture was in 1536 by Pope Pius V's cook Bartolomeo Scappi, which featured an elephant and a tableau of Hercules engaged in combat with a lion. Later, they gained popularity and in the 1800s, American sculptor Caroline Shawk Brooks (1840–1913) displayed her works in galleries across America. 

The wife of an American farmer, Brooks made her first butter sculpture in 1867 to promote farm goods. She used traditional utensils instead of a mold. "In 1873, she made a sculpture of the blind princess Iolanthe from Danish poet and playwright Henrik Hertz's verse drama King René's Daughter. Dreaming Iolanthe, as it was known, was exhibited at a Cincinnati gallery in 1874 for two weeks and attracted more than two thousand people keen to catch a glimpse of the sleeping princess rendered in dairy product."  She made several versions of Iolanthe, and they were featured in the Centennial Exhibition and the World Fair. Even 

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While some of our parents might still have cassette tapes stashed away somewhere, one artist named Erika Iris Simmons is turning them into works of art. Using old tapes, she has transformed them into a series of artworks titled “Ghost in the Machine.”  Now these tapes have a new voice and a new medium.

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though later in life, she learned to sculpt in marble, she continued to use butter as a medium.  Today butter sculpture remains a cherished yet niche event/competition. There is even a Hollywood movie about it called Butter. Watch the trailer.

 

 

This is a powerful installation that spans the theme of conformity, war and the loss if identity.   "A nearly deafening silence immediately strikes the viewer of Blain’s remarkably spartan installation. This soundlessness continues to resonate – and change – as one walks around her three-dimensional grid of strings and shoes, filling in its absences with haunting narratives and dark associations. Ominous connections between facelessness and force, blind obedience and inhuman strength, a sense of belonging and one of being utterly lost gain clarity as one contemplates her austere memorial to war and its – often abstract – if all-too-real consequences." by David Pagel 
 

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Writing in the journal Antiquity, Professor Jan Simek of the University of Tennessee and colleagues have published images of giant glyphs carved into the mud surface of the low ceiling of a cave in Alabama. The cave paintings include a diamond back snake about 3 meters and human figure measuring 1.8 meters. Carbon dating the residue of bamboo torches that were used to draw the images, archeologists 

dated the artworks to 133–433 AD.  Using photogrammetry, an inexpensive technique increasingly used in archaeology to record artifacts, buildings, landscapes and caves, Professor Simek's team was able to uncover the hidden motif for the first time.

Hi-tech techniques are becoming essential in archeology. One case that demonstrates this is the hidden stencils uncovered at cave of Maltravieso in Western Spain. The cave had been studied for more than 70 years, however, the stencil had been obscured by the build-up of calcium carbonate deposits and was not apparent until recently. Another technique known as reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) is similar to photogrammetry. 3D models can be illuminated from any angle. These can reveal far more complete and complex images. As airport security sensors become even smaller and more convenient, we can expect even more hidden artworks to be uncovered. 

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"Cave painting in the Maros-Pangkep caves near Maros, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, is among the oldest Stone Age art on the planet, according to a team of scientists led by Dr. Anthony Dosseto of the University of Wollongong, Australia, as reported in Nature (Autumn 2014)."  The oldest art in the cave is a hand stencil that dates before 37,900 BCE.  The world's oldest cave art that has been discovered is the El Castillo Cave paintings, which date to 39,000 BCE in Spain. Notably, one of the images painted at Leang Timpuseng Cave is "babirusa" (a type of SE Asian "pig-deer") dating to at least

33,400 BCE. All images were dated using Uranium/Thorium (U/Th) dating techniques. The discovery signifies that modern humans discovered art and cultural cognition before leaving Africa in the Upper Paleolithic era.

Sulawesi itself (previously called Celebes), the world's eleventh-largest island, and Maros Pangkep is a limestone hill that contains 90+ caves with ancient cave art by modern humans, as there are no archeological evidence of Homo erectus having reached Sulawesi. The caves were first visited by the British explorer and naturalist Alfred Wallace in July 1857, during his trip to the East Indies. He later published the results of his trip in his book "The Malay Archipelago", although he made no mention of any cave paintings. Dutch archeologist H.R. van Heereken was the first to write about the cave art in the 1950s. Then in 1993, the XI International Speleology Congress recommended that Maros Pangkep be adopted by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.  

As in the oldest sites of Franco-Cantabrian cave art - including Altamira Cave, El Castillo, Cosquer Cave and Pech Merle Cave - as well as the Karawari rock shelters of Papua New Guinea, and the Kalimantan Caves in Borneo, the Sulawesi caves contain both handprints and animal paintings.  "But the discoveries in the caves of Sulawesi have changed everything. Because we now know that very similar parietal art was being created at opposite ends of the world. Which is either an incredible coincidence, or else it shows that modern man shared a common creative ability - which, if true, means that he must have developed this ability BEFORE leaving Africa."

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finches with their beaks which adapted to their environment (different food niches) over time were evidence of natural selection, which led to speciation. With these observations, Darwin cast aside previous ideas proposed by Jean Baptiste Lamarck that species derived spontaneously from nothingness. "Darwin wrote about his travels in the book The Voyage of the Beagle and fully explored the information he gained from the Galapagos Finches in his most famous book On the Origin of Species." 

Were these early cave dwellers artists? Is there a difference between painting and documentation—or between drawing and doodling? 
I do think that the early cave dwellers could be artists. The art that they drew were symbolic and conveyed a message beyond just copying images on a wall. The murals of ferocious animals have been speculated to be related to hunting or even religious rituals. There is a difference between painting and documentation. Painting has a theme and message while documentation is capturing a perspective, an event, or time period. Drawing refers to all kinds of drawing (sketching, tracing, outlining) but doodling means drawing in a lackadaisical way that is carefree and often not deliberate or planned.
 

Are Charles Darwin’s surviving sketches of finches in the Galapagos fit to be called works of art?
I think the sketches by Darwin have higher historical value than artistic value, although they can still be considered works of art. Darwin was an adept artist, and his sketches not only documented the bird accurately, but also the work was done with precision and beauty.


If it were a Starbucks, they’d just build another one across the street. It’s harder to know what to do when a historical site is overcrowded. Some governments impose quotas, as Peru did in 2019 on visitors to the Incan city of Machu Picchu. Facing a similar situation when tourists swamped its Lascaux Caves to see the art on their walls, France—built another one across the street. 

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Archeologist Jean-Pierre Chadelle describes the advanced techniques of the prehistoric artists. "You can see how they used a magnesium pencil for the black horns of this bull," he says. "And for the softness of the muzzle they used another technique. They blow dried paint made from natural ochre colors through a tool crafted from hollow bird bones."

Like many incredible ar
cheological sites, Lascaux was harmed by over-tourism. It is a wonder that it was preserved so well for thousands of years.  Guillaume Colombo is the director of the new cave and museum complex at Lascaux, "The cave wasn't affected by sudden temperature changes," says Colombo. "And another reason it was protected is there's a layer of clay in the soil that waterproofs the cave. That's why Lascaux has no stalactites or stalagmites. It's a dry cave."

Standing in the first big room of the cave replica, known as The Hall of Bulls, prehistorian Jean Clottes says the animals don't really represent what these Cro Magnon humans would have hunted and eaten at the time. 
"That would have been mammoth or reindeer," he says. 
Clottes says the many bulls and horses were likely animals that played a role in the beliefs and spiritual life of these early humans. He also believes the paintings were done by several generations of painters, who passed down the knowledge.

The new replica museum boasts many high tech features, including personalized tablet in 10 languages.  The whole complex, known as Lascaux IV, is the third and most ambitious attempt to replicate the famous cave. It is precise down to three millimeters thanks to 3D digital scanning of the actual cave. Every nook and cranny is recreated using polysterine and resin, and the latest fiberglass techniques. The whole colossal process took Francis Ringenbach and a team of 34 artists three-year job, with the use of projection and copying everything pixel by pixel. The more the modern artists explored, they realized how ancient artists leveraged the natural surfaces and projections. Lascaux I and IV are simply amazing!

 

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There are now two Eiffel Towers in Paris, thanks to an artist who has decided to install a mini one. Phillipe Maindron built an Eiffel Tower that is around a tenth of the size of the original. He said he wanted something "carefree" - and named his baby Tower the Eiffela. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in Europe, and it stands at 330 metres tall, and the mini one is at 32 meters tall.

Here is the history of the Eiffel Tower. It started construction in 1887 and finished in 1889. 
 It took a team of between 150-300
 

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people to build it. The Eiffel Tower is made up of 18,038 iron parts, 2,500,000 rivets and four pillars to make up the 410 square-foot monument. It gets repainted every 7 years. It's main function is a radio signal tower and TV broadcast tower. It was meant to be temporary, but after a century it is still here.

Every year, more than 7 million visitors come from all over the world to see the Eiffel Tower, but there are actually 80 different replicas around the world.

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Lyon, France

The Metallic Tower of Fourvière, was actually built three years before Gustave Eiffel’s creation. 

Paris, Texas, USA

Texas and Tennessee both have a city name Paris and  both cities have constructed their own Eiffel Tower replicas, with Texas adding a cowboy hat. 

            Blackpool, United Kingdom
This  is the oldest known Eiffel Tower replica. Built in 1894, it has become the coastal town’s best known attraction, measuring 158 metres.

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             Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Half the size of the original, this replica is located next to a 2:3 scale model of the Arc de Triomph and Louvre! They are all part of the  Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino.

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                               Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo’s Eiffel Tower is the tallest on the list: taller, even, than the original Parisian version! At 333 metres, it’s the second tallest structure in Japan.

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                   Tianducheng, China
In 2007, China built Tianducheng, an entire town that was supposed to look like Paris, complete with a Champs-Elysées, Haussmannien architecture and an Eiffel Tower. 

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           Slobozia, Romania
This replica is located in the middle of a field in Romania and  it was commissioned by a Romanian billionaire at  less than 60 metres tall.

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            Sydney, Australia
Sydney’s Eiffel Tower is located on top of the AWA – broadcaster and maker of radios – headquarters, and is actually a radio transmission tower. Initially, it had a viewing platform, but changed in the rebuild in 1994.

             Lahore, Pakistan 
One of the most realistic Eiffel Tower replicas on the list is this one located in Pakistan. You can go up this tower just like the Parisian one for a city view. 

               Filiatra, Greece
This Greek town is often known as ‘Little Paris’ thanks to the model Eiffel Tower replica built at its entrance. It is the main tourist attraction in a place that is otherwise quiet and unknown.

Even if these sites weren’t overcrowded—more Baku than Kuala Lumpur—they would still require us to travel to them. Not everyone has the means. But, at least in theory, far more people could visit reconstructions of them in virtual reality, or VR. (VR was the last trendy two-letter acronym before AI.) Explore the offerings of the Australian company Lithodomos, then discuss with your team: would you support this technology being used in classrooms? Should more real-world tourism be replaced with VR visits? 

For people that love history or archeology, this is seriously cool! Australian company Lithodomos has reconstructed VR of ancient wonders and lets you immerse in its former glory and tour each location like you are traveling in time, but actually snuggling on your couch at home. It currently offers 60+ heritage sites and 500+ accurate 360 reconstruction. And, the price? $6 per location. Gonna try it this weekend!

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Gonzaga University history professor Andrew Goldman, an archeologist is teaching his students about Pompeii using Lithodomos. While traveling he met Simon Young, Lithodomos’ founder and also an Australian archeologist and wanted to test run the tech in a classroom-setting. In the past VR was expensive, but at these new prices, it is cheaper than textbooks and offers a much more immersive experience. Goldman remarks on how he wants students to explore the perspective of different people in history, not only the wealthy. Additionally, it offers information about public space, texture/colors and engages students to wonder how these wonders were constructed. So, while traditional textbooks are a source for facts and expert opinion, inspiring children to explore history with VR is a great addition. VR is only as immersive and complete as the history documentation we have. The rest is up to your imagination - that's the most important skill of a historian!

Check out the following VR implementations at museums, then discuss with your team: are these VR interpretations of past works themselves new works of art?

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Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani is of the most well-known painters whose iconic portraits captured the face of early twentieth century Paris. His works are often seen in great museums, galleries and auctions. He died at age 35 and the subsequent suicide of his young fiancée, Jeanne Hébuterne, drew more attention to his work. The Tate, one of the leading modern art museums in the UK is now exhibiting a VR of his final apartment/studio in Paris in 1919 after WWI. This is also the scene of his iconic self-portrait (see left). Here is a YouTube link to show you the artist's room. 

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The team at VR company Preloaded based the project on the original location (although it has been changed a lot), historical documentation and also accounts of those who knew him. "Each object included in the experience has been carefully researched, validated by art historians and modelled authentically by the team at Preloaded. This includes the cans of sardines, the cigarette packet and even the way the windows would have opened to let the light in." To recreate the artworks within the room, multiple museum powerhouses including the MET worked together to replicate even the brushstrokes. For Modigliani fans, this is definitely a must-go exhibition.

Visitors to the museum will be able to step back in time to the year 1863 by donning a VR headset and walking inside R. W. Ekman’s painting ‘The Opening of the Diet 1863 by Alexander II’. The exhibit lets visitors get a unique view of the Diet of Finland, (not their food) the legislative body that existed from 1809 to 1906. They will be able to speak with the emperor and representatives of the different social classes, or visit the Hall of Mirrors in what was formerly the Imperial Palace, now known as the Presidential Palace.

The VR experience forms part of a wider exhibition formed around 1860s Finland as an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia. The VR experience was built by Zoan Oy, who are the largest VR studio in Finland. The company have made it their mission to make Finland into the most virtual society in the world. Watch a YouTube video of the experience.

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Artists have been experimenting with integrating VR directly into their work. Consider the pieces below, then discuss with your team: would they still have as much artistic value without the VR elements? How soon do you think AI will be integrated into art in the same way, or is this integration already happening?

Inside a 19th century Methodist Church in London is a modern museum dedicated to VR. In the back, visitors will find a tiny room called the 360: VR Room. Inside the walls are lined with black foam to block out light and sound and perfect for virtual reality journey. 

For its inauguration, the Zabludowicz Collection by American artist Rachel Rossin was chosen. The work, titled I Came and Went as a Ghost Hand (Cycle 2), was made in 2015 during Rossin’s fellowship in virtual reality research and development at the New Museum in New York. Inside the visitors view something chaotic and definitely not real. The world features a pale yellow background and some recognizable and pixelated items that are actually Rossin's art studio.

"For Rossin, ‘inevitably it’s a metaphor for entropy’, the process by which digital data is compressed, distorted or lost over time holding up a mirror to the very nature of representation as loss, as the death of the real."

The world of VR is changing rapidly. Currently, only one person may interact with the VR world, but soon, that may change. Artist should continue to explore the boundaries of VR and institutions should collaborate on the display of technology. 

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Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) presents La Camera Insabbiata at its outdoor plaza. This virtual reality work, collaborated by American multi-media artist and musician Laurie Anderson and Taiwanese new media artist Hsin-Chien Huang won Best VR Experience at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. Accommodating four persons at a time, for the virtual journey, participants can travel through eight rooms, including The Cloud Room, The Anagram Room, The Dog Room, The Water Room, The Sound Room, The Dance Room, The Writing Room, and The Tree Room. Surrounded by murmurs by Laurie Anderson in the background, viewers can wander through story clusters, leap across otherworldly and dreamy rooms, as well as fall through layers of signs and numbers.

"Unlike the usual mission-based VR interactive structure, La Camera Insabbiata creates exclusive worlds based on personal experiences and memories. For the exhibition, Laurie Anderson recreated an site-specific painting inside the installation. Anderson states “I make art so I can feel free and understand who I am.” Co-creator Huang mentions in his statement that “VR offers possibilities for full liberation. ‘Imagination is the only limitation’”. La Camera Insabbiata will bring intimate, exclusive and tranquil experiences in abstract and unconventional ways."

This section of WSC covers art history and the many versions of famous paintings and how they are influenced by the artists' era and beliefs. These artworks tell different versions of the same historical event, creating intentional distortions which shape culture.

The link above is to a History.com article about the Biblical account of Judith and Holofernes in Book of Judith, and it is "a tale of female revenge, power and solidarity". Judith is a Jewish widow, who is known for her beauty. She is from the town of Bathulia, which was being invaded by an Assyrian general named Holofernes. She enters his tent, seduces him, he passes out with alcohol, and she 'brutally' cuts off his head. His head is taken away by an elderly servant named Abra. This story has inspired many artworks in the Renaissance and Baroque period, featuring the Power of Women. WSC wonders if they celebrate "female rage", what do you think?  

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As with all great paintings, it inspires the next generation of artists, and one of the most significant reiterations is by 20th century artist Robert Colescott titled "George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware - Page from an American History Textbook". Instead of George Washington, the hero is George Washington Carver, the American southern agronomist (study of agriculture) responsible for introducing peanuts to Alabama and ending the former slave state's dependency on cotton.  The painting uses a cartoon, satirical style (intentionally mocking) that uses bold, black generic characters in low-class roles to bring attention to racism, discrimination, and social structural divides that exist in the United States. 

The Castillo San Felipe de Morro is a significant landmark of Puerto Rico's legacy within the Caribbean and Americas. Once a prominent military outpost throughout its 500-year history, it is now a popular cruise ship destination. Also known as Old San Juan, it was founded in 1521 by Spanish settlers. The first fortification La Fortaleza (The Fortress) began construction in 1533 and is currently the governor's mansion. El Morro, the second fort on the islet, began construction in 1539 and finished in 1790 (250 years!). It started out as a cannon promontory site to a six level fortress. A half mile away is another fort called Fortin San Juan de la Cruz 

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and when ships enter the bay, the two forts create a crossfire. Puerto Rico defended itself from invasions by the British, Dutch and pirates.  

In 1898 during the Spanish-American War, the island changed hands from Spain to United States. El Morro was a military base during WWI and WWII. In 1961, it became a National Park and Museum and became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The ruins of Funai Castle in Oita has now been reimagined with holographic technology! With over 70,000 LED Lights the former glory of the Funai Castle now stands tall and proud, just like it did back in 1743. Funai Castle is a 16th-century castle, located in Ōita cityJapan. It was built by Ōtomo Sōrin in 1562. The castle was originally built with several turrets, all of which were burnt down with the three-story donjon in 1743. Some parts of the castle were rebuilt in the 1800’s, including two of the turrets which still stand today. 

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Architects and designers restored royal ruins across Europe to their former glory. London-based creative agency NeoMam Studios  released in 2020 animated images of seven medieval-era castle ruins digitally restored to their prime through 3D modeling. Commissioned by Australian insurance company Budget Direct, they created the images with architects who studied old blueprints, paintings and other miscellaneous documents.

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First up, this painting (right) is done by two Soviet artists in exile in the 1980s, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. The woman holds the decapitated head or broken statue of Joseph Stalin. In this artwork, I believe Stalin symbolizes the cruel oppressor, and the young women represents the modern generation of Soviets or Russians, fighting back to protect their homeland from totalitarianism. Unlike other paintings that feature a real man, the head of Stalin seems to be of a statue, as statues were used to promote Communist propaganda and give leaders God-like, supreme qualities.

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Art critic Angelica Fey shares in this very insightful article the history and evolution of the story Judith beheading Holofernes. Each era, artists male and female, religious and non-religious, have imbued this Biblical story with their own interpretations. How would you describe Judith: warrior, religious wife, female assassin, beautiful noble woman, seductress, femme fatale, rape victim, minority underdog?  Historically, there have been two main types: 1) strong/virtuous woman or      2) femme fatale (sexy dangerous woman).

Best recapped by the article: "Based on these examples, once can see that Judith acquired relevance during periods of cultural upheaval. A straightforwardly virtuous characterization in the Middle Ages, Judith became a warrior-goddess in the service of political allegory in the Renaissance; the embodiment of female rage in the Baroque era; and the textbook definition of a femme fatale in the late 19th century. It’s not surprising, then, that even in the 21st century, Judith still has something to say to modern audiences. Hers is the story of a woman who overpowers a much stronger enemy: Whether read through a feminist or political lens, the parable of the victorious underdog holds an undying appeal."  

The Evolution of Judith

Middle Ages Judith - virtuous, honorable, loyal

Early Renaissance Judith - political, symbolized minority overcoming underdog (David and Goliath)  

Late Renaissance Judith - richly adorned noble woman, seductive and aggressive

Baroque Era Judith - gory, violent

19th century Judith - beautiful and wicked, more nude

21st century Judith - strong women taking down oppressors

One of the most famous early illustrated books, Nuremberg Chronicle, this ambitious text chronicles the history of the world, from the Creation to 1493, with a final section devoted to the anticipated Last Days of the World. It was illustrated with more than 1,000 woodcuts designed by the talented German artists Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, with the assistance of their studio apprentices, among whom was the young Albrecht Dürer. Albrecht is one of the most influential artists of the German Renaissance of late1400s to early1500s.

Judith is still very much alive and praised in the sacred world. The figure of Judith is kept alive in the Jewish Tradition on the festival of Chanukah, symbolized by the eating of salty cheese. Pope John Paul II’s homily on Judith and Mary reaffirmed Judith’s traditional parallel to the mother of Christ. Roman Catholics still chant Judith’s liturgy on Mary’s name day in the daily office. In 2008, the Judith canticle will be sung in Catholic churches on September 12.

This biblical heroine’s strong arms and angled shoulders create lively diagonal lines that enhance her exaggerated musculature. Judith came to the rescue when General Holofernes and the Assyrian army laid siege to her city of Bethulia. Boldly infiltrating the Assyrian camp, Judith dined with Holofernes and, once he was drunk, she beheaded him with the help of her maid Abra. Using a pose copied from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, Giorgio Vasari portrayed Judith as a physically powerful woman, a visible indication of her inner courage.

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Artemisia was one of the few esteemed female painters of her time (Baroque), and she was the first woman to be admitted to the Academy of Art and Design in Florence. Her father was one of the followers of Caravaggio, so she had studied in the realistic style. However, her version takes it even further showing Judith unafraid of the gore, slaying with blood splashing unto her breasts and a look of determination in her eyes. This seems to express Artemisia's willingness to venture in this unwomanly occupation. Unlike her female peers, she focused on history paintings instead of portraits, which required higher intellect, imagination, and artistic interpretation. This painting is part of the collection of Uffizi, one of the most prominent museums in Italy.

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Pedro Américo was one of the most well-respected Brazilian artists of the late 1800s. His style fused neoclassic, realistic, and romantic styles. Unfortunately, not all of his works in literature or art is well remembered. His version of Judith features her dressed lavishly standing over the head of Holofernes and the bloody knife at her feet. She has a look of seduction and innocence that is different from the past interpretations with dramatic violence or gore. She seems to celebrate the conquest of an oppressor.

Kehinde Wiley is one of the most prominent contemporary African American artists and had his start in Harlem, New York. Since young, his mother had him pursue art to keep him off the streets. After he achieved fame internationally, he was selected to paint a portrait of Obama for the Smithsonian Museum. Wiley is known for his realistic portraiture and his “urban-meets-classical” style. His work explores the ways how race and power are represented in art.  His Judith comes from his series called "Economy of Grace", and features street casting, finding models or strangers off the streets. In this painting, the model, whom he met at a mall, wears a designer dress by Givenchy and holds the head of a white woman. Instead of its historical Biblical story, it symbolizes overcoming white supremacy for minority women of today.

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In 2023, when the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague lent out one of its most famous works—Johannes Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring (1665)—it launched a competition, titled My Girl with a Pearl, for something to hang in its place. Over 3500 artists submitted their reimaginings of the original Vermeer. The winner was a lovely work titled A Girl with Glowing Earrings—which turned out to have been made using AI. The museum was criticized, even as the German-based artist Julian van Dieken behind it pointed out that he had been upfront about his methods. Discuss with your team: should museums be allowed to display art generated using AI tools?

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This iconic painting on canvas by Dutch master Vermeer is perhaps one of the most recognizable paintings in the world thanks to a movie starring Scarlet Johannson in 2004.  It is not a portrait of a real person, but a tronie, a painting of an imaginary figure with an expressive face and striking details.  The painting shows a girl in exotic dress, wearing an oriental turban and very large earrings, that is probably out of her economic level. It is often called the Dutch Mona Lisa because of its mysterious and enigmatic gaze. 

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The Hague’s Mauritshuis museum loaned out its crown jewel, Girl With a Pearl Earring, for a blockbuster Johannes Vermeer exhibition currently on view at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and  launched “My Girl With a Pearl,” asking any interested artists to reimagine the 1665 piece. Out of nearly 3,500 submissions, the contest’s judges narrowed the field to 170 finalists, and then 5 winners. The finalists can be seen on a loop in a digital frame, while the winners hang on the museum’s walls. Of the five winners, one stands out: The piece, called A Girl With Glowing Earrings, was created with the A.I. program Midjourney. Submitted by German A.I. artist Julian van Dieken, the portrait forgoes the soft lines of the original artwork, opting instead for a sharp, photorealistic look. Critiques have run the gamut, with some decrying the use of any A.I.-generated art, while others condemn the choice to elevate machine-created images over the handiwork of real human artists.

Personally, we think that using AI or technology to create is a new realm which should not be discriminated. The artist or AI artist was candid and did not deliberately hide the use of AI, meaning it was not unethical. It is like craftsman making everything by hand, while others use 3D printers. It doesn't take away from the creativity of the work or quality of the artist. The points of appreciation are different and technology should be a new medium and not a point of contention. 

“We purely looked at what we liked,” says a museum spokesperson to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, per Google Translate. “Is this creative? That’s a tough question.”  

Some artists have heavily condemned the platform and other similar tools like Stable Diffusion for scraping potentially copyrighted works to create datasets, allegedly without seeking artists’ permission. Midjourney and DeviantArt are part of a class-action lawsuit recently filed by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California accusing the platforms of copyright infringement. 

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Napoleon Crossing the Alps, oil equestrian portrait by celebrated French artist Jacques-Louis David that was completed in 1801. This idealized portrait is perhaps the most powerful portrayal of NapoleonDavid was the ultimate political artist. He was a fervent advocate of the French Revolution (1787–99), almost losing his life on the guillotine. Then, in the next wave of political events, he became an equally enthusiastic supporter of Napoleon Bonaparte, using his talent to glorify the new emperor.

 

This painting commemorates Napoleon’s journey across the Alps in 1800, leading his army on the invasion of northern Italy. The scene was chosen by Napoleon himself, and he instructed the artist to show him “calm, mounted on a fiery steed.” To achieve more drama, he replaced the mule from Napoleon’s actual journey (on a fair summer day) with a stallion (battling a blistering storm). The most accurate thing about the painting was the uniform. It had only been a year since the actual event happened; surely some people knew how inaccurate the work was, and his own face in it was bland and undetailed—but Napoleon reputably loved the finished product. “Nobody knows if the portraits of the great men resemble them [anyway],” the victorious general offered, by way of justification.

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Smarthistory contributor art history and Literature Professor Ben Pollitt explained his love for the iconic work/propaganda. "Some find it stiff and lifeless, proof of Jacques-Louis David’s ineptness at capturing movement. Some see it not as art, but propaganda, pure and simple. Some snigger at its overblown, action-packed, cliff-hanging momentousness, with shades of “Hi ho Silver, away!” Some have it down as a sort of beginning of the end moment in David’s career, before he officially became Napoleon’s artist-lackey. Whatever one might say, though (and a lot has been said about Napoleon Crossing the Alps), it is still arguably the most successful portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte that was ever made. Personally, I love it."

 

Was Napoleon right in recognizing that history would remember how David had portrayed him?

Yes and no. Napolean the strategist and politician was keen to leave a heroic legacy and to him that was more important that his short-term reputation. He okayed it out of self-interest to preserve his legacy. However, he lacked the social responsibility to portray his experiences accurately, to show an unbiased account. Politician yes. Historian no.  In someways, it reflects his intelligence in recognizing that the crowd is most swayed by "awesome" visuals, but vice versa, it also shows a lack of confidence to be authentic.  This practice of glamorizing political figures, it applies to all modern politicians too. 

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Believe it or not, Napoleonica is a real thing. It means people collecting things about Napoleon. This painting is in the collection of Queen Elizabeth through her Uncle George IV. Purchased by Queen Victoria and presented to Prince Albert on his birthday, 26 August 1853.  Delaroche’s painting, produced over thirty years after Napoleon’s death, depicts the then First Consul as he crossed the St Bernard Pass, the shortest route across the Alps, to surprise the Austrian army in Italy. Unlike David’s propaganda-laden and dramatic painting of the same subject, in which Napoleon rides a rearing white charger (Château de Malmaison), Delaroche instead based his picture on the account by the historian Adolphe Thiers, published in 1845. The pensive Napoleon rides on a blinkered and sure-footed mule, led by a local guide who walks to the side while the military entourage follows.

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For those of you that have studied American history, this masterpiece titled "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze is definitely familiar. Leutze is a German American history painter very famous in the mid 1800s. It captures a magnificent image of December 25, 1776 when Washington led the troops across the Delaware to defeat the Hessian soldiers at the Battle of Trenton. This was a critical turning point in the Revolutionary War and gave the Patriots a new spark of hope. Leutze was a loyal abolitionist, and the piece also became an icon for the Civil War as it reminded the fractured Americans of a time of unity and its founding principles.  

Artsy editor Isaac Kaplan explains the many historical accuracies and inaccuracies for this influential masterpiece.  So, there is a list of the factual mistakes and why.

 

1) Washington standing - The most obvious is Washington standing in the row boat. He should be standing, as should everyone since frigid water would be at the bottom of the boat, but his precarious pose is absolutely wrong.

2) Washington's appearance - During this battle, he was a healthy 44 years old, not the aging man in the painting.

3) The lighting - The event actually happened under the cover of night, not at dawn. This was probably a purposeful mistake to capture the glorious lighting of dawn on the flag. 

4) The flag - The version of the flag in use was not the right one in 1776.

5) The river - The real river was only a few hundred meters, not as wide and daunting as the picture portrays.

He applauds Leutze on accuracy in Washington's uniform, which he did have a copy of. Artists back then took some liberties for the sake of artistic drama, but he did try to get some details correctly. 

 

Interestingly, Leutze did model the men on the boat with real Americans that he found in Europe. He included a variety of different characters, including two officers, an African American, a Scottish American, two farmers in coon hats or wide brimmed hats, and even a Native American. This was a deliberate attempt to showcase America's diversity and how the war was an inclusive event. 

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Guildford Castle VR is an entertaining and educational historical experience which enables the user to virtually travel through space and time to explore one of England’s earliest castles.

Our first focus was on capturing and recreating the modern-day environment.

The team at Historic VR used a Faro Focus S350 LiDAR scanner to scan the overall site and then processed a model in RealityCapture, providing an instant “white box” of millimetre accuracy. Throughout the creation of the modern-day environment, this served as an exact placement and shape reference for all assets: large structures, props and even the foliage. Accuracy was very important to the team, who took a large number of high-resolution photographs: over 16,000 photographs in total for the castle keep, other structural assets and environment props, as well as over 100 LiDAR scans across the entire site.

They ended up doing a virtual reality of an entire town, paying super attention to each foliage, interior furniture and of course buildings.  As with the recreation of the medieval town, this involved meticulous research. We took inspiration from English Heritage’s excellent real-life restoration of Dover Castle’s great tower of the same period, though were also careful to independently research each and every element. The items are all based on surviving contemporary or near contemporary examples where possible. Inspiration was also taken from period manuscripts, for example the Canterbury and Eadwine Psalters.

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On 31 October, 2019, a massive fire tore through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shuri Castle in Okinawa, sparking a global reaction and comparisons with the devastating fire at Notre Dame, another World Heritage site. The New York Times and other outlets reported that Japanese officials had expressed alarm and concern about the vulnerability of domestic sites like Shuri Castle after the fire in Paris in April 2019.  In Japan, the destruction of Shuri Castle throws up similar issues, but also sparks much more complex debates. Fortunately, like Notre Dame, the fire at Shuri Castle did not result in any casualties. 

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any casualties. Like Notre Dame, the immediate response was that the site would be rebuilt. Furthermore, although international headlines focused on the “500-year old world heritage site” and “600-year-old Shuri Castle complex,” they also mentioned that the castle had essentially been rebuilt in 1992 before being designated a World Heritage site in 2000. The focus of coverage has generally been on the role of Shuri Castle as the symbol of the former Ryukyu Kingdom.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Castles were built for defensive purposes and often located in strategic positions and equipped with fortifications to protect against attacks.

  • Palaces serve no defensive purpose; instead, they are luxurious residences designed to showcase wealth and power, featuring elaborate architecture and decorations.

  • Buckingham Palace is a prime example of a palace, situated in central London not for defense but as a grand royal residence intended to impress visitors and display the royal family's stature.

Castles were built throughout Europe and the Middle East primarily for protection of the king and his people. Some common features of castles include:

  • thick walls and heavy gates to keep invaders out

  • high towers for keeping a lookout over the surrounding lands

  • parapets or slits in the walls for archers to shoot with cover

  • gatehouses for admitting allies instead of allowing enemies into the castle

  • moats for defensive purposes

Palaces, on the other hand, have no defensive purposes. They're meant for showing off — big time.

 

This is where the spoils of war might be displayed, along with elaborate architecture, golden thrones, massive banquet halls, gilded table settings and dozens — maybe even hundreds — of sumptuously decorated rooms. 

Nonmilitary people as well as government officials resided there. The term comes from Palatine Hill in Rome, where the first palaces were built to display wealth.

The Winter Palace is a palace in Saint Petersburg that served as the official residence of the House of Romanov, previous emperors, from 1732 to 1917. The palace and its precincts now house the Hermitage Museum. Following a serious fire, the palace's rebuilding of 1837 left the exterior unchanged, but large parts of the interior were redesigned in a variety of tastes and styles, leading the palace to be described as a "19th-century palace inspired by a model in Rococo style". One of the most famous locations is the stairway.

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Detail from an engraved panorama of London by Claes Visscher showing the bridge in 1616.

The Rambagh Palace in JaipurRajasthan is the former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur located 5 miles (8.0 km) outside the walls of the city of Jaipur. The first building on the site was a garden house built in 1835 for the wet nurse of prince Ram Singh II. In 1887, during the reign of Maharaja Thakur Sawai Madho Singh, it was converted into a modest royal hunting lodge, as the house was located in the midst of a thick forest at that time. It is now operated as a five-star hotel by the Taj Hotels Group.

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Old London Bridge is one of the most popular paintings in the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood and the masterpiece was painted in 1630 by Dutch artist Claude De Jongh. It gives modern audience a perspective into the development of London during that period of time and helps us "reimagine" the past from an artistic perspective, including architecture and structure. This is important as the city would be engulfed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. 

Historically, construction of the London Bridge began in 1176 and for centuries it was the only passage across the river Thames.  Spanning 900+ feet, it was once the longest inhabited bridge in Europe. A bridge had existed across the Thames since the time of the Romans, but it was previously made of wood and were often replaced. The popular nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down" was probably inspired by a battle in 1014, when the London was occupied by Danes and Olaf Haraldsson (later King of Norway) pulled the bridge down in an effort to recapture the city. Between 1077 and 1136, the original bridge was damaged by 8 fires and even a tornado. In 1176, Peter the Bridge Master oversaw construction, which took 30 years with wooden stakes filled with rubble and 19 pointed arches. 

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John Rennie’s new London Bridge, photographed in 1911. The bridge, completed in 1831, was sold in 1968 and moved to Arizona. 

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Believe it or not, the High Line was once destined for demolition. Luckily, the community rallied together to repurpose it instead, creating the park you see today, for everyone to enjoy. It has since become a global inspiration for cities to transform unused industrial zones into dynamic public spaces.

 

In the Mid-1800s, freight trains were dangerous to pedestrians and by 1910, more than 540 people have been killed in train accidents. In 1920s, patrols on horses rode to warn people of oncoming trains. 1924 the West Side Improvement project began the plan to elevate the rail line. In 1934, the first High Line was operational, carrying tons of meat and produce. 1960s to 80s, train usage dwindled due to trucking, and by 1983, plans for repurposing were proposed. Plans stalled until 1999 and Friends of the High Line, a non-profit advocated for its preservation. In 2003, a competition was hosted to design its transformation. After much legislation and public support, finally in 2009, High Line Art and Park were open. Now it boasts a 1.45-mile greenway with public spaces, gardens, public programs, performances and teen engagement, and best of all - it's all free. 

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 tax revenue over its 25-year development cycle, it is a symbol of Athens’ renaissance as the country recovers from a decade-long debt crisis. The city will need to integrate Elliniko into its existing infrastructure of roads and metro lines, but most are optimistic about the overall impact and the breath of excitement.

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With sustainability on everyone's mind, the green-roof movement is gaining momentum in recent years. With land being a scarce and expensive resource, people are going to the roof. The city of Chicago, for instance, boasts 359 roofs partially or fully covered with vegetation.  Environmental benefits: from reducing the buildings' energy costs to cleaning the air to mitigating the urban heat island effect.

According to Angie Mason, director of the Chicago Botanic Garden's agricultural program, who runs a giant roof-top farm atop McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America, urban farmers are learning that not every green roof is well-suited for farming. "You're looking at liability and insurance risk of having people on a rooftop, and then you've got to make sure it's structurally sound enough to withstand the extra soil weight for production," says Mason. "And you've got to make sure that you're training people so that they aren't compromising the rooftop membrane" and damaging it.

There are many obstacles to transforming more green roofs into farms: from permitting, to delivering soil and water to the roof, to dealing with growing conditions that are typical of roofs (sun, wind, snow). And most of all neglect - out of sight and lack of awareness. People have been container-gardening on roofs for a long time with micro-gardening taking off. 

A backlash against industrial-size solar farms is brewing. At least 75 big solar projects were vetoed across the United States last year, compared to 19 in 2021. And between January 2021 and July 2022, planning permission for 23 new solar farms was rejected across England, Wales, and Scotland, when only four projects were refused between 2017 and 2020—representing the highest rejection rate in five years. People very often don’t want solar farms in their backyard.

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France has found a solution: transforming its parking lots into solar farms nationwide. The French Senate has approved a bill requiring new and existing lots with more than 80 spaces to be at least half covered with canopies of solar panels.  Parking lots with 400 plus spaces must be compliant by 2026; smaller ones with 80 to 400 spaces will be given until 2028.

Previously the strategy has been establishing solar farms in rural areas with cheaper land, but that also crowds out other options such as agriculture or even nature preservation. Sending the solar power across long distance requires ugly cables and is expensive too. A 2015 study concluded that within California’s cities and other developed areas, there’s sufficient solar development potential to power the state three to five times over. Germany, meanwhile, has introduced tax breaks for anyone using rooftop photovoltaics. 

According to a 2021 study Joshua Pearce, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Western Ontario coauthored, installing solar panels over the parking lots of the 3,751 Walmart supercenters spread across the US alone could generate the same amount of electricity to that of around a dozen coal-fired power plants. And, parking lot canopies provide shade for the cars. Even though it is several times more expensive to install solar canopies than directly on the ground, you are essentially looking at free real estate and repurposing wastage into savings that could reduce climate change. 

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