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PRATT INSTITUTE, SCHOOL OF INFORMATION AND LIBRARY SCIENCE
Sisters: A Retrospective A Mock Exhibition Catalog Allison M. Cloyd 6/14/2012
This is the final project for LIS 629, taught by Kenneth Soehner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which met May 14- May 25, 2012.
PERSONAL REFLECTION ............................................................................................................................ 39
Sisters: A Retrospective Introduction to a Theme Humans value relationships. We observe and discuss them on a regular basis- the relationship between two objects- between an object and a person- between two people- between a group of people. The relationships among a group of friends, parent and child, employee and boss, student and professor, are all subject to constant scrutiny by outsiders. We are constantly observing and discussing these bonds, and in doing so, as people who have their own relationships, assume that on some level we are good at identifying what links two people together. As a culture, we spend time representing relationships in addition to evaluating them. These representations, in any medium, can be tricky to interpret; without the knowledge or insight the creator or owner may have, a viewer must rely on clues left behind to decide who these people are and why they are together; that is, what is their relationship? Right now, we focus on interpreting one particular relationship found in every culture on the planet: the relationship between sisters. This particular tie is fascinating for how is both a forced and chosen state of being. One doesn’t have any choice about a blood relation- that simply is. A spiritual sister or a relationship forged in a time of great need is often compared to the same blood bond between two women who share a genetic heritage. That is one way of looking at the physical connection between sisters, but what about the connection between two souls? Toni Morrison, author, wrote, “A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves- a special kind of double.” Sisterhood is often a balancing act between a person’s individualism and a shared sense of purpose, family, history, or even personality. Another way of thinking about sisterhood is, as Michael Cohen wrote, “[as] a relation characterized by difference within likeness”- sisters are mirrors for each other. Their relationship reflects interpersonal dynamics, how sisters react to each other, and how as a unit they react to the world at large.
This exhibition This exhibition is a series of twelve objects found on display throughout the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There are three oil paintings, two figurines, two wall paintings, two sculptures, one watercolor, one lacquer tray, and one sarcophagus. These art objects come from ten cultures and span more than four thousand years in age. Each one demonstrates some aspect of sisterly relations, at varying levels of clarity and of obscurity. Some are obvious- sisters with similar facial features or dress, in homes or at activities that are meant to show off their relationship. Others are less so; the subjects in the art must be examined more closely, the time and place analyzed in finer detail, the process of the object itself understood. Instead of starting with the oldest object and working our way into a more modern time, we start with the newest painting, John Singer Sargent’s The Wyndham Sisters, painted in 1899, and Auguste Renoir’s The Daughters of Cautelle Mendes, painted 1888, as examples of how modern culture interprets representations of sisters. From there, we step back in time again to the 17th century and British painter Sir Peter Lely’s depiction of aristocratic sisters during the Interregnum; on the other side of the world a Ragamala from India showing ladies in a pavilion- this is our first example of a piece where the medium of the object tells as much as the depiction. From there we go to 16th century Ming China and the controlled culture of noble women, and then back to 12th century India, where the lineage of gods and goddesses varies by region. Staying in the 12th century we go to Western Europe and a Christian fresco from Spain, keeping with the theme of divine sisterhood. The next four objects represent the ancient world in Rome, Greece, and Egypt, and the importance of family obligation and female upbringing. The last piece in the collection is a pre-history figurine, one body with two heads, from Ecuador, and with it a reflection on sisterhood’s literal relationship stemming from one body. The purpose of this exhibition is to demonstrate how our interpretation of sisterhood has changed and morphed over time, beginning with the familiar and ending with the exotic. The viewer must contemplate how the art reflects the bond between the sisters.
The Wyndham Sisters: Lady Elcho, Mrs. Adeane, and Mrs. Tennant John Singer Sargent, Florence 1856- 1925 London American 1899 Oil on Canvas Painting, 115in H x 84 1/8in W Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1927 On display in Gallery 771 27.67
This oil painting of Lady Elcho, Mrs. Adeane, and Mrs. Tennant, or as they were known before marriage, Madeline, Pamela, and Mary Wyndham, was painted in their parent’s London house at Belgrave Square between February of 1899 and February 1900. This very large portrait was commissioned by their father, Percy Wyndham, for 2,000 pounds in 1898 to master portraiture artist John Singer Sargent. Sargent painted around 150 portraits between 1891 and 1903 (Herdrich, 2000), but afterwhich which time he “retired” from portrait painting to focus on his watercolors, and in 1907 stopped painted portraits almost completely. Previous works by Sargent of sisters culminate here in The Wyndham Sisters. His 1882 piece The Daughters of Edmund D. Boit is one of his earliest depictions of sisters, and is sometimes criticized for not showing any kind of relationship between the girls- but whether this is a lack of talent on the part of the artist or a true to life portrayal of a feeling of separateness and individuality is hard to tell. His early works were often tense, as one critic commented in 1885 (Ratcliff, 1982), but the tension could be a reflection of the requirements to be part of a higher social circle. In 1884 his portrait The Misses Vickers, this tension was visible again but so was the relationship between the three sisters. The three women stand out in a dark and moody setting, with two sitting closely together and a third just separate, but with her body turned toward the first two, indicating her interest in them. She looks directly at the viewer, while 3
one sister looks off into the distance and the third doesn’t even bother to look up from her book; if she is needed, her sisters will let her know. This kind of intimacy is demonstrated again in The Wyndham Sisters. Dressed all in glimmering shades of white, the three sisters are leaning against each other and a sofa, in a dark room adorned with magnolias and watched over by a portrait of their mother (painted by George Frederick Watts in the 1860s). Only the youngest looks directly at the viewer as she reclines against her oldest sister, who looks over her shoulder, as the middle sister sits just slightly apart, one arm extended over the back of the sofa towards her sisters and one hand in her lap as she looks opposite the eldest. They are very clearly sisters; dark hair, fair skin, and very similar facial features, while each is unique in age and physique. There’s a sense of comfort- there are no strict poses or formal presentations. The three look as if they’ve just returned from a social engagement and are now discussing and reflecting on the evening’s festivities. It’s this mix of signals- clothing, setting, physical traits, relaxed poses- that tell the viewer the relationship between these three women is long-standing and long lasting, as well as insurmountable. All three are married at this point, as the title says, but return to their parents house to find with each other perhaps a sense of belonging.
References Adelson, W., Janis, D.S., Kilmurray, E., Ormond, R., Oustinoff, E. (1997). Sargent abroad: Figures and landscapes. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers. Chateris, E. (1927). John Sargent. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Fairbrother, T. (2000). John Singer Sargent: The sensualist. New Haven: Yale University Press. Gallati, B.D. (2004). Children of the Gilded Era: Portraits by Sargent, Renoir, Cassatt, and their contemporaries. London: Merrell Publishers. Herdrich, S.L., & Weinberg, H.B. (2000). American drawings and watercolors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Singer Sargent. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This catalogue of Sargent works in the Met is a well-researched presentation that nicely brings together the relationship the Met had with Sargent during his life, and after as his sister donated more of his sketches and watercolors to various institutions. Presenting from the point of view of a museum that actively pursued his work, Herdrich can offer more insight into how Sargent painted, his process of drawing on canvas compared to a more traditional style of sketching and then painting. Kleeblatt, N., ed. (1999). John Singer Sargent: Portraits of the Wertheimer family. New York: The Jewish Museum. The Wertheimer family portraits build a complete view of Sargent’s talent as an artist. His portrait of Ena and Betty Wertheimer, painted in 1901, provide a nice foil to the Wyndham sister portrait. The two of them are standing and dressed in different colors, compared to the three Wyndhams all in white and sitting on a sofa. The connection between each set of sisters is still visible, and the discussion of the Wertheimer family helps build an emotional connection to the portrait. Olson, S. (1986). John Singer Sargent: His portrait. New York: St. Martin's Press. Ormund, R. & Kilmurray, E. (1998). John Singer Sargent: Complete paintings. New Haven: Yale University Press. This catalogue raisonné of Sargent’s work was the most valuable resource I had for researching the portrait of the Wyndham sisters. Comparing their portrait with those of other sisters, especially the Boit sisters and the Vickers sisters, enabled me in tracing some of the changes that Sargent made in style and presentation. Ratcliff, C. (1982). John Singer Sargent. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers. Rynd, C.W., Nairne, S., Jenkins, D.F., & Berman, A. (2002). Whistler, Sargent, and Steer: Impressionists in London from Tate Collections. Nashville: First Center for the Visual Arts.
The Daughters of Catulle Mendes, Huguette (18711964), Claudine (1876-1937), and Helyonne (1879-1955) Auguste Renoir, Limoges 1841-1919 Cagnes-sur-Mer, French 1888 Oil on Canvas Painting, 63 ¾ in H x 51 1/8in W The Walter H. and Lenore Annenberg Collection, 1998 Gift, 2002 Bequest
On display in Gallery 821 1998.325.3
Three girls of varying sizes stand around a piano. All three have similar blonde-red hair, pale, fair skin, and round face shapes. They are the daughters of Catulle Mendes, a writer and publisher of Symbolist poetry and his companion, Augusta Holmes, a virtuoso pianist and composer. This was Renoir’s attempt to recapture some of the success he had with Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children, painted in 1878 and met with great commendation at the 1879 Salon. He wrote to his friend Mendes, asking to paint his children, and while today it is one of Renoir’s most celebrated and beloved portraits, it was virtually ignored at the 1888 group exhibition and the 1890 Salon. The coloring is unusual, with an overarching theme of terracotta, mixed in with fabrics that have an ethereal feeling to them. One author suggested that this was an experiment in color that didn’t quite work out, as Renoir never tried it again (Barnes, 1935). The oldest sister Huguette sits at the piano, hands on the keyboard but not looking at her music, as if she were just ending or just about to finish. Claudine, the middle sister, stands next to her holding her violin, while their youngest sister Helyonne looks at them while leaning on the piano, watching or interrupting, or perhaps singing along. The three of them create this still 6
moment; no one is moving, yet they are doing something together. The oldest two are in the process of performing or practicing, the youngest is still excluded. Huguette is of an age where she wears long dresses and silk stockings; her younger sisters are still in short skirts and socks. They are a prime example of looking at your sister to see yourself, and yet viewing your sister as someone completely different. Renoir set them in multiple pairs and as a unified group, subtly showing how they are related and yet unique. Sisterhood must find this balance, yet to find it at so young an age would be rare, which is why the artist takes it upon himself to show it to them as well as us the viewers. Renoir was very fond of painting women and children, seeing them as “a continual joy to the onlooker,” while “[wanting] to paint human beings naturally, like fruit” (Georges Riviere in Robida, 1962). There are many examples of his time spent with sisters- Yvonne and Christine Lerolle at the Piano, Alice and Elisabeth Cohen d’Anvers, Two Sisters (On the Terrace). Each is an attempt to show each set of sisters as sisters and as individuals. That was the challenge- to show the sentimentality of childhood, while conveying the personality of the sitters themselves (Dumas, 2005).
References Baily, C.B. (1997). Renoir's portraits: Impressions of an age. New Haven: Yale University Press. Bailey’s critique of Alice and Elisabeth Cohen d’Anvers (1881) helps clarify some of the motifs seen in the Mendes sister’s portrait. Two sisters (On the Terrace) is also in this catalogue, giving yet another point of comparison for Renoir’s portraits of sisters. Barnes, A.C. & de Mazia, V. (1935). The art of Renoir. New York: Minton, Blach and Co. The portrait of the Mendes girls is examined here, especially the reasons that it wasn’t popular when first brought to the Salon. The odd coloring and unusual presentation of the fabric are at the top of the list for its failure, but also for its popularity today. Benjamin, R. & Einecke, C. (2010). Renoir in the 20th century. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz. Druick, D.W. (1997). Renoir. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago. Dumas, A. & Collins, J. (2005). Renoir's women. London: Merrell Publishers. Gallati, B.D. (2004). Children of the Gilded Era: Portraits by Sargent, Renoir, Cassatt, and their contemporaries. London: Merrell Publishers. This book compares and contrasts various depictions of children, explaining traditions like the use of props to convey personality, and the growing interest in showing children as individuals rather than miniatures of their parents. This individuality might explain why some of Renoir’s portraits of children were not as popular, since he went outside the norm and perhaps didn’t deliver what was expected of him. Goodrich, L. (1937). Renoir. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 32(7), 163, 177-180. Koeppe, W., Baetjer, K., & Munger, J.H., et. al. (2003). Europe 1700-1800. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 61(2), Recent Acquisitions, 23-26. Langdon, H. "Renoir, Pierre-Auguste." The Oxford Companion to Western Art, edited by Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. Robida, M. (1962). Renoir: Children. Translated by Diana Imber. Lausanne: International Art Book.
Mary Capel (1630-1715), Later Dutchess of Beaufort, and Her Sister Elizabeth (1633-1678), Countess of Carnarvon Sir Peter Lely (Pieter van der Faes), Soest 1618- 1680 London Dutch 1657? Oil on Canvas Painting, 51 ¼ in H x 67in W Bequest of Jacob Ruppert, 1939 On Display in Gallery 518 39.65.3
This oil portrait, painted sometime between 1653 and 1660, mostly likely 1657, depicts Mary and Elizabeth Capel, sisters to Arthur, baron Capel and Earl of Essex, is one of seven, and perhaps eight halflength portraits Sir Peter Lely painted of the Capel family after he was introduced to them in 1653 (Baetjer, 2004). The style of the dresses Mary and Elizabeth are wearing would suggest that this could be dated to the Mary’s remarriage in August of 1657. Mary sits on the left, pointing to a bit of greenery in her hand, a nod to the Capel family’s botanical interests and love of gardens. Elizabeth, on the right, holds a painting in a small frame, acknowledging her amateur artistry. The two women are remarkably familiar in face- so much so, that were it not for this painting occurring before the heyday of Sir Peter’s “portrait factory” it would seem that the artist used the same model and just made a few changes. Their dresses are luscious to the extreme, with gorgeous flowing fabrics that posses a shine almost unimaginable in a painting. The colors of the dresses work in harmony, but are not the same, one brown and one gold. The colors show a relationship though, just as their extremely similar facial styles and hair styles do. Sir Peter Lely came to England from the Netherlands between 1641 and 1645, and by 1647 had stepped into Van Dyck’s place as the fashionable portrait painter (Edwards, 1957), a place he would hold until his death in 1680. Lely was in England at a time of great upheaval- the time of Cromwell’s Commonwealth and the Interregnum. It would have been during this time that the Capel sisters were painted. During the time of the Commonwealth, art was “stern” and “largely stagnatory” (Edwards, 9
1957). This “plain style” is often attributed directly to Cromwell, for whom everything was “plain.” He saw it as a mode of piety and power (Knoppers, 1998) and in response, so did the aristocracy that stayed in England after the beheading of Charles I in 1649. Clothing was opulent, but without ornament. There was a general lack of fashion and in portraiture, a general lack of movement; the Capel sisters’ portrait reflects this stationary feeling. They are seated, with one looking directly at the viewer and the other looking at her sister, as if to attract her attention to the greenery in her hand. While the fabrics they wear are rich, the scenery around them is rather dull in such a way as to not incite excitement, though painted with great talent. It’s hard to see a spiritual relationship between Mary and Elizabeth in this painting. Like how behavior and fashion was restrained under a Puritan influence, perhaps expressions of affection were restrained as well. This portrait is certainly very different than The Wyndham Sisters- the relaxed sense of being at home with family is gone, a reflection of a different time and era. Both portraits are of sets of English, married sisters, but the Wyndhams are as relaxed as the Capels are not. It may be that Mary and Elizabeth were never as close as Madeline, Pamela, and Mary Wyndham were, or, were not as good at pretending they were.
References Baetjer, K. (2009). British paitnings in the Metropolitah Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Baker, C.H.C. (1912). Lely and the Stuart portrait painters: A study of English portraiture before and after Van Dyck. London: Philip Lee Warner Publisher. Edwards, R. & Ramsey, L.G.G. (1957). The connoissuer period guides to the houses, decoration, furnishing, and chattels of the classic periods: The Stuart period, 1603-1714. Michigan: Reynal. Knoppers, L.L. (1998). The Politics of portraiture: Oliver Cromwell and the plain style. Renaissance Quarterly, 51(4), 1282-1319. This article was important to understanding how the political climate of mid-17th century England trickled down into fashion and art, as political change always does. The shift from the king who was on the fence about being Protestant versus Catholic to a severely Puritanical Protectorate was visualized in less ornate clothing and in turn, less ornate painting. Millar, O. (1978). Sir Peter Lely, 1618-1680: Exhibition at 15 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1. London: National Portrait Gallery. This exhibition catalogue gives more of a timeline for the relationship between Sir Peter Lely and the Capel family, helping to cement the date of the portrait of Mary and Elizabeth. Rogers, D. "Lely, Sir Peter." The Oxford Companion to Western Art, editied by Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. Smith, S.C.K., ed. (1922). Lely and Kneller, British Artists Series. London: Philip Allan and Company. This biography of Sir Peter Lely, combined with the life and works of Sir Godfrey Kneller, though almost one hundred years old is still one of the best introductions to Sir Peter Lely and his time in England. The similarities and influences of Van Dyck’s work in England is detailed, as well as the influence of the Commonwealth period on portraits done between 1650 and 1660, explaining some of the severity of the portrait of Mary and Elizabeth Capel. Toynbee, M.R. (1945). The Early work of Sir Peter Lely. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 86(506), 125-127. Whinny, M. & Millar O. (1957). English art, 1625-1714. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ladies in a Pavilion: Page from a Dispersed Ragamala Series (Garland of Musical Modes) Rajasthan style, Marwar, India 1640-1650 Ink and Opaque Watercolor on Paper, 9 ¾ in H x 8in W Rogers Fund, 1955 Not currently on display 55.121.28
A ragamala is a pictorial representation of a raga, or a set of musical notes strung together that when played represent a thought or emotion. Ragas convey stories, and the ragamalas show them, so that when looking at a ragamala the viewer is reminded of the story, the music, and the emotion that accompanies it. There are different systems of ragamalas. For example, there is the Painters System, with five ragas, considered to be male, each with six raginis, or variations on the theme of the raga, for a total of 36 tunes (Stooke, 1953). For each, then, a ragamala is an illustration. There are varying themes and stories that form ragas, but in general they can be divided into three genres: the story (or picture) of a lord surrounded by women, a woman by herself, or an ascetic, sometimes with disciples (Ebeling, 1973). Ragamalas were produced in sets, but are rarely found that way today. The iconography that came out of the ragamalas ensured that any viewer knew what the story was that was being told, even through a simple picture. The musical accompaniment, the poetry attached, makes clear what the story is, and why it is being told. Ragas were played to specific purpose or time of day. For example, it’s written that “Malkaus [a raga] should be sung well past midnight in January or February” (Stooke, 1953). This particular page from a ragamala that has been broken up is from Marwar, in Northern India. It’s traditional Rajasthani, as is most of the region, which aligns with the tradition outlined above. Marwar 12
is the largest Rajput state, and it’s history is brutal and full of upheaval. A desert land, it was unusually involved in wars throughout the century, not allowing any full cultural or artistic development. Thus, the ragamalas that come from Marwar are at a lesser artistic level than other regions, or show more Mughal influence (Ebeling, 1973). Three women are shown in a pavilion, unattended by any servants or lovers. They are clearly conversing; their hand position would indicate to a contemporary viewer that they are in the midst of conversation. However, this page is unusual in that the iconography doesn’t relate to any known raga story. While many examples can be found of a woman and a man together, often attended by a servant, or a woman and an ascetic, again maybe attended by a servant, there are no examples of groups of women together without at least one of them designated as a servant, shown by bringing the other woman something, defending her from an approaching visitor while sleeping, or fanning her or playing music. On this page, there are simply three woman conversing, dressed similarly, perhaps in implying that they are on common ground and of similar social status. On their faces, pleasant expressions; they are comfortable with each other. Sisterhood is an expression of comfort; with sisters, one can be relaxed, at home in a place you’ve never been before, because your sisters are there. This ragamala is unknown to us; there is no story attached to it, but by relying on our desire to understand relationships, it is possible to attach a story to this picture. In a time where women were separate and relied on each other closely, it is not a far stretch to imagine that relationships between women were often close and intimate, like that of a sister.
References Behrendt, K. Curator talk: "How to look at Indian Painting." 23 May 2012. Kurt Behrendt’s gallery talk gave me many good leads for both search terms and general knowledge of ragamalas and their history in India as a whole, since my research focused on northern India. Craven, R.C. (1997). Indian art: A concise history, revised edition. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd. Dye, J.M. (2001). The arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Philip Wilson Publishers. Ebeling, K. (1973). Ragamala painting. Basel: Ravi Kumar. This book was useful for getting more in-depth coverage of the Rajasthani tradition and the Marwar history of ragamala painting. Four centuries of Rajput painting: Mewar, Marwar and Dhundhar Indian Miniatures from the collection of Isabella and Vicky Ducrot. Milan: Skira Editore S.p.A. Glynn, C., Skelton, R., &Dallapiccola, A.L. (2011). Ragamala: Paintings from India: From the Claudio Moscatelli Collection. London: Philip Wilson Publishers. Dallapiccola’s “Ragamala painting, a brief introduction” (13-21) covers the definitions of ragas and ragamalas, and going through the different sets, or styles of ragamala painting. She also makes clear how important it is to understand the region that the ragamala comes from; because each region had its own stories and own interpretations of them, outside interpretations can’t be applied. Krishna, A. (1961). An early Ragamala series. Ars Orientalis, 4(1961), 368-372. Losty, J.P. et al. "Indian Subcontinent." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Stooke, H.J. (1953). The Laud Ragamala miniatures: A study in Indian painting and music. Oxford: Bruno Casier Publishers Ltd. Sumahendra. (1987). Ragamala Paintings of Rajasthan. Jaipur: Rooprang.
Tray with Figures in a Landscape Ming Dynasty, China 16th century Black lacquer with Mother-ofPearl Inlay, 10 5/8in Diameter Promised Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving On Display in Gallery 221 L.1992.62.21
Lacquer has been made in China before history was even recorded (Strange, 1925). Lacquering, or applying thin layers of the sap of lacquer trees to various textiles or lacquer itself, is a time consuming process; carved lacquers can need up to 200 layers in order to have the proper thickness for carving, and lacquer layers can take up to 48 hours to dry between each layer application (Hu Shih-chang, 1998). Various types of lacquer exist: black or red colored lacquer, painted lacquer, inlaid, or carved (Garner, 1979). Lacquer is used for protection, and decoration, but can be divided into two types of objects: those that are “lacquered,” or are not changed by a covering of lacquer, and “lacquer objects,” where the object is mostly made of lacquer, with a non-lacquer core (Watt, 1991). It is in this second category that this tray falls under. Mother-of-pearl inlay became popular during the Song dynasty, established in 960 C.E. Luxury lacquer items were inlaid with gold, silver, semiprecious stones, and mother-of-pearl, which became the most commonly used type of inlay. While becoming much more popular in the 14th century, it’s speculated that mother-of-pearl rose in usage due to Korean influence, although it’s generally accepted that the Chinese were the first to use lacquer in general (Watt, 1991). The scene on the tray shows two women walking through a moonlit garden, with servants in attendance, but no other activity or music taking place. They face each other and seem happy; woodland animals and beautiful trees fill out the garden, making it peaceful and calm. Women in Ming China were kept out of sight, as mobility was tightly controlled. Upper class women were only allowed contact with men they were related to, while courtesans were given much more freedom (Indianapolis Museum of Art, 15
1988). Arranged marriages were the norm, and after, while men were allowed courtesans and concubines, wives were restricted to the women in their houses, never involving themselves in social functions that would put them in the same room as unrelated males (Yuho, 1993). In consequence, women turned to each other in the home for entertainment; for example, “talented gentry women” of one scholar’s family turned to each other and created a poetry club among themselves (Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1988). Women, once married, were expected to devote their lives to their husband and his family, taking on his mother as her own and by default, his sisters became hers. Coming into a house as a new wife, her status was the lowest; in finding a friend, it isn’t hard to imagine that she would consider any example of kindness from a woman close to her age a gift. In any situation where someone is set apart or kept separate from a previous life, a close friend becomes more than a friend; instead, those two people become part of each other. In 16th century Ming China, this depiction of women together might symbolize a close, deep relationship, built out of desperation and maintained through love.
References Cass, V. (1999). Dangerous women: Warriors, grannies, and geishas of the Ming. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Three virtues- piety, sophistication, and solitude- are explored in the context of women’s lives in Ming China. Although seemingly unrelated, all three can be seen in art, literature, and histories of the lifestyles that women both old and young had. Garner, H. (1979). Chinese Lacquer. London: Faber and Faber. This in-depth book covers the history of lacquer in China throughout various dynasties, but breaks it down into type of lacquer. The chapter on mother-of-pearl lacquer is very informative, explaining its history, influence, and process. Other highlights include the chapters on painted lacquer, the focus of lacquer during the Ming dynasty, carved lacquer, and other types of 16th century lacquerwares. Hu Shih-chang & Wilkinson, J. (1998). Chinese Lacquer. Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland Publishing. Indianapolis Museum of Art. (1988). Views from Jade Terrace: Chinese women artists 1300-1912. New York: Indianapolis Museum of Art. This exhibition catalogue delves into the lives of women during the Ming period, examining the differences between married gentry women and their courtesan counterparts. Luzzato-Bilitz, O. (1966). Oriental lacquer. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. Rawson, Jessica et. al. "China" In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Strange, E.F. (1925). Catalogue of Chinese Lacquer. Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Woodwork. London: Victoria and Albert Museum. Tseng Yuho. (1993). Women painters of the Ming dynasty. Artibus Asiae, 53(1-2), 249-259. Watt, J.C.Y. & Ford, B.B. (1991). East Asian lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. White, J.M. (2005). Masterpieces of Chinese lacquer from the Mike Healy collection: An exhibition organized by the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Honolulu: Honolulu Academy of Arts.
Vishnu with His Consorts, Lakshmi and Sarasvati India 11th-12th Century, Pala Period Black Stone Sculpture, 7ft 2in H, 53 11/16in W, 11 7/8 in D. Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956 On Display in Gallery 238 57.51.7
This sculpture displays Vishnu, one of the triad of Supreme Gods in Hindu theology, accompanied by two of his consorts, Lakshmi on his left and Sarasvati on his right. Shiva and Brahma, the other two of the trinity, are seen in the inner niches, while other gods, goddesses, demigods, ascetics, and worshippers are scattered around Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati. Lakshmi, who is also known as Sri-Lakshmi, Gaja-Lakshmi, and many other names (108 names, according to Sivaramamurti, 1982), is the model Hindu wife. She is associated with fertility, the lotus, and the elephant, and can bring luck to her worshippers; being luck though, she is fickle and often takes it away (Kinsely, 1986). In the Buddhist pantheon of gods, she is the goddess of prosperity and comes from Padmapani, along with Sarasvati (Ghosh, 1984). Sarasvati (or Saraswati) is originally worshipped in the Rig Vedas as a river goddess; over time she morphed into the patron goddess of learning and purity, a spiritual presence compared to Lakshmi’s earthly one (Kinsley, 1986). According to Hindu tradition, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, and Parvati were all three co-consorts to Vishnu, but quarreled so much amongst each other that Vishnu gave Sarasvati to Brahma and Parvati to Shiva, keeping Lakshmi for his own (Gupta, 1993). After that, as he appears in each of his avatars, so too does Lakshmi appear in a different form with him. However, in Northern India during the medieval period, or about the 8th to 13th centuries, Buddhism was very influenced by Brahmanism, or the worship of Brahma. Pantheons of gods were mixed together, and Buddha was accepted as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, with Lakshmi and Sarasvati his accepted consorts. This sculpture comes from that time period and from that belief system. 18
The Pala period (750-1150 CE) started at Buddhist shrines and monasteries. Typical characteristics of sculpture from this time can be seen in this piece as well. The center figure is emphasized as a main object of devotion, and is highly polished. The piece as a whole is large and mixes Hindu deities with Buddhist theology, and the figures have more accentuated body types and exaggerated poses.(Dye, 2001; Weiner, 1962). Lakshmi and Sarasvati in today’s Hindu belief system are not related at all; in fact, with Lakshmi’s emphasis on an earthly life and Sarasvati’s on a spiritual, intellectual life, they are practically opposites. But as divinities, as goddess-sisters and co-consorts, they fit perfectly together. Sisters often have to balance each other out. Where Lakshmi focuses on the household and fertility, Sarasvati looks to learning and reason. The two of them make a story that demonstrates the need to get along with one’s sister; because they fought constantly, Vishnu separated them. The relationship between Lakshmi and Sarasvati is an example of sisters who don’t live up to our ideal of sisterhood; in fact, they are an example of what can happen if sisters do not get along.
References "An Image of Vishnu." (1968). The Burlington Magazine, 110(788), 629-631. Craven, R.C. (1997). Indian art: A concise history, revised edition. London: Thames and Hudson Limited. This was instrumental in understanding the religious aspects of the Pala period and how there were so many pieces of art that kept Lakshmi, Sarasvati, and Vishnu together while only Lakshmi and Vishnu are as constantly associated in the literature. Dye, J. M. (2001). The arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Philip Wilson Publishers. A chapter in this book on Pala sculpture explains common characteristics of Northern Indian sculpture from the Pala period and the connection between the worship of Brahma, medieval art, and the crosscultural mashup between Buddhism and Hinduism. Ghosh, N. (1984). Sri-Sarasvati in Indian art and literature. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publishers. Gupta, S.M. (1993). Vishnu and his incarnations. Bombay: Somaiya Publications Private Limited. Ions, V. (1984). Indian mythology, new revised edition. New York: Peter Bedrick Books. Kinsley, D. (1986). Hindu goddesses: Visions of the divine feminine in the Hindu religious tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press. This detailed book explains the origins and variations of Hindu goddesses. To understand the relationship between Sarasvati and Lakshmi, it’s important to have an appreciation for their natures and personalities, and their roles in the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. Sivaramamurti, C. (1982). Sri Lakshmi in Indian art and thought. New Delhi: Kanak Publications. Weiner, S.L. (1962). From Gupta to Pala Sculpture. Artibus Asiae, 25(2-3), 167-192. Zimmer, H. (1992). Myths and symbols in Indian art and civilization. Edited by Joseph Campbell. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
The Healing of the Blind Man and the Raising of Lazarus Castile-Leon, Spain 1120-1240 CE Fresco Transferred to Canvas, 134 in W x 65 in H Gift of the Clowes Fund and E.B. Martindale, 1959 On Display in Gallery 002 The Cloisters 59.196
This large fresco from the church of San Baudelio in northern Castile depicts two of Jesus’ miracles written of in the New Testament of the Bible. On the left, Jesus is shown giving the blind man his sight; on the right Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, accompanied by one of the twelve disciples and Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha. Told in the Gospel of John, 11:1-44 (New International Version), Jesus comes to Bethany to Mary and Martha’s house after Lazarus has already been buried for four days. Jesus weeps for Lazarus, and orders the stone to be removed from his tomb. Martha, the older and more practical sister, points out that after this much time an there will be a strong odor, but Jesus has the stone removed anyway. Jesus tells Lazarus to come out, and he does, having been raised from the dead by a miracle of God. Later in the Bible, Jesus comes back to Bethany and stops for dinner at Mary and Martha’s house. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him preach while Martha cooks and cleans. Martha, angry that her sister doesn’t help, asks Jesus to reprimand her, but he tells her that Mary has chosen the better part (Luke 10: 38-42). These two stories bring light to one of only three pairs of Biblical sisters (the other two appearing in the Old Testament: Lot’s daughters and Rachel and Leah) (Burher, 1994). Like Lakshmi and Sarasvati, they are opposites. Martha, the older sister, is worldly. She cooks and cleans and has a sense of practicality around her (she is the one to point out the smell in the tomb). Mary, the younger sister, in contrast to Martha is spiritual. She weeps at Jesus’ feet at the death of her brother; she also anoints Jesus’ feet with her hair and oil, and sits at his feet while he is at their house again. While the sisters are united 21
in their grief for their deceased brother, they fight over what their proper place- serving the Lord with their actions or with their hearts? This dichotomy of purpose shows up time and again in art, with Mary a symbol for spiritual purity and purpose and Martha a symbol for doing God’s work in the world. In this fresco, the two sisters are shown side by side opening Lazarus’ sarcophagus, each dressed in a tunic with their heads covered. They are dressed in opposing colors; one has a green veil and a red tunic, while the other has a red veil and a green tunic. What is also interesting to note is that the sister with the green veil doesn’t have the same golden nimbus as the other three figures- her nimbus is gray. Lazarus’ resurrection is a common theme in early Christian art, and by the 4th century C.E. Mary and Martha were almost always included as witnesses or active participants, often shown mourning at the tomb or at Jesus’ feet (Ross, 1996). It’s necessary to show them both because of their distinct personalities and purposes. Each represents a different path of faith, and by showing them in the Lazarus story, the viewer is reminded of other times they appear in the Bible, and therefore they are reminders of faith. But, you cannot have one without the other to balance her out and provide a different perspective. As religious icons they provide two angles to a story; as sisters they fill in the gaps for each other, or at the very least point out where the other one could improve.
References "The Sisters of Bethany. From the Group of Sculpture by J. Warrington Wood." Reviewed in The Art Journal, 1875-1887, New Series, 1(1875), 57. Apostolos-Cappadona, D. (1996). Encyclopedia of women in religious art. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company. Buhrer, E., ed. (1994). Great women of the Bible in art and literature. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. This encyclopedia of women in the Bible lists the various Mary and Martha traditions, including how Mary of Bethany in the Roman Catholic tradition became the same figure as Mary Magdalene, and how Martha became the wife of Simon, went to France, and slayed a dragon. De Pascale, E. (2009). Death and resurrection in art. Translated by Anthony Shugaar. Los Angles: Getty Publications. Drury, J. (1999). Painting the word: Christian pictures and their meanings. New Haven: Yale University Press. DuBruck, E.E. & Gusick, B.I., eds. (1999). Death and dying in the middle ages. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Lindley, P. (2003). Making medieval art. Donington: Shaun Tyas Maguire, H. (1977). The Depiction of sorrow in middle Byzantine art. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 31, 123-174. This wonderful paper discusses the many ways that sorrow is depicted in death scenes in Byzantine art, done at the same time as this fresco. Mary, Martha, and the Lazarus resurrection scene is a common motif, and there are many examples of the evolution of how sadness is shown via clothing, facial expression, and body language Rand, R. (1992). The raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Ross, L. (1996). Medieval art: A topical dictionary. Westport: Greenwood Press
Tiffany, T.J. (2005). Visualizing devotion in early modern Seville: Velazquez's "Christ in the House of Martha and Mary." The Sixteenth Century Journal, 36(2), 433-453. Although not about this particular Spanish fresco, this paper discusses another piece of art that shows the differences in personality between Mary and Martha. Zuffi, S. (2003). Gospel figures in art. Translated by Thomas Michael Hartmann. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
Fragmentary marble sarcophagus with scenes from the Oresteia Rome nd Mid-2 Century C.E. Marble Stone Sculpture Gift of the Fletcher Fund, 1928 On Display in Gallery 169 28.57.8a-d
Funerary rites in the ancient world reflected societal and religious changes, as well as economic shifts and power struggles. Previous to 120 C.E., cremation was the typical funerary custom in Rome, but by the 3rd century, the use of sarcophagi was the norm and cremation had almost completely disappeared (Davies, 2011). The subjects shown on these new sarcophagi were often, if not always, mythical (McClees, 1933). The old style of cremation altars didn’t have the same amount of room to show the entire story as a sarcophagus did, and marble became more available, making sarcophagi easier to make. Christianity was also starting exert influence, with the emphasis placed on the importance of the resurrection, even though many Roman sarcophagi depict Greek or Roman myths (McCann, 1978). The Orestes myth tells the story of Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, and his return from the Trojan war to find that his mother has murdered his father. In turn, he kills her and her new husband, Aegisthus as revenge. In some versions of the myth his sister Electra helps him and in others she plots her own revenge. She always appears at Agamemnon’s tomb, the dutiful daughter mourning at her father’s grave (Hard, 2004). On this sarcophagus, Electra is show at the tomb with an attendant. While sarcophagi were often made for women or featured myths about them, these sarcophagi were ordered and made by men. Men assigned virtues to women, keeping control 24
over them and demonstrating what was expected of them. “Dutiful,” “sweetest,” “best,” “welldeserving,” and “holiest” are some of the adjectives that occur most often on grave inscriptions, describing daughters, mothers, wives, sisters, and patronesses (Riess, 2012). Electra, as a daughter and sister, shown at the tomb of her father, is living up to the expectations assigned to her. Her gender constrains her to a system of piety that is upheld by her devotion to her family, while her place in myth demonstrates to Greek (and Roman) women that as sisters and daughters, they have both a familial and religious duty to their families first, and then themselves (if even then). The other woman shown here with Electra is probably a servant or attendant; although there is another sister in the Orestes myth, she is never mentioned being at the tomb. It’s possible that this attendant fills in the need for Electra to have someone to share her duties with, relieve some of the burden, or just have someone who understands what needs to be done.
References "Roman Funerary Monuments in the J. Paul Getty Museum," Occasional Papers on Antiquities. (1990). Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum. Alexander, C. (1930). "Notes: Fragments of Roman Sarcophagi." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 25(12), 282-283. Elsner, J. and Huskinson, J. (2011). Life, death, and representation: Some new work on Roman sarcophagi. New York: De Gruyten. Gessert, G. (2004). Myth as Consolatio: Medea on Roman Sarcophagi. Greece and Rome, Second Series, 51(2), 217-249. This paper examines why Greek myths were used on Roman sarcophagi- as an exploration of Roman cultural requirements, as well as looking at the myths as more than just simple stories of virtues. Instead, the myths were as complicated as the people they memorialized. Hard, R. (2004). The Routledge handbook of Greek mythology. London: Routledge. This recounted the Orestes myth and its variations, including those written by the ancient playwrites. James, S.L. & Dillon, S., eds. (2012). A Companion to women in the ancient world. West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Two papers in this collection, Laura L. Holland’s “Women and Roman Religion,” and Werner Riess’ “Rari exempli femina: Female virtues on Roman funerary inscriptions” both explain the place of women in Roman society, which in turn helps support Electra’s place in the Orestes myth and on the sarcophagus. Koortbojian, M. (1995). Myth, meaning, and memory on Roman sarcophagi. Berkeley: University of California Press. This book goes into great depth about the purpose of myth on sarcophagi- namely, that myths on sarcophagi perpetuate the memory of the deceased for the viewer via a well known story. Recognizable stories have variations, but the purpose of the stories remain the same, to convey virtues, which then in the funeral traditions show relationships between the stories and the people being commemorated. McCann, A.M. (1978). Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. McClanan, A.L. & Encarnacion, K.R., eds. (2002). The material culture of sex, procreation, and marriage in premodern Europe. New York: Palgrave. McClees, H. (1933). The Daily Life of the Greeks and Romans as illustrated in the classical collections. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 26
Terracotta group of two girls playing a game known as ephedrismos Hellenistic Greece Late 4th- Early 3rd Century Terracotta figurine, 5 7/16 in H Gift of the Rogers Fund, 1907 On Display in Gallery 158 07.286.4
Greek art in the 4th century B.C.E. turned toward a purpose of showing daily life. The influence of other cultures began to creep in after Alexander the Great’s conquests, and terracotta became a popular medium for depicting culture, style, and fashion (Richter, 1953). Numerous terracotta figurines have been found near the ancient city of Tanagra starting in 1874 (“Tanagra figurines,” 2003), giving these small figures the name “Tanagra figurines.” Most of the Tanagra figurines have been found in graves, though their exact purpose is unknown. Perhaps they were religious in nature, left as altar offerings and votives. Some of them are figurines of actors or mourners, detailing everyday occurrences. Some are genre pieces, showing both children and adults playing games, or are animals. These pieces could be children’s toys; the location of both graves and homes as resting places for these Tanagras would suggest that they were often personal possessions and had significance in this life and would be useful for the next (Higgins, 1986). Certain shapes are depicted over and over in the Tanagra genre: seated women and girls, 27
women at play, youths and boys, dramatic pieces, and grotesques; the Tanagras are also the first time children are depicted as proper children and not just miniature adults (Higgins, 1986). The Tanagras can be interpreted literally; they are what they seem to be (Richter, 1953). It is also important to remember that they were originally painted bright colors, giving them more individuality and personality. This Tanagra of the two little girls playing is a joyful, fun piece. They are playing a game called ephedrismos, which was described by Pollux, a writer, as a game where a stone is placed on the ground; whoever knocks it over wins, and the loser has to carry the winner on their back with their eyes blindfolded until the carrier touches the stone, at which point the game starts again (British Museum, 2001). The carrier in this Tanagra piece doesn’t have her eyes covered, but neither to other examples where women are playing ephedrismos. Perhaps it wasn’t considered as refined to play with the possibility of both players taking a tumble, so instead women played with eyes uncovered (British Museum, 2001). Ancient Greece, like China, is another example of a culture where women were, in general, restricted to their homes and their relatives. Little girls would look to whoever is closest by for amusement and entertainment, and one of the best things about having a sister is having a built in friend. Both little girls have their hair done in similar styles, and are happy and youthful- they are enjoying each other’s company.
References Burn, L. & Higgins, R. (2001). Catalogue of Greek terracottas in the British Museum, Volume III. London: British Museum. Burn, L. (2004). Hellenistic art: From Alexander the Great to Augustus. London: British Museum Press. Chestermann, J. (1974). Classical terracotta figures. London: Ward Lock Limited. Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Britism Museum. Catalogue of the terracottas. London: British Museum. Higgins, R. (1986). Tanagra and the figurines. London: Trefoil Books. This book was the most useful resource. The first half of the book focuses on the discovery of the Tanagra figurines while the second half is about the figurines themselves; the process of making them, their evolution, their possible purpose, and the various shapes they take. James, S.L. & Dillon, S. (2012). A companion to women in the ancient world. West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Klein, A. (1932). Child life in Greek art. New York: Columbia University Press. Klein looks at various pieces of Greek art, including the Tanagras, as a look into the daily life of children. The Tanagra figurines can be interpreted as toys that reflect everyday life. Neer, R.T. (2012). Greek art and archaeology: A new history, c.2500- c.150 B.C.E. New York: Thames and Hudson. Richter, G.M.A. (1953). Handbook of the Greek collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Richter, G.M.A. (1987). A handbook of Greek art: A survey of the visual arts of ancient Greece, 9th ed. London: Phaidon Press. Stevenson. (1914). Tanagra statuettes. Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Museum, 2(46), 19-20. Tanagra figurines. (2003). In The MacMillan Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/move/tanagra_figurines. Vatopoulou-Richardson, C.E. (1991). Ancient Greek Terracottas, revised ed. Oxford: University of Oxford.
Marble grave stele of a young woman and servant Attic Greece 400-390 B.C.E. Marble Stone Sculpture, 70 1/16 in. H Gift of the Fletcher Fund, 1936 On Display in Gallery 156 31.11.1
Funerary ritual in Ancient Greece made it sacrilege to leave a body unburied (Salowey, 2012). Instead, bodies were buried or cremated, depending on the political climate. Monuments called grave stele (plural- stelai) were erected outside city walls to commemorate the deceased. This stele could be rectangular, square, or cubic; have plain surfaces, painted likenesses, or carved memorials; have inscriptions of names or cities of residence; or have epitaphs carved into them, speaking of the deceased’s family, traits, and value (Salowey, 2012). Funerary monuments for women were not unusual; they were a way to show love for women who died in childbirth or before marriage. Girls of a marriageable age who had not yet attained such a status were especially mourned and were often called the “bride of Hades” (Vivante, 2006). Monuments erected for women demonstrated their value for their families. While women were kept in private while alive, these monuments made them “public in death” (Stromberg, 2003), visible and symbolic. Stelai faced the public roads; they invited passerby to stop and look at them to appreciate where the memorialized came from- their family’s legacy and citizenship. A grave stele can be viewed as an interpretation of women’s lives. There were different stages that had to be transitioned through, and these different stages are commemorated in various ways (Abram, 30
1992). This particular grave stele shows a young woman, gazing down at a small girl looking up and holding a small box, perhaps holding jewelry or beloved trinkets. We know that the standing figure is a young woman because of her clothing- she wears both a sleeved and sleeveless chiton (Clairmont, 1993) which was often the sign of older girls (Roccos, 2000). She is standing, rather than seated, which again suggests an older girl or young, unmarried woman, rather than a matron with children, who would be standing instead (Stromberg, 2003). The smaller figure accompanying her is a figure of debate however. The classic interpretation is that a secondary person on a stele of smaller stature is by default a servant or slave. Slave girls are often identified by their short hair and long-sleeved chitons; they also generally have their heads covered (Clairmont, 1993). However, shorn hair is a sign of mourning. The girl in this grave stele does have short hair, but she wears a short sleeved chiton, and while slave girls are also shown holding boxes like she is, they are also shown standing behind their seated mistresses; she is standing directly in front of her. Therefore, it is just as likely, if not more so, that these two girls are relatives or sisters, rather than mistress and slave. Family members were often depicted on stelai in mourning, reaching out to the deceased or shaking hands with them; possibly they would be looking across while the person being mourned touches one cheek with a bent hand, as it is imaginable that this young woman is doing (Clairmont, 1993). To lose a sister is beyond grief; it would be to lose a part of oneself, and for a young girl, it would literally be world-changing. An older sister is the only person besides a girl’s parents who are present from the instant she enters the world. If a family was looking to show grief and the empty space left behind by the death of a girl too young, showing her younger sister on her monument would be a very emotional way to do it.
References Abram, D.P. (1992). Girls' dolls and women's gravestones: The artifacts and experience of female transitions in ancient Greece. Thesis, Harvard University. Clairmont, C.W. (1993). Classical Attic tombstones. Wilmington: Akanthus Publishers. Clairmont’s introduction to the various kinds of stelai is easily accessible and walks the reader through the variations of the number of people shown on a grave stele, their ages, and what each of those can be interpreted as. Clairmont’s interpretation is newer, especially in one respect. Older grave stelai interpretation offered that any smaller, younger figure in a stele was by default a servant, but Clairmont offers instead that the clothing needs to be given more importance, and that instead it’s possible that these smaller figures could be relatives more often than servants. Cohen, A. (2007). Gendering the age gap: Boys, girls, and abduction in ancient Greek art. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, v. 41, "Constructions of Childhood in Ancient Greece and Italy," 257-278. Friis Johansen, K. (1951). The Attic grave-reliefs of the classical period: an essay in interpretation. Copenhagen: E. Munksgaard. Grossman, J.B. (2001). Greek funerary sculpture: Catalogue of the collections of the Getty Villa. Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum. Grossman, J.B. (2007). Forever young: An investigation of the depictions of children on classical Attic funerary monuments. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, v. 41, "Constructions of Childhood in Ancient Greece and Italy," 309-322. This article questions how visual representations on tomb monuments can give information on the life on children in ancient Greece. On grave steles, children fall into one of three categories: child alone or with a servant, as an auxiliary character on a stele of another person, or as child servants. While Grossman discusses how tombstones of children reveal affection, she doesn’t talk about children with older children, which I think is something very important. James, S.L. and Dillon, S. (2012). A companion to women in the ancient world. Malden: WileyBlackewell. Christina A. Salowey’s paper, “Women on Hellenistic Grave Stelai: Reading Images and Texts” (249262), is a good resource for understanding the various pieces of stelai and how they are made.
Lovén, L.L. & Strömberg, A., eds. (2003). Gender, cult, and culture in the ancient world from Mycenae to Byzantium: Proceedings of the second Nordic symposium on gender and women's history in Antiquity, Helsinki 20-22 October 2000. Angered, Sweden: Paul Aströms förlag. Neer, R.T. (2012). Greek art and archaeology: A new history, c. 2500- c. 150 B.C.E. New York: Thames and Hudson. Roccos, L.J. (2000). Back-mantle and peplos: The special costume of Greek maidens in 4th century funerary and votive relief. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 69(2), 235-265. Vivante, B. (2006). Daughters of Gaia: Women in the ancient Mediterranean world. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 32
Two Princesses New Kingdom, Armana Period, Egypt 1353-1336 B.C.E. Paint and Limestone, 11 ½ in W. x 8 ¾ in H. Gift of Norbert Schimmel, 1985 On Display in Gallery 121 1985.328.6
New Kingdom Egypt was the pinnacle of Egyptian wealth and security. The Eighteenth Dynasty was a powerful entity that built up the position of pharaoh. Amen-hetep III and his son Amen-hetep IV, better known as Akhenaten promoted the idea of one god, Aten, and on earth, the pharaoh lead this new monotheism. The royal family became a central part of this new religion, and art turned to reflect that, as the portrayal of the royal family changed. Long bodies and dramatically elongated skulls became part of the style; women were differentiated from men by their lighter skin tones, while adolescent females were often depicted nude but with the same hairstyles and jewelry of older women (Robins, 1995). Women were more individualized, while still fitting into the Egyptian need to depict the environment at its essential core (Tiradritti, 2008). Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti had six daughters who are often shown together as a family. The princesses were portrayed more often over time, in scenes of royal family private life, adoring their father, in religious processions, and in ceremonies of state (Xekalki, 2011). One particular surviving limestone painting in the Berlin Museum shows the king and the queen sitting across from each other, each with a princess on a lap, with the princess the queen is holding pointing across to her sister and father (Aldred, 1961). A piece of another family scene that has survived shows two princesses sitting at their parents fee t with their arms around each other. A monotheistic religion that put more attention on the pharaoh put more attention on all parts of his life, not just the royal ones.
This particular wall painting, Two Princesses, shows an older girl looking down at a younger one; neither is clothed, but their hairstyles are similar, with lots of braids and small decorations in their hair. Each has an arm around the other affectionately. Although painted more than three thousand years apart in time, the relationship between these two girls in Ancient Egypt is as clear as the relationship between the Wyndham sisters in19th century London. An older sister takes care of her younger sister; a younger sister often looks up to the eldest. In a family of six girls, as these two were, there is potential for teaming up on each other, for fighting, and lots of stress, but moments like these, sisters who love each other, show that in every family comes these quiet moments of contentment that can only be had at home.
References Aldred, C. (1961). New Kingdom art in ancient Egypt during the eighteenth dynasty, 1570 to 1320 B.C. London: A Tiranti. Aldred, C. (1980). Egyptian art in the days of the pharaohs, 3100-320 B.C. New York: Oxford University Press. Aldred, C. (1994). Akhenaten: King of Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson. Arnold, D. (1996). The royal women of Amarna: Images of beauty from ancient Egypt. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Casson, L. (2001). Everyday life in ancient Egypt, Revised and Expanded Edition. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Dodson, A. (2009). Amarna sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian counterreformation. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press. Robins, G. (1995). Reflections of women in the New Kingdom: Ancient Egyptian art from the British Museum: an exhibition organized by the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, February 4- May 4, 1995. San Antonio: Van Siclen Books. Tiradritti, F. (2008). Egyptian wall paintings. Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers. This is a beautiful book that combines photography and research, and is an excellent source for understanding Egyptian wall painting. Wilkinson, C.K. (1983). Egyptian wall paintings: The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Collection of Facsimiles. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wilson, H. (1997). People of the pharaohs: From Peasant to courtier. London: Michael O'Mara Books Limited. This is an interesting book about the daily lives of Egyptians, and helps interpret the importance of family and children, which helps with understanding how the royal family would have been central to a new monotheistic religion. Xekalaki, G. (2011). Thesis: Symbolism in the representation of royal children during the New Kingdom. Oxford: Archaeopress. Georgia Xekalaki’s thesis looks in depth at the evolution of the depiction of children during the New Kingdom, and offers some interesting insights about the Amarna period.
Double-headed Figure Valdivia Culture, Ecuador 2300-2200 BCE Ceramic Sculpture, 3.5in H x 1.5in H Gift of Margaret B. Zorach, 1980 On display in Gallery 357 1980.34.1
This ceramic figurine was found at Real Alto, a site on the Santa Elena Peninsula in present-day Ecuador. It dates to the Early Formative Period of Valdivia, a society that lasted nearly 2,800 years (Zeidler, 2000), with ceramic traditions that predate all others in Mesoamerica and South America by a thousand years (Lathrap, 1975). These small figurines were created by pressing together two small cylindrical coils to form the body, while leaving the bottom halves apart to shape the legs. Thinner strips and lumps of clay were then added to show arms and the head. While female shapes have been the most commonly discovered, male and double-headed figures of any gender have been rare finds (Claassen, 1997). While commonly found in religious meeting houses and refuse piles in domestic dwellings (Marcos, 1988), they are seldom found in funerary settings. The purpose of these small shapes has been debated. When first found in the 1950s, it was proposed that perhaps they served a fertility purpose, seeing as most of the figures were female (Estrada, 1956). However, in recent years, the fertility figure-only theory has been pushed aside, and instead the figurines have been offered as an example of the important role women 36
played in the sedentary Valdivia culture (Zeidler, 2000). While clearly ritualistic, the exact purpose is yet unknown. Supported by the number disposed of, it seems possible that each figurine was created for one specific use, and then disposed of. This particular figurine at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is clearly feminine in shape; each head has longer hair covering the eyes, typical of Valdivian style. The arms are supporting a smaller shape of some sort, possibly a child. The two female heads compel the viewer to ask what the Valdivians saw in connecting two women as one- was there significance in women who were related to each other? Even pushing aside the theory that every figurine was a fertility figure, it still seems clear that there were many female-focused life-cycle rituals as part of the shamanistic culture (Zeidler, 2000). Instead of seeing this as one woman with two heads, I see it as two women with one body, or two women coming from one body- the definition of sisters. Sisterhood, as has been shown, is demonstrated many ways, but often by the relating of physical features or physical proximity to one another. In a pre-history society, the expression of this particular relationship may require that the viewer consider where sisters came from, and how that origin point literally defines their relationship for the rest of their lives. Regardless of personal feelings, sisterhood always goes back to how sisters came to be, and very often, it’s the blood bond, that starts sisters at the beginning of the relationship.
References Blake, M., ed. (1999). Pacific Latin America in prehistory: The Evolution of archaic and formative cultures. Pullman: Washington State University Press. J. Scott Raymond’s paper “Early Fromative Societies in the Tropical Lowlands of Wesern Ecuador: a View from the Valdivia Valley” (149-159) is an excellent introduction to formative cultures. Canuto, M.A. & Yaeger, J., eds. (2000). The Archaeology of communities: A New world's perspective. London: Routledge. One paper in particular in this 2000 collection, James A. Zeidler’s “Gender, Status, and Community in Early Formative Valdivia Culture” (161-181) offers an in-depth, brilliant new analysis of the role of women based on new interpretations of mortuary behavior and figurine iconography. The placement of women in prominent positions in burial practices and the number of feminine shaped figurines would suggest that women were much more important to Valdivia culture than previously thought. Claassen, C. and Joyce, R.A., eds. (1997). Women in prehisory: North America and Mesoamerica. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. (2004). Valdivia Figurines. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/vald/hd_vald.htm, accessed 16 May 2012. Estrada, E. (1956). Valdivia: un sitio arqueológico formativo en la costa de la provincia del Guayas, Ecuador. Guayaquil, Ecuador: Museo Emilio Estrada. One of the earliest reports to come out of the Real Alto site, this 1956 book by Estrada offers an up close look at the Valdivia figurines. Estrada, E. (1961). Nuevos elementos en la cultura Valdivia: Sus posibles contactos transpacificos. Guayaquil, Ecuador: Sub-comite ecuatoriano de antropología dependiente del instituto panamericano de geografía e historia. Lathrap, D.W. (1975). Ancient Ecuador: Culture, clay and creativity, 3000-300 B.C. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. Lathrap’s 1975 book is a great introduction to pre-history Ecuador; especially of note are the chapters on ceramics and the figurine tradition. Marcos, J.G. (1988). Real Alto: La Historia de un centro ceremonial Valdivia. Guayaquil, Ecuador: Escuela Politécnica del Litoral, Centro de Estudios Arqueológicos y Antropológicos. Meggers, B.J., Evans, C., & Estrada, E. (1965). Early formative period of coastal Ecuador: The Valdivia and Machalilla phases. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. Slovak, N. (2003). Real Alto. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/real/hd_real.htm, accessed 16 May 2012.
I went into this class with more excitement than I think I had for any of my previous classes. I was excited to have the opportunity to write my own “exhibition catalog,” because I felt that I was felling two birds with one stone- I was expanding my research skills, especially as I have had no previous experience with art librarianship, and I was going to experience a small part of being a curator. Both expectations were fulfilled and even surpassed. Having interned at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a semester already, I already knew and loved pieces of the collection; while it was difficult at first, being forced to look outside of my comfort zone for objects from (at least) six cultures to fit my theme of sisters has broadened my horizons tremendously, though I know there are still many galleries I have yet to fully explore with the time they deserve. For my project I used four different research libraries here in New York: the Watson Library at the MMA, the Art and Architecture collection at the New York Public Library, the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, and Bobst Library at New York University. I had never used any of these collections (though I have used the general research collection at NYPL many times), and each presented pros and cons of various library setups. Having access to the Watson stacks was, to me, letting a kid loose in a candy shop. I think that open stacks encourage exploration, and being able to see what is situated to the left and right of the book I thought I wanted always shows the book that I really want. Paging books from departmental libraries, with the exception of the Robert Goldwater Library, was at best a frustrating experience; most of the books I wanted always came back at least once, if not two times, as being “available” in Watsonline but in use by the department. I wish that if the book was being used by the department, it wasn’t marked as available, because there were many times that I requested a book and then moved on, thinking that it would be there the next day, and I would focus on another area of research. Instead, the next day I would find that I had lost a day of searching because the book I wanted couldn’t be sent to me, and I had to start again.
My favorite library to work in was Bobst. To me, it’s what a university research library should be: open, welcoming, built with common sense, built to support student and researcher lifestyles. I was in there until 11pm on a Friday night with a METRO pass (another wonderful thing about living in New York), and I wasn’t the only one. NYU allows food and beverage at any of the study tables; the only thing they ask is that it not be terribly messy or smelly food, and if you’re going to eat a full on meal to do it in the commons- other than that, feel free to eat at the tables all the day long. Computers were scattered everywhere and easy to access; there were scanners on every floor, and an easy going feeling that even though I wasn’t a NYU student, I was still welcome there. Visiting four libraries in the course of a week, I appreciate the “welcoming” feeling, because I didn’t get it everywhere. As for the class itself, I loved seeing the same people every day. During the regular semester, class only meets once a week, so it’s hard sometimes to get to know people. By having to report back on our projects almost every day we got to know one another on a personal level, which makes each project more meaningful to me. As for the project itself, the only thing I want is more time and more space. I loved researching each object, and truly, each short write up wanted to be an extended essay. It was hard for me to reach the point where I could say “enough,” and begin writing, but once I did I found that all of the time I spent researching was utterly worth it. There is so much more that I know though, that didn’t make it into my write-ups. I found the beginning lectures on different resources in an art library to be incredibly helpful, and I’m glad I took notes. The only thing I would suggest is to make an exercise of some sort that requires students to interact with each type of resource, just so it’s very clear what an index can do, what a catalogue raisonné is, etc. Overall, I’m very pleased with this class, and my final project.