“The issue that animated his life and his thought was that of religious intolerance. The Jews who excommunicated him at the tender age of 23 had themselves been victims of a prolonged, horrific exercise in both religious (as well as racial) intolerance. Spinoza uses this history of suffering to reason his way into uncompromising universalism, an outlook that reduces all the contingencies of birth–our religion and race and, by extension, our nationality, gender, sexual orientation–to details of no significance whatsoever in the real process of self-fulfillment.”
But before he retreated into his private realm of race horses and ballet dancers, Degas was fully engaged with the contest of light and shadow in the spirit of Rembrandt. Degas was greatly affected by Rembrandt’s drawing skill, and the accomplished way that he reproduced his line art in etchings and dry point. The etchings of the Dutch master were an education in themselves.
Living in close proximity to the growing Jewish population of Amsterdam, the biblically-minded Rembrandt experienced an artistic epiphany of lasting significance. Why not paint the portrait of Jesus, a 1st Century Jew from Galilee, using a live model with Jewish features? The resulting portraits, seven out of a likely eight that were painted, now grace the walls of a landmark exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
In his most serious brawl, about which the documents provide an entirely new account, Caravaggio killed a man. The brawl, like a Los Angeles fight between rival gangs, had been planned ahead of time with eight participants, whose names are now known.
Yet another of his discoveries turns out to be a lost watercolor by one of America’s greatest 19th century artists, Winslow Homer — a painting which had literally appeared out of nowhere one day in Southern Ireland, abandoned next to a dump heap! The work had been miraculously rescued by a local fisherman.
Saint Serapion (1628) by Francisco de Zurbarán A new show at the National Gallery of Art is bringing long-overdue attention to seventeenth-century Spanish painting and sculpture. Xavier Bray, who curated The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600-1700, explains in an NGA podcast that historically, American collectors avoided these […]
In some respects, the Thirty Years War resembles the Great War of 1914-1918. Political friction in Central Europe sparked a rush to arms that dragged in nations and peoples whose best interests lay in peace not war. With the focus of Europe’s economic activity shifting toward the Atlantic Ocean and the East Indian trade zones, the small states of Central Europe needed to integrate their economies to stay competitive. The last thing that petty states like Bohemia, Saxony, Bavaria and the Rhineland needed to do was throw away lives and treasure in futile warfare. But fight they did – for thirty years.
2009 is officially “The Year of Astronomy,” commemorating Galilei’s first observation of the Moon through his telescope in November of 1609. Born in Pisa, Galileo Galilei worked in Florence, where the fourth centennial of his discovery is being celebrated with a stunning and sophisticated exhibition which took four years to prepare.
Nicolson concludes his reflections by noting that “the custom of the manor” believed “to an extent the modern world can scarcely grasp, in the rights of the community as a living organism.”
The inhumane acts committed by both sides in this war equal the most heinous crimes of history. The hate was uncontrollable. The Indians sought revenge and a return to their way of life before colonization, and the New Englanders felt they had God on their side. The renowned Puritan preacher and scholar Cotton Mather asserted that “. . . the Evident Hand of Heaven appearing on the Side of a people whose Hope and Help was alone in the Almighty Lord of Hosts, Extinguished whole Nations of Savages.”
The seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophical movement that came to be known as the Enlightenment was once the crown jewel of the western intellectual heritage. It promised lives based on order and reason. It seemed to offer the promise of human perfectibility. Such claims, however, have for some time not gone unchallenged.