You are browsing the archive for Culture & History.

The Dancing Plague of 1518

Adam Green - July 10, 2018 in Choreomania, Culture & History, dancing epidemic, dancing mania, dancing plague, ergotism, Paracelsus, psychic contagion, Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus's dance, Strasbourg

500 years ago this month, a strange mania seized the city of Strasbourg. Citizens by the hundreds became compelled to dance, seemingly for no reason — jigging trance-like for days, until unconsciousness or, in some cases, death. Ned Pennant-Rea on one of history's most bizarre events.

Early Modern Memes: The Reuse and Recycling of Woodcuts in 17th-Century English Popular Print

Adam Green - June 6, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, ballads, Books, Culture & History, internet memes, meme culture, woodcuts

Expensive and laborious to produce, a single woodcut could be recycled to illustrate hundreds of different ballads, each new home imbuing the same image with often wildly diverse meanings. Katie Sisneros explores this interplay of repetition, context, and meaning, and how in it can be seen a parallel with the meme culture of today.

Iconology of a Cardinal: Was Wolsey Really so Large?

Adam Green - May 3, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, cardinal wolsey, Culture & History, eating in tudor times, hans holbein, henry viii, iconography, Painting, power, thomas wolsey, tudor, weight

Characterised as manipulative, power-hungry, and even an alter rex, Henry VIII's right-hand man Cardinal Thomas Wolsey has been typically depicted with a body mass to rival his political weight. Katherine Harvey asks whether he was really the glutton of popular legend, and what such an image reveals about the link between the body, reputation, and power in Tudor England.

Made in Taiwan? How a Frenchman Fooled 18th-Century London

Adam Green - April 18, 2018 in Books, Culture & History, Featured Articles, formosa, George Psalmanazar, greatest literary hoaxes, historical hoax, hoax, impostor, invented languages, taiwan

Benjamin Breen on the remarkable story of George Psalmanazar, the mysterious Frenchman who successfully posed as a native of Formosa (now modern Taiwan) and gave birth to a meticulously fabricated culture with exotic customs, social systems, and its own invented language.

Illustrating Carnival: Remembering the Overlooked Artists Behind Early Mardi Gras

Adam Green - February 7, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, carnival, costumes, Culture & History, fancy dress, Fat tuesday, Featured Articles, mardi gras, new orleans, new orleans mardi gras

For more than 150 years the city of New Orleans has been known for the theatricality and extravagance of its Mardi Gras celebrations. Allison C. Meier looks at the wonderfully ornate float and costume designs from Carnival's "Golden Age" and the group of New Orleans artists who created them.

Pods, Pots, and Potions: Putting Cacao to Paper in Early Modern Europe

Adam Green - December 7, 2017 in Art & Illustrations, botanical art, botanical illustrations, cacao, chocolate, cocoa, colonialism, Culture & History, food, illustration, Science & Medicine

Christine Jones explores the different ways the cacao tree has been depicted through history — from 16th-century codices to 18th-century botanicals — and what this changing iconography reveals about cacao's journey into European culture.

Pods, Pots, and Potions: Putting Cacao to Paper in Early Modern Europe

Adam Green - December 7, 2017 in Art & Illustrations, botanical art, botanical illustrations, cacao, chocolate, cocoa, colonialism, Culture & History, food, illustration, Science & Medicine

Christine Jones explores the different ways the cacao tree has been depicted through history — from 16th-century codices to 18th-century botanicals — and what this changing iconography reveals about cacao's journey into European culture.

Brief Encounters with Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck

Adam Green - November 22, 2017 in archaeology, Art & Illustrations, Culture & History, Jean-Frédéric de Waldeck, Mayan history, Mayanism, mayans, mexico, Neoclassicism, Palenque

Not a lot concerning the artist, erotic publisher, explorer, and general enigma Count de Waldeck can be taken at face value, and this certainly includes his fanciful representations of ancient Mesoamerican culture which — despite the exquisite brilliance of their execution — run wild with anatopistic lions, elephants, and suspicious architecture. Rhys Griffiths looks at the life and work of one of the 19th century's most mysterious and eccentric figures.

Brief Encounters with Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck

Adam Green - November 22, 2017 in archaeology, Art & Illustrations, Culture & History, Jean-Frédéric de Waldeck, Mayan history, Mayanism, mayans, mexico, Neoclassicism, Palenque

Not a lot concerning the artist, erotic publisher, explorer, and general enigma Count de Waldeck can be taken at face value, and this certainly includes his fanciful representations of ancient Mesoamerican culture which — despite the exquisite brilliance of their execution — run wild with anatopistic lions, elephants, and suspicious architecture. Rhys Griffiths looks at the life and work of one of the 19th century's most mysterious and eccentric figures.

Flash Mob: Revolution, Lightning, and the People’s Will

Adam Green - November 9, 2017 in allegory, Art & Illustrations, benjamin franklin, Culture & History, Featured Articles, french revolution, Jean-Paul Marat, Joseph Priestley, lightning, Maximilien Robespierre, power, revolution, Science, symbolism, thunderbolt

Kevin Duong explores how leading French revolutionaries, in need of an image to represent the all important “will of the people”, turned to the thunderbolt — a natural symbol of power and illumination that also signalled the scientific ideals so key to their project.