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Exquisite Rot: Spalted Wood and the Lost Art of Intarsia

Adam Green - May 16, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, Charles V, craftmanship, Featured Articles, Fra Damiano da Bergamo, intarsia, marquetry, Renaissance, Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio, Studiolo Gubbio, woodwork

The technique of intarsia — the fitting together of pieces of intricately cut wood to make often complex images — has produced some of the most awe-inspiring pieces of Renaissance craftsmanship. Daniel Elkind explores the history of this masterful art, and how an added dash of colour arose from a most unlikely source: lumber ridden with fungus.

Exquisite Rot: Spalted Wood and the Lost Art of Intarsia

Adam Green - May 16, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, Charles V, craftmanship, Featured Articles, Fra Damiano da Bergamo, intarsia, marquetry, Renaissance, Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio, Studiolo Gubbio, woodwork

The technique of intarsia — the fitting together of pieces of intricately cut wood to make often complex images — has produced some of the most awe-inspiring pieces of Renaissance craftsmanship. Daniel Elkind explores the history of this masterful art, and how an added dash of colour arose from a most unlikely source: lumber ridden with fungus.

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.

“Alas, Poor YORICK!”: The Death and Life of Laurence Sterne

Adam Green - March 7, 2018 in consumption, death, Featured Articles, Laurence Sterne, Literature, mortality, sentimental journey, tristram shandy

On the 250th anniversary of Laurence Sterne's death, Ian Campbell Ross looks at the engagement with mortality so important to the novelist's groundbreaking work.

“Alas, Poor YORICK!”: The Death and Life of Laurence Sterne

Adam Green - March 7, 2018 in consumption, death, Featured Articles, Laurence Sterne, Literature, mortality, sentimental journey, tristram shandy

On the 250th anniversary of Laurence Sterne's death, Ian Campbell Ross looks at the engagement with mortality so important to the novelist's groundbreaking work.

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.

The Dreams of an Inventor in 1420

Adam Green - January 24, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, automatons, engineering, Featured Articles, inventions, inventors, Renaissance, Science & Medicine

Bennett Gilbert peruses a sketchbook of 15th-century engineer Johannes de Fontana, a catalogue of designs for a wide-range of fantastic and often impossible inventions, including fire-breathing automatons, pulley-powered angels, and the earliest surviving drawing of a magic lantern device.

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.

Race and the White Elephant War of 1884

Phil Morrow - October 24, 2017 in Adam Forepaugh, circus history, Culture & History, elephants, Featured Articles, history of racist soap adverts, Light of Asia, P.T. Barnum, pears soap, race, racism, racist soap advert, Toung Taloung, white elephants, White Fraud, white supremacy

Feuding impresarios, a white-but-not-white-enough elephant, and racist ads for soap — Ross Bullen on how a bizarre episode in circus history became an unlikely forum for discussing 19th-century theories of race, and inadvertently laid bare the ideological constructions at their heart. The Lydian Monarch had been sighted from Fire Island and was expected in Jersey […]

Master of Disaster, Ignatius Donnelly

Phil Morrow - October 24, 2017 in apocalypse, Atlantis, Books, catastrophe, disaster, disaster porn, Featured Articles, Ignatius Donnelly, Literature, pseudo-science, Religion, Myth & Legend, Science & Medicine, science fiction

The destruction of Atlantis, cataclysmic comets, and a Manhattan tower made entirely from concrete and corpse — Carl Abbott on the life and work of a Minnesotan writer, and failed politician, with a mind primed for catastrophe. The magnificent civilization of Atlantis shattered and plunged beneath the sea in February 1882. Or, to be more […]