One of the most important discoveries in marine archaeological history occurred in 1998, just off Indonesia’s Belitung Island in the western Java Sea: A 1,200-year-old Arabian dhow with an astounding cargo of gold, silver, ceramic artifacts, coins, and tangible personal effects. The ship’s hold contained some 57,000 pieces in total and yet no human remains. The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route, now on show at the newly opened Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, explores the movement of cross-cultural exchange, trade, and technology between the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 CE) and Tang dynasty China (618-907 CE) through the prism of an ancient shipwreck.In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Mr. John Vollmer, Guest Curator for the Aga Khan Museum’s presentation of this exhibition, about the importance of the objects in this exhibition and what the exhibition means to the recently opened museum.
Stories tagged Art_History
Located at the intersection of long distance trade between East Africa, the ancient Near East, and the classical world, ancient Nubia was Egypt’s rich and powerful neighbor to the South. Successive Nubian cultures dominated what is modern-day Sudan and southern Egypt for over two millennia, developing in turn a distinctive set of cultural aesthetics and an impressive level of craftsmanship. Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia, a new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, entices visitors with 95 items on display, including jewels, gems, and exquisite artifacts of personal adornment.
While much of Europe was consumed by social disarray in the centuries following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE, a remarkable golden age of scholasticism and artistic achievement began in Ireland. Untouched by centuries of Roman rule, Ireland retained an ancient cohesive society characterized by rural monastic settlements rather than urban centers. From c. 400-1000 CE — an era more popularly known as the “Age of Saints and Scholars” — Irish missionaries spread Christianity, bringing monastery schools to Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. In doing so, they also transmitted a new, effervescent style of art throughout western Europe: Insular art.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. Dorothy Hoogland Verkerk, Associate Professor of Art History at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, about the astonishing history of Insular art.
Like the Central Valley of Mexico and the Andes of South America, Central America has been home to dynamic and sophisticated civilizations for thousands of years. A series of distinct cultures left behind remarkable ceramic objects, which attest to considerable wealth, intricate belief systems, and singular artistic achievements. Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed – a bilingual (English/Español) exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington D.C. — explores seven ancient regions of Central America, encompassing modern Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Examining the vibrancy of Central America’s diverse ancestral heritage with a broad selection of objects, this exhibition also underscores the interconnectedness of Central America’s pre-Columbian peoples with their Mesoamerican, Caribbean, and South American neighbors.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Alexander V. Benitez, co-curator of the exhibition and director of the Smithsonian Latino Center sponsored Central American Ceramics Research Project (CACRP), about the exceptional artifacts featured in the exhibition.
Renaissance Florence was the center of a pulsating creativity, which would redefine the spectrum of Western aesthetics over the course of two centuries. At the dawn of the Quattrocento, Florentine artists found inspiration in the sculptures of their Greco-Roman predecessors. The Springtime of the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence, 1400-1460, now on show at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, highlights how ancient sculptures–in stone or bronze–provided the catalyst for far-reaching and revolutionary innovations in art and design. Through the presentation of 140 sculptures and paintings from major international collections, the exhibition carefully traces the classical inspiration behind the Renaissance.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. James Bradburne, Director General of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, about this remarkable exhibition, and of how artists like Ghiberti, Filippo Lippi, and Donatello recycled and augmented ancient forms and styles.
The Cham people of central and south Vietnam have impressive artistic and architectural traditions, dating back more than 1700 years. Migrating from the island of Borneo to present-day Vietnam in second century CE, the Cham maintained a series of coastal kingdoms from c. 192-1832 CE. Champa–located at the crossroads of India, Java, and China–was the grand emporium of Southeast Asia and the chief rival of the powerful Khmer Empire. While primarily remembered in history as merchants, sailors, and warriors, the Cham were also skilled artisans and talented architects. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Ky Phuong Tran–a specialist on Cham cultural history–with regard to the unique characteristics of Cham art and architecture.
For centuries, Wang Xizhi (c. 303-361 CE) has been revered as the “Sage of Calligraphy” across East Asia. Born in the town of Linyi, in Shangdong, China, during the tumultuous years of the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE), Wang revolutionized and reinvigorated this traditional art through his mastery of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, including the notoriously difficult semi-cursive or “walking script.” A legend in his lifetime, Wang’s works were avidly copied by aspiring calligraphers across ancient China. Over the centuries, original pieces by Wang were lost and only exquisitely traced copies remain. Today, many of these copies are kept in Japan and revered as “national treasures.”
This winter, the Tokyo National Museum, in Tokyo, Japan, celebrates the life and legacy of China’s most admired calligrapher in Wang Xizhi: Master of Calligraphy. Reflecting on Wang’s style and artistic prowess, this exhibition seeks an authentic image of an elusive artist, reevaluating his artistic role and legacy through his influence on successive artists in China and Japan. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Tomita Jun–an expert on Chinese calligraphy and the show’s curator–with regard to Wang Xizhi’s enduring place in art history.
Peru is one of six “cradles of civilization,” from which a series of advanced societies emerged. Characterized by remarkable artistic expression and technological innovation, successive Andean cultures thrived among the peaks and valleys of the Andes until the armies of Francisco Pizarro vanquished the Inca in 1532 CE. Nevertheless, primordial, symbolic imagery–mythical, ritualistic, and spiritual–continued to shape the artistic spectrum, precipitating a wave of nationalist affirmation in modern times.
Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon provides a retrospective presentation of Peru’s history through an exploration of identity, spirituality, and indigenous collective memory as reflected in art. In this world exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Ms. Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal), with regard to this exhibition’s unique focus and meticulous organization.
Unique among the countries of the Middle East, Lebanon is a mélange of diverse peoples, cultures, and religious creeds. For centuries, it lay at the crossroads of civilizations with a history marked by the ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, European Crusaders, Mamluks, and the Ottomans. With over 60 centuries of human history, Lebanon’s countless archaeological treasures and stunning works of art beguile and mesmerize the world.
Fascinating Lebanon (Fascination du Liban), now on show at the Musée Rath (Musées d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève) in Geneva, Switzerland, surveys the role of religion and the arts in Lebanon’s history. Featuring a selection of 350 archaeological objects and works of art–never before seen in Europe–Fascinating Lebanon reveals the social and artistic elasticity of Lebanon’s religious and cultural past through the presentation of votive statues, ancient sarcophagi, Byzantine mosaics, Crusader coins, Mamluk garments, in addition to Melkite icons and manuscripts. In this brief interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Marielle Martiniani-Reber, Curator-in-Chief of Applied Arts, Byzantine and post-Byzantine collections at the Musées d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève, about this extraordinary display of Lebanese patrimony.
During the Celtic Iron Age (c. 800-15 BCE), the Celts dominated large swaths of the European continent including what is present-day Germany, Switzerland, and France. The World of the Celts: Centres of Power – Treasures of Art (Die Welt der Kelten: Zentren der Macht – Kostbarkeiten der Kunst), displays this forgotten era of European history with astonishing works of art and rarely seen artifacts. These twin exhibitions–now on show at the Baden-Württemberg State Museum of Archaeology and the Württemberg State Museum in Stuttgart Germany–assemble the most impressive of Celtic objets d’art in the last thirty years.
In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Ms. Sarah Scheffler, a German archaeologist and expert on the Celts, who assisted in the collection of ancient artifacts for the Treasures of Art exhibition. Probing the nuances of Celtic art and style, Scheffler stresses the importance of exchange to the Celts’ art and of how the Celts interacted artistically with their Mediterranean and Germanic neighbors.