Josef Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Oskar Schlemmer, Wassily Kandinsky, Herbert Bayer, Hinnerk Scheper, Dessau, c. 1926
I must tell you what my opinion of my own mind and powers is exactly—the result of a most accurate study of myself with a view to my future plans during many months. I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make me preeminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature.
Firstly: owing to some peculiarity in my nervous system, I have perceptions of some things, which no one else has—or at least very few, if any. This faculty may be designated in me as a singular tact, or some might say an intuitive perception of hidden things—that is of things hidden from eyes, ears, and the ordinary senses…This alone would advantage me little, in the discovery line, but there is, secondly, my immense reasoning faculties. Thirdly: my concentrative faculty, by which I mean the power not only of throwing my whole energy and existence into whatever I choose, but also bringing to bear on any one subject or idea a vast apparatus from all sorts of apparently irrelevant and extraneous sources. I can throw rays from every quarter of the universe into one vast focus.
Now these three powers (I cannot resist the wickedness of calling them my discovering or scientific trinity) are a vast apparatus put into my power by Providence; and it rests with me by a proper course during the next twenty years to make the engine what I please. But haste, or a restless ambition, would quite ruin the whole.
Doesn’t this photo just say, “Ask me again about Stroganoff?” When a New York Times obituary for a female rocket scientist opens with her beef stroganoff recipe, you know the gender gap in science has taken a turn for the aberrant.
Meanwhile, to lift the spirits, some gender-stereotype-busting vintage photos of women in science.
“This statue carries within herself a history of the worship of the feminine principle that echoed up through time. Even today our most basic, universal human experience is that of our mother’s body. It is our very first sensation.”
This week on Getty Voices, educator and religion buff Erin Branham talks about the ancient sacred and the differences between religion in ancient times and today.
Fertility Goddess, made on Cyprus, 3000–2500 B.C. The J. Paul Getty Museum
Ancient Egyptian Pigments Get a Second Chance to Shine
Between their sophisticated pyramids, their complex medical techniques and their iconic fashion trends, there’s no doubt that ancient Egyptians were well ahead of their time. Now scientists have yet more evidence that the Nile dwellers had one foot in the future. According to research published this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, an ancient pigment known as Egyptian blue may have thoroughly modern applications in cutting-edge telecommunication technologies.
Feast your eyes on ancient Egyptian art, and chances are you’ll be dazzled by its bright blue accents. Historians believe Egyptians got hooked on the color when they used lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone from Afghanistan, to tint everything from frescoes to their eyelids. Since lapis was hard to come by, they sought artificial means of creating a bright blue hue and discovered calcium copper silicate, made by mixing and heating limestone, sand and copper. Later dubbed Egyptian blue, the vibrant chemical compound was manufactured in powder form at specialized factories where raw materials and ceramic vessels have since been unearthed.
As early as 2500 B.C., Egyptian blue brightened statues, walls and monuments. The pigment also found fans among the ancient Mesopotamians, who left behind Egyptian blue beads, and among the Romans, who called it caeruleum and used it at Pompeii. The Greeks applied Egyptian blue to statues at the Parthenon in Athens, as revealed in 2009 by researchers using infrared cameras.
Considered the first artificial pigment, Egyptian blue fell out of use around A.D. 1000, and it wasn’t until the early 19th century that chemists began investigating its properties. Now, new research shows the ancient dye might have a viable role in the cutting-edge world of nanotechnology. Led by Tina Salguero of the University of Georgia, scientists found that calcium copper silicate breaks apart into nanosheets—layers so thin that thousands would cover the width of a human hair—when stirred in water for several days. These nanosheets produce infrared radiation similar to the beams used in remote controls and car door locks.
Someday soon, the researchers suggest, a substance that once adorned mummies’ tombs might be reborn in telecommunications devices or security ink formulations. “In this way,” they write, “we can reimagine the applications of an ancient material through modern technochemical means.”
The great Nina Simone would’ve been 80 today. This quietly breathtaking photograph was taken at NYC’s Town Hall in 1959 and is part of William Gottlieb’s photos of jazz icons.
Celebrate Simone’s legacy with Francine Prose’s poignant meditation on the powerful political message in the singer’s “Strange Fruit.”
With a large chin, a prominent slightly arched nose and delicate lips, the “face” of England’s King Richard III was unveiled on Tuesday, a day after researchers confirmed his remains had finally been found after 500 years.
A team of university archaeologists and scientists announced on Monday that a skeleton discovered last September underneath a council parking lot in Leicester was indeed that of Richard, the last English king to die in battle, in 1485.
Devotees of Richard, who have long campaigned to restore his reputation, proudly revealed a 3D reconstruction of the long-lost monarch’s head on Tuesday, introducing him to reporters as “His Grace Richard Plantagenet, King of England and France, Lord of Ireland”.
Is history truth? Does what we call history retell the whole story? History, really, is a fiction—not because it is made up of invented facts, for the facts are real, but because in the organization of those facts there is much fiction. History is pieced together with certain selected facts that give a coherence, a line, to the story. In order to create that line, many things must be left out. There are always those facts that did not enter history, which if they had might give a different sense to history. History must not be presented as a definitive lesson. No one can say, This is so because I say it happened this way.
Lila Azam Zanganeh on all that will be lost with the destruction of Timbuktu’s ancient libraries:
Since the fifteenth century, Timbuktu had been an epicenter of commerce on the trans-Saharan caravan route, but also, thanks to its thriving mosque and university, an oasis of learning and literacy. Founded between the eleventh and twelfth centuries by Tuareg tribes, the city soon housed scholars and scribes within its walls. These scribes copied countless works on topics ranging from political science, history, and theology to astronomy, botany, and poetry. Arabic and, at times, Fulani, Songhai, or Bambara texts were recopied on camel shoulder blades, sheepskins, tree bark, and even papers from Italy. Some were illumined with gold leaf, with frail calligraphy presenting significant stylistic variations. The surviving manuscripts, including one in Turkish and one in Hebrew, span the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Thus a written history of Africa was constructed, including the wondrous “Tarikh Al-Sudan,” a storied chronicle of West Africa.
…The disappearance of even a section of the city’s ancient libraries conversely represents no less than the death by fire of old and ancient men and women who had so far pursued, with us and between themselves, a quiet but immemorial dialogue…
Continue reading: http://nyr.kr/VmTAID
Photograph by Horst Friedrichs/Anzenberger/Redux.
Maria Lokke looks into “A Secret History of Women and Tattoo”: “Though tattoos are an increasingly common, and visible, element of personal style these days, it’s some of the more hidden and historic examples—from Victorian women to circus attractions—that are the most surprising.”
Click-through for a slideshow: http://nyr.kr/Y9ZuB2
One hundred years after the French Revolution began, the Eiffel Tower rose above Paris as a testament to the new century’s innovations in engineering and construction. It could be seen from everywhere in the city; an inescapable sign of a different type of revolution. But the Eiffel Tower wasn’t the only technological innovation to dominate the streets of Paris in 1889. That same year, the first modern perfume was created: Jicky.
What makes Jicky modern? As mentioned in our previous post on “The Art of the Scent,” it is widely regarded as the first fragrance to incorporate synthetic ingredients as well as natural extracts, making it one of the most significant perfumes in the history of scent design. Jicky was created by Aimé Guerlain, the son of perfumer Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, who founded the family perfume house in 1828 when he opened a small shop in Paris. At the time, natural floral perfumes were all the rage and the senior Guerlain was a master of the craft whose clients included Queens and Tsars. When Aimé took over as master perfumer upon his father’s death in 1864, he continued to develop new floral fragrances but he also brought his own unique innovations, adding exotic spices from the far East to the traditional Guerlain bouquet. In 1889, with the Eiffel looming above Paris, everything changed with the creation of Jicky, a new scent Aimé named after a lost love.
Breaking with traditions and trends, Guerlain challenged conventions by introducing synthetic molecules into his perfumes. At its most basic, Jicky was primarily composed of lavender and vanilla scents, along with secondary citrus notes and a hint of the traditional Guerlain bouquet. While the lavender was steam-distilled through a standard process, the vanilla scent presented a unique problem—it was an expensive and rather weak extract. So Guerlain sought out an alternative: synthetics. According to The Little Book of Perfumes, when the perfume was being conceived, only a single firm in Paris, De Laire, had the rights to patent synthetic vanillin, which was cheaper, sweeter and creamier than the natural alternative. Not only would these designed components—terpene alcohol β-linalool, coumarin and ethyl vanillin—add to the multi-faceted complexity of the scent, they also made it last longer. Although the process wasn’t perfect, the impurities of the synthetic extract added to the complexity of the scent. It was brave. It was bold. It was the first perfume designed to stir emotions, rather than just recall flowers. And it was worn almost exclusively by men. At first, anyway. Women soon came around and Jicky was actually marketed as a unisex fragrance. The ambiguity became a part of the identity of Jicky and is still referenced in the official description of the perfume:
“Oriental chypre Fresh, dynamic, surprising Filled with contrasts and dualities, freshness and oriental notes, Jicky is a magical perfume that plays on the olfactory ambiguity between masculine and feminine. The subtle spicy notes that blossom with the usual warmth of the oriental facet also play skillfully with the fresh and aromatic notes of lemon and lavender at its heart. Underneath this audacious structure, one detects woody and vanilla notes for greater vibration and character.”
Continue reading at Smithsonian.com.
Attached to the body via hinged metal and leather straps this iron arm still allowed a certain range of movements. The hand is fused facing inwards, but the wrist joint can move vertically – as if to shake someone’s hand. A hollow metal globe acts as a substitute elbow joint. This may have been controlled by springs and catches, which are now missing. Surgical amputations are referred to by Hippocrates, they were for many years a main function of the surgeon. This artificial arm dates from the 1500s. During this era, most limbs were amputated due to war injuries or accidents.
The ceaselessly talented Debbie Millman remembers pioneering astronaut Sally Ride, who passed away earlier this year, in a beautiful visual essay for The New York Times. The artwork is made of felt letters painstakingly hand-stitched on felt fabric.