Monthly Archives: December 2015

The first sexy selfie

1830 self-portrait miniature by Sarah Goodridge

Sarah Goodridge was a prolific Boston-based portrait miniature painter. She was successful enough to be able to afford a house on Beacon Hill and to support her invalid mother and orphaned niece. Nor was she forced to be an itinerant, as so many early 19th century American painters were. Miniatures are a fascinating subset of portrait […]

The three little propagandists

All that work and no music makes Practical Pig a very crabby fellow.

Yesterday I read the Disney version of “The Three Little Pigs” to my grandson. Everyone knows this story, right? The original story was first printed in the 1840s, but is—like most European folktales—much older. Disney’s print version derives from a 1933 cartoon. The version I read to Jake was copyrighted in 1948. In many ways it’s […]

The Census at Bethlehem

"The Census at Bethlehem," 1566, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. If this looks a little cold even for December in Antwerp, bear in mind that he was painting at the beginning of the Little Ice Age.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town […]

An honest forgery

The new copy unveiled.

On October 18, 1969, two unidentified thieves entered the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily, armed with knives. They used these to cut away the great altar painting, which measured an astonishing 106 in × 78 in. The church was then systematically pillaged of all its art, including the inlaid choir stalls and benches. That painting was Caravaggio’s Nativity with […]

Painter of hard work

"Haymaking (Les Foins)," 1877, by Jules Bastien-Lepage

Jules Bastien-Lepage came from a little village in the Meuse, which is why he understood the work of the French peasantry so completely. He is widely known in the United States for his stunning Jeanne d’Arc (in the Metropolitan Museum in New York), but the main body of his work was rooted in the Naturalism movement of […]