Cabinet of Curiosities

May 18, 2011

by Mary Jo Gibson

At the end of every research week I have an assortment of interesting bits I find on the web, but have nowhere to share them.  Creating this small post gives me a depository for extra information that I can share with my readers.   For International Museum Day, I would like to highlight some of the museums I have used and found.

At the National Galleries of Scotland is an extraordinary painting by Diego Velazquez (1599-1660).  Produced when he was still a teenager the painting, “An Old Woman Cooking Eggs“, reflects the surroundings of the early years of Velazquez.  I wonder if he used the camera obscura method for the light and dark shadow effect, similar to the one Caravaggio used in his epic paintings.  The eggs cooking in the oil are so realistic, you can almost smell the preparations.


Egypt in Stone, Egypt in Paper, The Louvre.  Prisse D’Avennes was one of the many explorers traveling to Egypt from 1827-1860.  He collected manuscripts, mostly unpublished, and a wide variety of graphic works copied from the various monuments, along with tracings of carved decorations and inscriptions.  He did not return with many antiquities, save Thutmosis III’s Chapel of the Ancestors now display.  This author would love to find an archive of the Napoleon Egypt expedition art and scientific record.

As part of an interactive feature, the Louvre now offers an animated character showcasing many of the pieces in the museum.  Follow him to his workshop and there are several features to click on that will bring up these lists.  Great for kids, it reveals the treasure trove of what is available at the Louvre.  For those who are not versed in the beautiful French language, there is an English translation of the entire site.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pastel Portraits, Images of 18th century Europe.  In 1750, almost 2,500 professional artists were working in pastels in Paris.  Portraiture in this medium were commissioned by all ranks of society as a stunning alternative to oil paintings.  These pieces are brightly colored with a high finish and elaborately framed, evoking the paintings, to which they were inevitably compared.  A great exhibition of forty examples of this work from Europe are on display, and the online exhibit offers eight supreme example of work in this medium.


The Museo Nacional del Prado, Treasures from the Hermitage.  One of the few museums enjoying an exchange partnership with the State Hermitage Museum in Russia.  The link will take you a slide-show of the visiting exhibit.

The Museo also offers a character based on the image of Infanta Margarita Teresa of Spain by Diego Velazquez.  This feature is not available in English, but is a nice addition to their PradoMedia page.


 Museum of Fine Art Boston.  A searchable database of their collection is available at this site.  Prints and drawings, musical instruments, textiles and fashion art, and photography.  Their extensive archive is searchable by name in each collection, with a simple thumbnail click revealing the detail of each work.


The Walters Art Museum and their feature “What Will You Discover” shared the painting “Lost Illusions” by Charles Gleyre (1806-1874).  Gleyre succeeded Paul Delaroche at one of the larger private studios in Paris, continuing the ‘heroic narrative’ style of his predecessor.  The lost illusions of life as viewed by an aging poet watching his dreams being carried away, the sun setting symbolically, the style an inspiration to many other artists that followed.


A few blog articles of note:

Slate, The Rosslyn Code, a series, the real mystery lurking in the chapel where Dan Brown set The Da Vinci Code.  An overview of the history behind the infamous building filled with architectural detail and symbolism, with several more installments to follow.

Three Pipe Problem, The elusive truth of art history inquiry – a Raphael case study.  An in-depth article about art attribution, with the specific example of Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks.  A story this author followed for many months in the London Times, from the fundraising to retain this beautiful piece, to the now ‘serious’ questions regarding the true artist of the picture.


 If you have any museum exhibits you would like showcased, please feel free to suggest them in the comments below.   I hope you enjoy these virtual visits as much as I enjoy sharing them with you.





Filed under May

5 responses to “Cabinet of Curiosities

  1. Fascinating stuff as usual, Mary Jo. I’ve got the little Taschen version of Napoleon’s Description de L’Egypte (gorgeous deal for $10) and dream of getting on of those huge library copies!

  2. Nice listing! Love the Louvre feature, very cool!

  3. Going to have to look for that! My book list keeps getting biger. Darn it!

  4. The Louvre feature is very much like the ‘The Little Critter’ interactive stories.

  5. Many thanks for the mention Mary Jo! PS – your guest post at 3PP is up !!


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