Cabinet of Curiosities

June 25, 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.

Time Travel, by way of a Tiny Painting, by Michael Kimmelman.
A small painting by Velazquez at the Prado of the Villa Medici around 1630; the descriptions in this short article are what I wish I could personally convey every time I discuss what I think great art is and why.


A daily source of anything and everything related to the 18th century.  This particular page has a painting by Jean Honore Fragonard (1732-1806), “Italian Interior”.  The chaotic domestic scene makes one glad for the advances of time.

A wonderful collection of photos from around London, and short essays on the history of the subject.  This picture of a church by Sir Christopher Wren in South London, post the Great Fire, and the accompanying story gives an informative overview on architecture and the rebuilding of the city.

The Family Recorder shares a link from Documentsonline and the digital microfilm initiative.  A must for anyone researching family history using the British National Archive, the extensive record is also a great place to find character names and research the lives of ordinary citizens of the realm.

Beloved Eleanor
The National Trust for Scotland has made available online virtual tours of their sites.  These are incredible!  The Falkland Palace alone is worth looking over, the oldest tennis court in Britain, the stained glass outside the chapel, and don’t forget to look at the ceilings.

The Secret History of Art tells a reader’s story about a possible lost Renoir and his quest to validate the mystery.  Noah Charney adds this to his wonderful blog about art historical mysteries and art crimes.  Perhaps you have a painting you believe is a lost masterpiece, if so, this would be the place to start.

Museums and Libraries:

The New York Public Library has a great new online collection called Biblion.  Unfortunately it is only available through iPad, but does contain a great archive of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  The site opens hidden parts of the collection and the myriad storylines they hold through a unique immersive experience.

Black Book Magazine has an excellent article “An Inside Look at the Lives & Art of Those Who Guard at the Met Museum.”  Putting into perspective the job of a guard, their influence on visitors, and their response to the art they protect.  This group of individuals set a standard many museums need to follow.  I make this statement from firsthand experience with a guard that had no idea where the Rembrandt was, nor the Bernini, but was more than happy to tell me he knew all the latest basketball scores.

If you are looking for some random art inspiration, the National Gallery of London can give you an idea or two.  Their new generator is designed to give their collection more online exposure, 10 masterpieces at a time.  Easier than browsing Artist A to Z when you don’t know exactly what you are looking for, but your muse does.

Indiana University has acquired the library of Bernardo Mendel, collector of early Latin American exploration texts that include geographical maps, navigational records, early Mexican imprints and atlases from the late 16th century through the 19th century.  A sequence of letters from Vespucci, Cortes, Columbus, de la Vega are just some of the authors giving first hand information of this historical time.

Rebecca West, the Forgotten Vorticist
The Tate has a new exhibit on the Vorticist movement in art and literature.  A writer from this intellectual melting pot leading up to the first world war, Rebecca West could not be contained in a single genre.  A career lasting 70 years, she worked in journalism, polemics, travel writing and fiction with a distinctive voice that would be at home in a contemporary audience.


Akashic Books
An indie publisher with a hit book on his hands, you may have heard about Adam Mansbach’s new book, “Go the F— to Sleep,” but the story behind how it came to be is fascinating in itself.

And finally, this blog would not be complete without the mention of a possible new Caravaggio.  Discovered in a private collection in Britain, it will appear in print for the first time in a book produced by Yale University Press.  For a painter that has been dead over 400 years, this is a great find, but the mind wonders, how much art does the owner have that this monumental piece of work has been ignored?  You be the judge and tell me if you think it is a comparable work by this great, albeit short lived, master.

Do you have any great art or history blogs?  Share them with me in the comments below.  I will return on Monday to highlight the early paintings collected by William T. Walters from the Walters Art Museum.  Until then,





Filed under June

3 responses to “Cabinet of Curiosities

  1. I was given Adam Mansbach’s “Go the F–K to Sleep” for father’s day (my kids have a sense a humor). It’s a great read for any parent and has a very interesting back story.

    Great round-up MJ!

  2. Pingback: Just Another Day on the Job (a 500-word story) | Sonia G Medeiros

  3. Oh, Sonia, you made my day! Thanks for the link!

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