Arts and Crafts Movement: Reviving Hand-Craftmanship

The Arts and Crafts Movement developed in the second half of nineteenth century England as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Manufactured goods were often poorly designed, using inferior materials and produced by abused factory workers. One of the first proponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement was William Morris (1834-1896). The artist, textile and wallpaper designer, writer and socialist promoted hand-craftsmanship for the decorative arts. Associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, his Peacock and Dragon woven woolen fabric was inspired by Morris' interest in Medieval European and Middle Eastern textiles. Another English artist who followed the movement was Walter Crane (1845-1915). Influenced by Morris he believed that decorative arts should be available to all classes and promoted public exhibitions through the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Crane produced paintings, decorative arts and children's books including The Marquis Of Carabas: His Picture Book. Charles Robert Ashbee (1863– 1942) was the son of a Victorian gentleman who collected erotica and a German mother who embraced the new aesthetic of the Pre-Raphaelites. Ashbee founded the Guild and School of Handicraft specializing in jewelry, metalwork, enamels and furniture. Located in East London the guild revived traditional crafts and provided employment to a deprived area. The brooch designed by Ashbee depicts a ship and is fabricated from gilded silver, gold, enamel and turquoises.

The Winged Spirit: Butterflies in Art

The beauty and ephemeral nature of butterflies have long been a subject of art. French decorative artist E. A. Séguy created intricate Butterfly Prints for his folio Papillons (1924). The porchoir prints have rich, intense color and reflect the influence of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Władysław Teodor Benda (1873-1948) was a Polish-American painter, illustrator and designer. He created the "Benda Girl", an exotic beauty who graced many magazines including Life's cover Butterfly. Benda went on to be a designer of theatre masks. Another artist who depicted people with wings was Greek painter Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989). Influenced by the French Impressionists and the Greek aesthetic his work was often homoerotic as depicted by his Winged spirit buttoning his underpants.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Butterfly Allen.

Bejeweled Trees: The Creations of Misia Sert

Misia Sert (1872-1950) is usually remembered as a patron of Parisian artists, writers and musicians. Born Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska she was the daughter of Polish sculptor, Cyprian Godebski and granddaughter of Belgium cellist Adrien François Servais. Sert went on to be an accomplished pianist and posed for many of the artists who attended her Salons. She was the model for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's poster of La Revue blanche which shows her on skates. La revue was an arts magazine that was co-published by Sert's first husband Thadée Natanson. It was her third husband Jose-Maria Sert y Badia, the Spanish muralist whose infidelities drove her to create miniature bejeweled trees. The artist and the muse had a long fascination with rock crystal. In the 1920's, Sert when left by her husband began designing small forests of rock crystal, glass beads, silver foil and semi precious gems. Details of one pair comprised of rock crystal, glass beads and coral bits were photographed by Lisa Erickson.

Arabian Iberia: When Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together

Long before a minor Christian pastor threatened to burn the Qur'an there was a period of nearly eight centuries when Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted on the Iberian peninsula. Against a background of warfare and religious differences, the medieval world saw a collaboration of peoples and ideas. Much of Spain and Portugal was under Arab rule beginning in the seventh century through the fifteenth century. Al-Andalus as it was known was a place of political, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity. 

A page of the Spanish illuminated manuscript, Libro de los Juegos shows a Moor and Christian seated at a chess board during the thirteenth century. Commissioned by Alfonso X of Castille (1221-1284), the monarch conquered several Muslim strongholds. The Galician-Portuguese manuscript, Cantigas de Santa Maria depicts a Moor and Christian playing lutes in the monarch's court. Both chess and the lute were brought to Iberia by the Moors. During Alfonso's reign he fostered an environment of learning and scholarship between Christians, Muslims and Jews.  The interchange in cultures also brought distinctive lustreware pottery to Spain, the dish is from the fifteenth century. 

This enlightened time was followed by the dark Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions of the Renaissance.

Portuguese Festa: Celebrating Tradition

September marks the annual Our Lady of Miracles Festa celebration in Gustine, California. The tradition of festas was brought to America by the Portuguese who immigrated here primarily from the Azores and Madeira Islands. Combining religious symbolism and history with social events they are observed in Portuguese American communities throughout California, Hawaii and New England. Featuring traditions of food, music and costume the festivities last several days. The photo is a detail of American Russell Lee's (1903-1986) image from a 1942 Festa of the Holy Ghost in Santa Clara, California of a Festa Queen and her court. Depicting Portuguese jewelry and costume of the Minho region is Auguste Racinet's late nineteenth century book, Le Costume Historique. The Laura Costa illustration of Azorian costume is a part of a Portuguese mid-twentieth century sewing machine promotion that documented national and colonial costumes.

Humpty Dumpty and the Cravat: Porcelains and Peacocks Celebrates One Year

Porcelains and Peacocks celebrates one year with an unbirthday. The word was coined by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) in Through the Looking Glass when Humpty Dumpty wears a cravat that was given to him as an "urn-birthday" present. Alice is shown with Humpty in the 1955 illustration by Roberta Paflin. Cravats are believed to have originated in seventeenth century Croatia. The earliest visual recording of the fashion is a 1622 portrait of the Baroque Croatian poet Ivan Gundulić (1589 - 1636). Humpty-Dumpty of the nursery rhyme was actually the nickname of a large cannon that figured in the English Civil War (1642-1649). The Royalist fort of Colchester was protected by the cannon which was positioned on a high wall. During the siege by the Parliamentarians the wall was damaged and Humpty Dumpty fell to the ground. The Royalists, "All the King's Men" tried to raise the cannon to another part of the wall but it was too heavy and they could not put Humpty-Dumpty together again. American W. W. Denslow depicted the rhyme in his 1901 Mother Goose.