Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Capitoline Hill Cordonata in Rome

PD Photo: The Capitoline Hill Cordonata in Rome (at the centre of the photo) leading from Piazza di Ara Coeli to Piazza del Campidoglio

The Cordonata (Cordonata Capitolina), designed by Michaelangelo, leading from Via del Teatro Marcello up to Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome, Italy. The two Roman statues at the top of the steps are the mythological twins Castor and Pollux placed there in 1583. The Piazza was designed in the 1530s by Michaelangelo for Pope Paul III. The building opposite the top of the steps (with the tower) is Palazza Senatorio, Rome's City Hall. The massive flight of 134 steps on the left leads up to the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

Typically, a Cordonata is a sloping road composed of transversal stripes made of stone or bricks, similar to a flight of steps allowing the transit of horses and donkeys. Another famous Italian Cordonata also is in Rome, leading to the Piazza del Quirinale, and gives the name to a road, Via della Cordonata.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sarah Baartman, the most famous Khoikhoi woman

PD Image: Sarah Baartman, a caricature drawn in the early 19th century.

Sarah ‘Saartjie, Baartman (1789-1815), is the most famous of the Khoikhoi women who were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus, Hottentot being an offensive name used for the Khoi people and Venus referring to the Roman goddess of love.

Sarah Baartman, born to a Khoisan family in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a slave of Dutch farmers near Cape Town, was taken to London in 1810 and exhibited around Britain, forced to entertain people by gyrating her body and showing to Europeans what were thought of as highly unusual body features.

A Frenchman purchased Sarah Baartman and took her to France, and an animal trainer Regu exhibited her under more pressured conditions for fifteen months. Initially she became popular among the nobles, artists and others, and when the novelty had worn thin with the Parisians, she began to drink heavily and support herself with prostitution.

She died on 29 December 1815 at the age of 25, of an undetermined ailment, speculated as smallpox, syphilis, or pneumonia. Her skeleton, body parts and brain were placed on display in Paris' Musée de l'Homme until 1974.

From the 1940’s there were mounting pressures on the French for the return of her remains to her native South Africa. After the victory of African National Congress in 1994, President Nelson Mandela formally requested France to return Sarah Baartman’s remains. After much legal wrangling and debates in the French National Assembly, France acceded to the request on 6 March 2002. Baartman’s remains were repatriated to her homeland, the Gamtoos Valley, on 6 May 2002 and buried on 9 August 2002 at Vergaderingskop, a hill in the town of Hankey about 200 years after her birth.

Sarah Baartman became a popular subject for many writers, humanists, and those who opposed exhibiting human beings as zoo animals are exhibited. Now there is The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children opened in Cape Town opened in 1999, and South Africa's first offshore environmental protection vessel, the Sarah Baartman, is also named after her.

A French drama film, ‘Black Venus’ (French: Vénus noire), based on the life of Sarah Baartman, featuring Yahima Torres as Sarah Baartman, directed by Abdel Kechiche is scheduled for release date on 27 October 2010.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Baptism of Christ by Francesco Albani

PD Image: Baptism of Christ (1600s), oil painting on canvas by Italian painter, draughtsman and fresco painter Francesco Albani (1578-1660), size 24 inches x 30 inches (location unknown).

Discovery of the Mississippi by William H. Powell

PD Image: Discovery of the Mississippi (1847), oil painting on canvas, dimensions 365.76 cm x 548.64 cm (144.00 in x 216.00 in) by Hernando de Soto, painting by American artist William Henry Powell (1823 - 1879) depicting de Soto seeing Mississippi River for the first time; the painting is displayed in the United States Capitol rotunda. Source: Architect of the Capitol.

Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer and conquistador, while leading the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States, was the first European documented to have crossed the Mississippi River.

William H. Powell was the last artist to be commissioned by the Congress for a painting in the Rotunda. His dramatic and brilliantly colored canvas shows Hernando de Soto, riding a white horse, the first European to view the Mississippi River in 1541. As de Soto and his troops approach, the Native Americans in front of their tepees watch, and their chief holds out a peace pipe. In the foreground is a jumble of weapons and soldiers, suggesting the attack they had suffered shortly before. To the right, a monk prays as a crucifix is set in the ground.

The western front of the United States Capitol

PD Photo: The western front of the United States Capitol, the Neoclassical style building, located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. Source File: 3,000 x 1,556 pixels, file size: 5.18 MB, image/jpeg, AOC, US Govt. (CLICK to download the original photo) Author: The Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the federal agency responsible for the maintenance, operation, development, and preservation of the United States Capitol Complex; the Architect of the Capitol is in the legislative branch and is responsible to the United States Congress.

Monday, September 6, 2010

WW II Posters Warning US Servicemen against Venereal Diseases

Pubic Domain World War II Poster #1: ‘She May Look Clean -- But pick-ups, good-time girls and prostitutes’ carry infections, poster featuring a warning to all American servicemen that even the perfect girl-next-door could be a possible carrier of infection, appealing to the soldiers’ sense of patriotism and urging them to protect themselves for the sake of the country suggesting, "You can't beat the Axis if you get VD."

Pubic Domain World War II Poster #2: Venereal Disease Covers the Earth (1940), a warning to American soldiers against venereal diseases across the world. It shows a glamorous woman posing in a low-cut red dress (red-terror, communists?) set against a shadowed globe in the background. The headline warns, "Venereal disease covers the earth," and the bottom caption reiterates another message: “the responsibility of the soldier in protecting himself”.

Pubic Domain World War II Poster #3: Easy to get, both the woman and the diseases syphilis and gonorrhea, 1940 Charles Casa illustration of a prostitute leaning against a brick wall on a deserted street corner. The poster uses boldly contrasting colors to accent its message - the yellow on red background and the suggestiveness are used to catch the attention of the viewer, ultimately challenging the soldiers' correlation between sexually available women and good times.

Pubic Domain World War II Poster #4: She May Be A Bag of Trouble - this 1940 poster features the heavily made-up, cigarette-smoking woman as venereal disease carrier, and appealing to the soldiers’ interest in the eye-catching woman, the poster warns against venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea.

Pubic Domain World War II Poster #5: Juke Joint Sniper, a 1942 poster by Feree - a striking blonde woman lights up a cigarette in front of a bar. The headline makes it clear that this is a warning-this is not just any woman, she is a dangerous threat, indicated by the military-inspired epithet ‘Juke Joint Sniper’.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Resurrection Day, Bible Card illustration

PD Image: The Resurrection Day, Bible Card illustration published before 1923 by an unknown publisher depicting resurrected Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene (Embedded text: Mary Weeping at the Tomb John 20:11-14).