The peasants’ feast by Sebald Beham

The mid-16th century, marked by the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, was a challenging time for artists working in northern Europe. In January 1525, only 7 years after Martin Luther had nailed his 95 theses onto the door of a chapel in Wittenberg and thereby setting in motion the Protestant Reformation, three artists; the brothers Sebald and Barthel Beham, and Georg Pencz were trialled before the town council of Catholic Nuremberg. For months these ‘godless painters’ were banished from the city for claiming they did not believe in baptism, Christ or transubstantiation (the belief that bread and wine would become the physical body and blood of Christ at consecration) [1.].

Hans Sebald Beham, "The peasants' feast" from series "The country wedding" (1546), engraving
Hans Sebald Beham, “The peasants’ feast” from series “The country wedding” (1546), engraving

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Charles Meryon and the French etching revival

By the early 19th century in Europe, the intaglio technique of etching had fallen out of popularity in the graphic arts. Etching was a popular printmaking technique during the 16th and 17th centuries, with artists such as Rembrandt and Dürer regularly experimenting with the method. To create an etching, the printmaker coats a metal plate (traditionally copper) with an acid-resistant ‘ground’ before drawing their design through the ground with a sharp tool. Once the design is drawn, the plate is immersed in acid and the chemical reactions between the acid and the metal results in those areas unprotected by the ‘ground’ leaving behind clear lines. After cleaning the ‘ground’ off the plate, the printmaker applies ink to the incised lines and then transfer the design onto paper.

During the early 19th century, etching was employed as a reproductive process, and it consequently became closely associated with ideas of mass production and industry. In spite of this, a number of artists continued to pursue the medium. French artists and printmakers persevered with etching throughout the first half of the 19th century, and by the 1860s, a full-scale movement was underway that sought the contemporary revival of the technique [1].

Charles Meryon after Renier Zeeman, "Le Pavillon De Mademoiselle Et Une Partie Du Louvre", (1849), etching
Charles Meryon after Renier Zeeman, “Le Pavillon De Mademoiselle et une partie du Louvre”, (1849), etching.

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The Great mirror of folly now digitised

Het Groote tafereel der dwaasheid or the ‘Great mirror of folly’ as it is known in English, is a unique Amsterdam publication complied around the year 1720, by an unnamed publisher, as a record of the aftermath of the West’s first stock market crash. No two volumes of this book are the same because different ephemeral items such as the prints, songs, poetry and broadsides which proliferated that year, were gathered up into bindings of varied arrangements and contents. The resulting book is something akin to a kaleidoscopic view of the financial misadventures of Europe in the 18th century.

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Our future was ours: Darren Sylvester loan to the National Gallery of Victoria

Our future was ours, a lightjet print made in 2005 by Melbourne artist Darren Sylvester was condition reported this week in preparation for its loan to the National Gallery of Victoria. The work of art will be featured in the artist’s first large-scale solo exhibition titled Darren Sylvester: Carve a Future, Devour Everything, Become Something shown at Federation Square from the 1st of March until 30th June 2019.

Conservator from the National Gallery of Victoria condition reporting Darren Sylvester's "Our future was ours"
Conservator from the National Gallery of Victoria condition reporting Darren Sylvester’s “Our future was ours”

The scene depicted in the print was staged and photographed inside the Baillieu Library. Our future was ours was purchased for the building in 2009 by the then University Librarian, Philip Kent, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Baillieu. It’s exhibition now in 2019 coincides perfectly with the Baillieu Library’s 60th anniversary.

News of the Popish plot

Dr McIlvenna performing an execution ballad from the Popish plot pamphlets.
Dr McIlvenna performing an execution ballad from the Popish plot pamphlets.

The 2019 object-based learning program created a headline through the Popish plot pamphlets which amazed students in the summer intensive course: The History of News from Street Ballads to Social Media. The Popish plot pamphlets are a compilation of bound printed items such as speeches, broadsides, poems, plays and ballads which are titled after the first publication in the volume: A true narrative of the late design of the papists to charge their horrid plot upon the Protestants (1679). Many brutal wars and plots took place across Europe between the Catholics and the Protestants after the Protestant Reformation was set in motion in 1517. It is a powerful and sobering experience to behold these pamphlets which are a physical record of religiopolitical terrorism. Plots such as those in 17th century England including this scheme to assassinate the Protestant King Charles II, had in other instances such as in France, resulted in the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in which thousands of Protestants were savagely slain. The Popish plot, however, was later revealed to be a fictitious conspiracy invented by the priest Titus Oates, but not before alleged ‘papist plotters’ had been grimly executed.

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