Posts Tagged ‘art & architecture’

Things you didn’t know about Michelangelo

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Michelangelo's <i>David</i>, a Renaissance masterpiece, in Florence. Photo by Elaine Ruffolo

When any art fan thinks of Florence, there is always a connection to Michelangelo. No artist has put his mark on the city quite like he has. Yet, how much do we really know about him? Although his reputation has spanned centuries, he was human like the rest of us – with ups and downs in his own life. Here are a few things about this iconic artist that you might not know.

1. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born March 6, 1475.

2. The family business was small-scale banking, a trade that had been passed down for generations. But his father struggled to keep the business successful, and took government positions to supplement the family income. Because of this break in tradition, Michelangelo was free to explore other career opportunities.

3. At the age of 17, Michelangelo worked as Bertoldo di Giovanni’s apprentice, as did fellow contemporary Pietro Torrigiano. It was Pietro who punched Michelangelo, resulting in a broken nose that is clearly reflective of every portrait of Michelangelo.

4. When Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the original idea was to paint the 12 Apostles against a starry sky. But the artist insisted on a more complex theme, and when it was finally completed it included 300 figures highlighting stories from the Book of Genesis.

5. Although many of Michelangelo’s most notable works were created earlier in his life—Pietà, for example, was carved when he was 24 years old —He lived a surprisingly long life and passed away at the age of 88.  

Who is your favorite Renaissance artist – Michelangelo, Raphael, or Da Vinci?

Explore the Italian Renaissance with new eyes and perspectives when you travel to Florence with Smithsonian.

Video: Flamenco!

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Native to the Anadalucia region of Spain, flamenco dancing has become synonymous with Spanish culture. There have been traces of Andalusian, Gypsy, Sephardic, Moorish and Byzantine influences in the dance, and while it is believed the dance originated in the 15th century, the term flamenco was not recorded until the 18th century. The mixture of Moorish guitar with Gypsy dancing resulted in a social dance that has now spread throughout the world, particularly in Central America.

The Golden Age of Flamenco is considered to be 1869-1910, when ticketed performances in public venues attracted a new audience. Dancers began to receive attention, while flamenco guitarists gained a positive reputation as well. However, this created a split in the flamenco community. For purists, the dance changed drastically with public attention. The flamenco fiestas involved a gathering of twenty or so dancers, and there was no certainty as to when (or if) people would show, or for how long.  But once ticketed performances started, there was a structure there did not exist previously. This commercialization of the dance left some feeling it was not authentic, while others saw it to be a new opportunity in creativity and performance.

Check out this scene from the 1995 film Flamenco by Carlos Saura, and then join a dance class in your community.  

Have you seen a flamenco performance in person? Tell us about it.

You can experience the beauty of the dance on Historic Cities of the Sea, where you’ll experience flamenco in lovely Seville.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and is the only one still intact. As the burial chamber for the fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, it took an estimated 20,000-30,000 workers to build over a 20 year period.

Here are a few more facts about the iconic architectural marvel:

1. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure for over 3,800 years, until Lincoln Cathedral’s spire surpassed it around 1300AD in England.

2. It is estimated the Great Pyramid consists of more than 2.3 million limestone rocks, unless it was built on top of a substantial core of rock. While this is possible, scientists still aren’t certain.

3. Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were not built by slaves. They were actually built by workers who lived in the surrounding villages. While no ancient artwork already discovered depicts female workers, archaeologists have found the skeletal remains of women which show evidence of heavy lifting of stone. Therefore, it has been concluded that women may have had a part in the building of these massive structures.

4. You can enter the tomb of the Great Pyramid, but you’ll have to the use Robbers’ Tunnel dug by workmen employed by Caliph al-Ma’mun around AD 820. Recently, the entrance to the Pyramid has been restricted to groups of 100 morning and afternoon. The reason for this involves the moisture in our breath. When we exhale, the moisture creates salt within pyramids and tombs resulting in damaging cracks.

5. Under the leadership of Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquties, photography inside the pyramid is now strictly forbidden.

Do you think the amount of visitors to the Pyramids in should be limited in order to preserve them?

Witness the sheer magnitude of the Great Pyramid with your own eyes on our Egyptian Odyssey tour.

Who Was Eliot Elisofon?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

There are few photographers who can even say they captured Africa quite the way Eliot Elisofon did during his lifetime. His legacy of photography and filmmaking provides ethnologists, photographers, and historians a fantastic visual record of African life from 1947 to 1973. When Eliot passed away in 1973, he bequeathed to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art  his materials from his experiences living on the continent, including 50,000 black-and-white photographs and 30,000 color transparencies.

What is most notable about Elisofon is at a time when outside cultures were viewing Africa through stereotypes and misconceptions, his photography was always grounded in humanity and respect. You can learn more about Eliot Elisofon on the Smithsonian Channel.

Create your own photography portfolio of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana on our Grand Safari  private jet tour.

Who is your favorite photographer? Share Below.

The Santa Fe Indian Market©

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Pueblo at Dusk by Dan Namingha, 1987 Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian

For the past 88 years, the Santa Fe Indian Market© in New Mexico has been a hotspot for the cultural arts – both traditional and cutting edge. Every August, over 1000 artists arrive in the city to sell their jewelry, pottery, paintings, basketry, and beadwork. Surrounding this annual event held since 1922, are gallery openings, art shows, and opportunities to mingle and network with artists, cultural historians, and connoisseurs of Native arts.

A combined effort between Native artists and museum curators, the gathering was seen as an opportunity to bring two cultures together. Non-Natives would learn about indigenous cultures while appreciating Native arts as valuable high art rather than as trinkets and souvenirs. Francis La Flesche, a well respected ethnologist and Omaha Indian, addressed the need for systematic production, steady markets, and the maintenance of adequate prices for the art movement to continue.

Decades later, the Santa Fe Indian Market© has succeeded in combining respect for beautiful, well-made Native artwork while appreciating the economic benefits to Native communities who participate. The result is a world class market that attracts approximately 80,000 people each year, and a valuable $100 million in tourism revenues to the state.

Plus, the jewelry is simply gorgeous.

Explore the world of Native Arts on our The Santa Fe Indian Market© tour this summer.

What would you buy at the Santa Fe Indian Market©?