At the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Virtually explore the MFA in Boston with Smarthistory as your guide

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The Imagery of Power on Benin Bronze Plaques
The Imagery of Power on Benin Bronze Plaques

The audience hall in the palace in Benin City communicated to visiting ambassadors, traders, courtiers, and subjects the power and wealth of the Oba, or king.

Kota reliquary (mbulu ngulu)
Kota reliquary (mbulu ngulu)

These reliquary figures helped a nomadic society to honor their loved ones after death.

Benin Plaques
Benin Plaques

How to impress your courtiers: a lesson from the Kingdom of Benin

Utagawa Kunisada I, <em>Visiting Komachi</em>, from the series <em>Modern Beauties as the Seven Komachi</em>
Utagawa Kunisada I, Visiting Komachi, from the series Modern Beauties as the Seven Komachi

In this example of ukiyo-e, the artist represents a modern woman in the guise of Komachi, a legendary poetess.

Sofonisba Anguissola
Sofonisba Anguissola

Female painters were rare in sixteenth-century Italy. In self-portraits, Sofonisba made sure to appear virtuous.

<em>Night Attack on the Sanjô Palace</em>
Night Attack on the Sanjô Palace

Complete mayhem! The violent scenes of this remarkable handscroll meld grisly horror with morbid humor.

John Singleton Copley, <em>Paul Revere</em>
John Singleton Copley, Paul Revere

Well known in his own day as a silversmith, Revere is shown in casual attire, with a teapot brimming with meaning.

J. M. W. Turner, <em>Slave Ship</em>
J. M. W. Turner, Slave Ship

A beautiful sunset, but look closer. One of humanity’s most hideous acts—seen in the waves of the indifferent sea.

Fitz Henry Lane, <em>Owl’s Head, Penobscot Bay, Maine</em>
Fitz Henry Lane, Owl’s Head, Penobscot Bay, Maine

“Luminism” sounds like a subject at Hogwarts, but it actually describes landscape paintings like this one.

Rosso Fiorentino, <em>The Dead Christ with Angels</em>
Rosso Fiorentino, The Dead Christ with Angels

Rosso plays fast and loose with tradition, manipulating Christ’s body and transcending High Renaissance strictures.

Mary Cassatt, <em>In the Loge</em>
Mary Cassatt, In the Loge

The subject looks through opera glasses, but she herself is the object of another man’s gaze—not to mention ours.

Thomas Cole, <em>Expulsion from the Garden of Eden</em>
Thomas Cole, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

Adam and Eve have just been evicted from Paradise, and the grass was definitely greener on the other side.