Some background

videos + essays

We're adding new content all the time!

Marie-Guillemine Benoist, <em>Portrait of Madeleine</em>
Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Portrait of Madeleine

This portrait of an unnamed woman speaks volumes about slavery, politics, and gender in revolutionary France.

Leonardo, <em>The Mona Lisa </em>
Leonardo, The Mona Lisa

Such a tease! This ambiguous portrait plays psychological and optical games with the viewer.

Seated Gudea holding temple plan
Seated Gudea holding temple plan

Shown with an architectural plan in his lap, this prince constructed temples to the gods and likenesses of himself.

Humanizing Mary: the Virgin of Jeanne d’Evreux
Humanizing Mary: the Virgin of Jeanne d’Evreux

Mary’s swaying hip, elongated neck, and tender touch of the Christ Child all imbue this golden sculpture with grace. A pomegranate signals death.

Vigée Le Brun, <em>Self-Portrait with her Daughter</em>
Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait with her Daughter

Artificial? Moi? This genuine portrait of familial affection challenged assumptions about the aristocracy.

<em>The Emperor Triumphant (Barberini Ivory)</em>
The Emperor Triumphant (Barberini Ivory)

This energetic image of military victory captures a moment of transition between classical and Byzantine art.

Preparations for a Sacrifice
Preparations for a Sacrifice

Animal sacrifice played an important role in ancient Roman religion, but what was involved in the preparation?

Claude Perrault, East façade of the Louvre
Claude Perrault, East façade of the Louvre

Perrault’s unified design updated the columns of ancient temples to suit modern French taste.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, <em>The Village Bride</em>
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, The Village Bride

Complete with barnyard guests, this rural wedding party embodies the Enlightenment idea of “natural” man.

Jacques-Louis David, <em>Oath of the Horatii</em>
Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii

In style and story, this rigorously organized canvas looked back to antiquity; it soon became an icon of Revolution.

Lamassu from the citadel of Sargon II
Lamassu from the citadel of Sargon II

Winged, human-headed bulls served as guardians of the city and its palace—walking by, they almost seem to move.

<em>Plaque of the Ergastines</em>
Plaque of the Ergastines

Bits of the Parthenon have been spirited all over the world—in Paris, a fragment shows religious life in Athens.