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William Blake - Pity 1795 etching watercolor 42.2x52.7cm MET

‘Pity, like a naked newborn babe, striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim horsed, upon the sightless couriers of the air, shall blow the horrid deed in every eye’ — These lines from scene 7, act 1 of Macbeth inspired William Blake to create one of his ‘frescos’ — a heavily worked form of monoprint where Blake began with a relief etching, then applied oil or tempera mixed with chalk, and finally finished by hand with  and pen. Blake illustrated many scenes by Shakespeare and Milton — creating a strangely cohesive world of ghostly figures and supernatural ritual.

Wenzel Hablik - Starry Sky 1909

We don't know much about Wenzel Hablik's painting of the glittering cosmos. Titled, Starry Sky, Attempt, Hablik seems to understand the imperfection of his vision. It's too full, too bright, too hopeful. He paints a universe as alive as a busy street, outer space with a pulse. But that's Hablik for you, the boy who stared into crystals and saw palaces inside, the man who designed cities perched on mountain tops. The man who lived through WWI, and was still able to say "Speak out! Speak out! Delight in existence — in the universe— in being and perishing."

Jacques-Louis David - The Intervention of the Sabine Women 1795-1799 385x522cm Musee du Louvre

David's greatest painting, and a get-out-of-jail-free card.

1795 was a dark time for Jaques-Louis David. The French Revolution was is in full bloody swing — and David, who's waffling political allegiances had kept him safe had finally gone too far. As a member of the revolution's vicious police force, the Committee of General Security, David had directly participated in the execution of thousands of French citizens. David had blood on his hands, and when the tide turned, and Robespierre himself was guillotined, he was thrown in jail. In prison, David concieved of The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Spring - La Primavera 1563 Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando

Historians used to wonder if Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a madman, assembling human faces from vegetables and flowers. But Arcimboldo was just wildly creative. Spring is from his Four Seasons collection — a suite of paintings showcasing the literal fruits of the prosperous reign of Emperor Maximilian II. The Emperor loved the work so much, he had Arcimboldo reproduce the paintings multiple times, so he could send them to his friends and family. 

 Peter Paul Rubens's The Four Continents personifies the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and America as beautiful women, lounging nude with the male personifications of their majoy rivers — the Danube, the Ganges, the Nile and the Río de la Plata. It's a lush, sexy scene — heightened by the surreal presence of wild beasts, upended decor, and putti playing just on the edge of danger.

The Rose Trellis Egg was a gift from Tsar Nicholas II to his wife, Alexandra Fedorovna commemorating the birth of their son — Alexei Nicholaievich. This was the first Imperial Easter egg that Peter Carl Fabergé made for the Tsar since the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. Each of Fabergé's Imperial eggs contained a surprise, to delight the tsarevich. This egg hid a diamond necklace and an ivory miniature portrait of Alexandra Fedorovna framed in diamonds — unfortunately, these items are now lost. Fabergé's invoice, dated April 21, 1907, listed the egg at 8,300 rubles, roughly a half a million US dollars today.

Vogelherd cave in Stetten, Germany, has been one of the most exciting sites of Neolithic discoveries, and home to some of the oldest neolithic objects ever found. Excavated in 1931 by Gustav Riek, an archaeologist from the University of Tübingen, it is thought to be a site where early peoples gather to feast after successful hunts. Riek attributed the tools and figures discovered in Vogelherd to multiple stone age societies, including the Mousterian, Aurignacian, Magdalenian and Neolithic. 

Jade cong are among the most enimatic Neolithic artefacts. Buried with bodies in grave sites, and found in most of China's important archeological excavations, cong were extrordinary to difficult to create, since Jade cannot be split and had to be sanded to a smooth flat surface. This cong follows a common pattern, being hexagonal, with a round hollow core, with a slight taper from top to bottom. Each corner is inscribed with a stylized face.

In 1699, Maria Sibylla Merian sold 255 of her own paintings to fund a research trip from her home in Amsterdam to Suriname in South America. For two years she explored the Dutch colony there, documenting the local flora and fauna. This lively fellow was painted during her trip, and is known as an Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae), a large species of lizard found in South American rainforests and savannas.  Tegu are highly intellegent and very social, known to seek out human affection like a pet dog. PetHelpful's exotic animal veterinarian Dr. Mark gushingly calls them "the best, the perfect pet lizard." We do not know Merian's precise thoughts on the tegu, but she certainly painted this one with a smile on his face.

In 1919, Theo van Doesburg was working with Piet Mondrian to push art past cubism. Just a year before, van Doesburg had written a manifesto defining 'the new art' which he called De Stijl or 'The Style'. Composition in Gray captures the transition between these two styles. The gradients and ovals common to cubism, giving way to the rigid vertical and horizontal structure of the burgeoning De Stijl movement.