Troy I, or Bronze Age Troy: An incomplete, tantalizing picture

The people who lived at Troy I were around for the very beginning of the Bronze Age, around 5000 years ago.  Whether or not they smelted their own bronze (we don’t know), they had bronze tools, weapons, and other bronze and copper items to use in addition to their stone implements.  They fished, and they were weavers, and they built houses and fortification walls.  They created pottery with their hands, because the potter’s wheel wasn’t in use here yet.

Fragment of Troy I “eye motif” pottery

That’s about the extent of what we know about the people who lived during the first level of Troy, from around 3000-2500 BCE.  But we can flesh it out a bit.

Schliemann’s Trench, revealing Troy I remains

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Henri Rivière: Printmaking, Processes, and the Chat Noir

I’m having one of those moments when I wonder where I’ve been.  I mean, seriously, how is it possible that I’d never heard of Henri Rivière until last weekend?  And now, I can’t get enough!

Henri Rivière, Vegetable Garden at Ville-Hue (Saint-Briac), 1890, From the Breton Landscapes, Color woodblock print printed from eight blocks on eighteenth-century Japanese laid paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago.

I was in Chicago last weekend and stopped in at the Smart Museum of Art (University of Chicago) to see their exhibition, Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints.  So much beauty!  Henri Rivière’s prints lured me in immediately. I love the combination of Japanese woodcut technique and appearance with French subject matter (think Hokusai meets The Gleaners).

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, part of the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, no. 21, 1826-33, medium color woodblock print, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Jean-François Millet ,The Gleaners,1857,color on canvas, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

A little bit about Rivière:  He was a late 19th/early 20th century painter, printmaker and the inventor of a very famous (at the time) and long-standing series of shadow plays at the Chat Noir cabaret in Paris.  Now here’s what I find fascinating:  Continue reading

True Love (Colossal Bull Head from Persepolis)

It’s official.  I’ve fallen in love, and I’ve fallen hard.  The object of my affection has big beautiful eyes, wonderfully styled hair, and elegantly curved nostrils. It’s not often that you admire the nostrils on your true love, but take a look. I’m sure you’ll agree that they’re worth admiring:

Colossal Bull Head, dark gray limestone, from Iran: Persepolis, Hundred Columned Hall, 486-424 BCE; now in the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Isn’t he gorgeous?  Here’s another view:

Colossal Bull Head, from Iran: Persepolis, Hundred Columned Hall, 486-424 BCE; now in the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

He’s not all looks, either.  In fact, his original context makes him even more attractive.  He’s from Persepolis, in modern-day Iran, and more specifically, he stood at the entrance to the Hundred-Column Hall.  It doesn’t get more romantic sounding than that!  This bull’s body was in relief and was left there, on the gates to the Hundred-Column Hall. (The heads were found on the ground nearby.)


Modern view of reconstructed head of a bull and the body on the gate, Persepolis (in modern-day Iran). (

Let me tell you a little bit about Persepolis, then we’ll get back to my boyfriend.  Persepolis was a capital city built in what was then Persia (modern-day Iran) by the kings of the Achaemenid (ack-uh- MEN-id) Empire. You may have heard of Cyrus the Great and the Cyrus Cylinder.  Well, he was the first Achaemenid king.  Other Achaemenid kings include Xerxes (ZERK-seez) and several Dariuses, the third of whom was defeated by Alexander the Great.  You might remember seeing him in the famous Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii:

Alexander Mosaic, 100 BCE, found at the House of the Faun in Pompeii, now in the Naples National Archaeological Museum

Alexander Mosaic, 100 BCE, found at the House of the Faun in Pompeii, now in the Naples National Archaeological Museum

Darius III is in the center with the yellow headdress; Alexander the Great is bare-headed on our left.  (If you saw the recent and mediocre movie about Alexander the Great, they re-enact this battle with a similar-looking Darius.  Really the only reason for seeing the movie.)

Cyrus’s grandson, Darius I, began building Persepolis in around 515 BCE as the capital of the extensive Achamenid Empire. Persepolis was envisioned as a place to showcase the extent and talent of the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire, which at its height stretched from northern Greece to Pakistan, from Egypt to Iran, and included the Middle East and many of the countries that made up the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, etc).

The Achaemenid Empire at its height.

The Achaemenid Empire at its height.

The reliefs that decorate the Apadana (Reception Hall) at Persepolis, although it looks like the same person could be depicted over and over, oompa loompa style, actually show differences in dress, hair, and beards, to indicate natives of the countries that made up the empire.


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