Maya Blue Paint


Maya painters used a blue paint that proved to be very durable—its hue remains vivid today—on murals, ceramics, and in their codices and manuscripts. While the ingredients of the blue paint have been known for years, scientists in Spain recently discovered that the method of preparation “cooked” the mixture of pigments and clay to stabilize the paint.

Scientists have long known the two chief ingredients of the intense blue pigment: indigo, a plant dye that’s used today to color denim; and palygorskite, a type of clay. But how the Maya cooked up the unfading paint remained a mystery. Now Spanish researchers report that they found traces of another pigment in Maya Blue, which they say gives clues about how the color was made.

“We detected a second pigment in the samples, dehydroindigo, which must have formed through oxidation of the indigo when it underwent exposure to the heat that is required to prepare Maya Blue,” Antonio Doménech, a researcher from the University of Valencia, said in a statement.

The VRC is often adding new groups Mayan and Mesoamerican images to our LUNA database, so be sure to check it out our resources for murals, pottery, and more!

Via A Blog About History and LiveScience.

Image credit: Bonampak Murals. Copy. 692. Harvard University. Peabody Museum. ©Kathleen Cohen. Copy by Antonio Teleda in 1948.

James McNeill Whistler Papers Now Available Digitally


The James McNeill Whistler collection (1863–1906, ca. 1940) at the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art is now available online, having been digitized in its entirety in 2012.

The 307 images online include various documents pertaining to the career of Whistler, who was born in the US but worked in London. There are:

39 items from Whistler to various recipients, including 25 letters, 9 telegraphs, 3 invitations, one thank you card and a postcard. The collection also contains 4 letters from others, 7 catalogs of Whistler exhibitions, a note from the back of Whistler’s painting The Beach at Selsey Bill, and a 1906 copy of Wilde v. Whistler: being an acromonious correspondence on art between Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill Whistler, a pamphlet containing letters originally published in London newspapers between 1885 and 1890.

Several of the items in the collection are signed with Whistler’s butterfly mark. To view digital images from the archive, or to find out more, visit the James McNeill Whistler Collection.

Image source: James McNeill Whistler collection, 1863-1906, circa 1940. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Index of Christian Art & Image Resources

ICA Additional Resources

Princeton University’s Index of Christian Art recently added a new collection to its Additional Resources section, an image collection called “The Lois Drewer Calendar of Saints in Byzantine Manuscripts and Frescos.”

This collection joins 12 others that include a variety of topics and media, including manuscripts, decorative arts, and paintings.

For more information, visit the Index of Christian Art and their Additional Resources.

Update to Oxford Art Online—Expanded Photography Section


Oxford Art Online dramatically expanded their coverage of photography in April 2014:

This season Grove Art Online is pleased to present a group of more than 60 new and significantly updated articles on the topic of photography, developed in part in response to frequent reader requests for more expansive coverage of the history and practice of photography in Grove. The centerpiece of the project is a group of 16 new and significantly updated articles on key movements and concepts, including important pieces on documentary photography, digital photography, and the worker photography movement. The update also includes a set of 44 new biographies, South African photographer Ernest Cole, female portraitist Zaida Ben-Yosuf, 19th-century critic Francis Wey, and 20th-century curator John Szarkowski. Filling out this season’s update are another 90 photography-related articles with fully updated bibliographies to incorporate the latest research. Many thanks are due to the dedicated and accomplished scholars who contributed to this update, as well as to the institutions and individuals who generously provided over 120 stunning new illustrations to promote understanding of the texts. This new material complements Grove’s existing coverage of photography around the globe, and sets the stage for continued growth in coming years.

For access to Oxford Art Online (University of Chicago affiliates only), click here. To go directly to the newly updated Photography content, click here.

Internet Archive Companion App

Internet Archive Companion

The Internet Archive is a collection of digitized or born-digital materials with cultural significance. It is comprised of many unique collections including NASA images, Project Gutenberg, Classic Comics, live music by the Grateful Dead, and of course the ever-popular Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive is free and open to the public, and since most of their materials are in the public domain, they are available for downloading or streaming in a variety of file formats—for example, full text books can be viewed as PDFs or as EPUB files for your e-reader. The Internet Archive is free and open to the public, and collaborates with universities and museums around the world to ingest new collections and materials.

The recently launched Internet Archive Companion app makes the collections of the Internet Archive easily accessible on your iPad or iPhone. The developer’s website notes:

It’s a free app enabling you to browse the enormous collections of videos/movies, music/sound, books and images in an intimate, consumable way! Flip though the pages of scanned books, or flip through the text copies of books, including many from Project Gutenberg (to name just one of the many sources of The Internet Archive.)

For more information, visit the Internet Archive Companion app or stop by the VRC to test it out.

ICFA’s Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection

Cityscape, Istanbul

The Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (IFCA) or Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC has recently expanded the images included in their website dedicated to the photographs of Nicholas V. Artamonoff, who photographed Ottoman monuments and daily life in Istanbul during the 1930s and 1940s. Other Turkish cities represented in the collection include Bergama, Bursa, Izmir, Selçuk and Yalova. While the ICFA holds a collection of Artamonoff’s images in their repository, they discovered that other photographs are held in the the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives of the Smithsonian Institution in the Myron Bement Smith Collection. The addition of 477 images from the Smithsonian brings the total number of photographs available in the ICFA’s website to more than 1,000.

The ICFA’s website allows users to browse images individually or by parent institution, historic site, or keywords. There is also a map with plotted points that link to images in the collection to allow users to browse geographically and a “” viewer function.

For more information, visit the Nicholas V. Artamonoff Collection.

Image: Nicholas V. Artamonoff. Cityscapes, Istanbul, View of the Atatürk Bridge and Süleymaniye Cami, no date. Myron Bement Smith Collection, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Artamonoff P382.

Brooklyn Visual Heritage

Project CHART has recently launched a website for the Brooklyn Visual Heritage project, which will eventually contain more than 13,000 historic photographs and images from the collections of the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Public Library. The Brooklyn Visual Heritage digital library is hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library and the Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Science collaborated on the project as well.

Brooklyn Visual Heritage

One of the primary goals for the BVH website is “focusing on the digitization of historic images of Brooklyn and making them easily accessible to a broad and diverse audience.”  In addition to searching across institutions or limiting your search to a specific institution, the website also provides access to discrete archival collections and thematic groups. While enlarged images are available for viewing on the website, they all bear a digital watermark (there is an option to purchase images without watermarks). The three-year-long project, nearing the final stages, was developed through an IMLS grant.

For more information, and to explore the collections, visit Brooklyn Visual Heritage.

VRC Winter Quarter Office Hours

Hyde Park, 57th Street Art Fair, 1950

The VRC is now holding office hours from 3-5pm on Mondays and Thursdays! VRC staff will be available during these hours for you to drop by with your questions about finding and using images in your research or the VRC’s scanning equipment.

In addition to these office hours, we are available for both drops in and scheduled appointments during our regular business hours of 8:30a–5p Monday through Friday.

Image: Hyde Park, 57th Street Art Fair, 1950. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf2-09219, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

100th Anniversary of the Armory Show and New Web Resources

Galler 50, Art Institute of Chicago, Armory Show

In 1913, a landmark exhibition—the International Exhibition of Modern Art—also known as the Armory Show toured the country, first in New York at the 69th Regiment Armory (February 17–March 15), in Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago (March 24–April 16), and Boston, at the Copley Society (April 23–May 14). For the first time ever, European modern and avant-garde artists such Brancusi, Duchamp, Matisse, and Picass were exhibited to the US public. And while New York and Boston each had presentations of the exhibition, Chicago was the only venue to exhibit the works in a fine art museum. And in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Armory Show, there are new web resources that explore the development, installation, and reception of the

The Art Institute of Chicago has a web module about their presentation of the Armory Show, including background information about the individuals responsible for bring the Armory Show to the US, in situ gallery installation photographs mapped onto present day gallery spaces at the museum, PDFs of the original exhibition catalog, and other contextual information.

Armory Timeline, Archives of American Art

The Archives of American Art at he Smithsonian Institute has a timeline of the Armory Show, “The Story in Primary Sources,” that presents digitized documents pertaining to the watershed exhibition in chronological order. The project description describes how the various primary source materials provide context for the exhibition:

Together the letters, sales records, printed ephemera, and personal diaries paint a picture of the Armory Show that is as dynamic as the stunning diversity of works on display.

Both websites also include detailed bibliographic information for further research. For more information, explore the Art Institute’s website or the Archives of American Art’s website.