For Scribal points, what is the wooden gadget on the table and how does it work?
Jake says, "The proverbial better mousetrap," and indeed it is since it was constructed by St. Joseph himself. It comes from the right side of the Mérode altarpiece, by the fifteenth century Master of Flémalle -- probably Robert Campin. Art historian Meyer Schapiro writes:
In the Mérode Altarpiece by the Master of Flémalle,
the figure of Joseph appears in a wing beside the Annunciation
as an artisan who fashions mousetraps.... [T]his detail of the
mousetrap is more than a whimsical invention of the artist, suggested
by Joseph's occupation. It has also a theological meaning that
was present to the minds of Christians in the Middle Ages, and
could be related by them to the sense of the main image of the
triptych. St. Augustine, considering the redemption of man by
Christ's sacrifice, employs the metaphor of the mousetrap to explain
the necessity of the incarnation. The human flesh of Christ is
a bait for the devil who, in seizing it, brings about his own
ruin. "The devil exulted when Christ died, but by this very
death of Christ the devil was vanquished, as if he had swallowed
the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced in Christ's death, like
a bailiff of death. What he rejoiced in was then his own undoing.
The cross of the Lord was the devil's mousetrap; the bait by which
he was caught was the Lord's death...." (Qtd. at Oneonta.edu art history website)
This gate was very high and wide, but had such a narrow
entry-way that two men or two horses could not pass through
together or meet one another in the gate without crowding
or great difficulty; for it was built just like a trap that
awaits the rat on its furtive scavenging: it had a blade
poised above, ready to fall, strike, and pin, and triggered
to be released and to fall at the slightest touch.
The [Pictish stones of St. Vigeans], which date back to the decades before the nation of
Scotland was born in the 9th century, depict ornate Christian crosses
and fantastic beasts and bear both Latin and Pictish writing (the
latter now indecipherable). . . .
The stones are a great early Christian treasure of Angus. They include
the Drosten Stone, a cross slab with ornate cross and fantastic beasts,
plus a rare Latin and Pictish inscription which might have commemorated
King Uoret who died around 842AD. In 843AD, the Pictish kingdom was
united with Gaelic Dalriada under a single monarch – leading to the
birth of Scotland.
The finds, dated to around the 7th century A.D., predate the origins of
similar sophisticated painting techniques in medieval Europe and the
Mediterranean by more than a hundred years.
The discovery may also provide insights into cultural exchange along
the Silk Road connecting east and west Asia during that time period. . . .
Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, scientists found that
samples from 12 caves and the two destroyed giant Buddhas contained
oil- and resin-based paints—likely the earliest known use of either
substance for painting.
Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation
in Conservation in Tokyo presented the findings at a recent
international symposium held there.
The analysis showed the murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods.
These remarkable ivory beads are from a collection of 14th century Parisian carvings soon to be on exhibit at Courtauld Institute of Art. The legend around the skulls reads, Ainsi serons nous, wi ou demain -- Thus will we be today (wi = hui) or tomorrow. The beads show faces on one side and skulls on the other. More information on the collection at 24 Hour Museum.
We usually picture classical statuary as pure white, but the Vatican Museum is featuring an exhibit of famous classical statues restored to their (probable) original colors. The statue above is a red-headed Emperor Augustus, resplendent in red, white, and blue. From The Roman Hideout, circuitously via Neatorama. More photos here, including Caligula looking particularly puerile.
This Coney Island carousel horse is the work of carvers Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein, Yiddish speakers who immigrated from Russia at the turn of the twentieth century. These two carvers were responsible for "the largest carousels ever made: sixty feet across, with up to six rows of horses, and able to accommodate more than a hundred people." But they were not alone. Many other Jewish artisans of the time contributed to the style of the American carousel as well. According to a fascinating online exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum, called Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, their work is based on traditional imagery of sacred Jewish art:
Some of the same Jewish artisans who arrived in America at the turn of the twentieth century and carved for their local synagogues also found work carving horses and other animals
for the flourishing carousel industry. Inspired by the majestic Torah
arks, gravestone carvings, and papercuts from their homelands in
Eastern and Central Europe, they helped transform carousel art into a
powerful sculptural expression of dynamic and animated forms. Although
fanciful carousel animals have long been exhibited in museums, the
religious carvings by these artisans have primarily been appreciated
within the setting of the synagogue. Until now, the important
historical and aesthetic link between the synagogue and the carousel
has never been documented.
The exhibit traces the connections between the public work of Jewish carvers and the tradition of carving in the synagogue, such as these lions of Judah, attributed to Isaac Sternberg (Itzok the Schnitzer), Philadelphia, c. 1918: Here is a Coney Island lion, by Marcus Charles Illions, for comparison:
No, wait, that's France . . . Hell is where they make you eat frogs NAKED. The illustration comes from a sixteenth century "Shepherd's Calender," which was like the Farmer's Almanac but with prancing demons. Via BibliOdyssey
[They] identified a 16th-century Flemish Nativity painting
in which one angelic figure appears distinctly different from other
individuals in the painting with an appearance of Down syndrome. . . . This may be one of
the earliest European representations of Down syndrome.
The 1515 Flemish painting, by an unknown artist, . . . shows an angel (next to Mary) and possibly one other figure,
the shepherd in the centre of the background with the syndrome.
"If our diagnosis is correct, this implies that Down's syndrome is not a modern disease," say [Levitas and Reid] (American Journal of Medical Genetics 2003;116:399-405).
The diagnosis of Down's syndrome in the angel was based on a
number of features: a flattened mid-face, epicanthal folds, upslanted
palpebral fissures*, a small and upturned tip of the nose, and downward
curving of the corners of the mouth. The hands, crossed over the
breast, have short fingers, especially on the left.
*The palpebral fissure is the separation between the upper and lower eyelids.