The meticulously executed still life paintings of Edwaert Collier unite the Dutch vanitas tradition with a striking focus on contemporary printed material. This monumental work, signed and dated 1662, is among his earliest dated paintings. Yet it is a rare example of his use of publications focusing on Dutch global exploration. The specific locations highlighted in the globes and books, the Americas, uphold the vanitas message communicated in the scene: while this new knowledge is documented with an ostensible permanence through printing, the actual governance of these new lands could be—and was for the Dutch—fleeting.
Find Collier’s painting on view in Gallery 212.
This exceptionally large and fine example of ancient jewelry is a carnelian stone carved with a depiction of the Roman god Mars. Best known as the god of war and commonly equated with the Greek god Ares, Mars was also venerated as a god of agriculture and vegetation. Here, the figure of Mars is carved into the stone by the intaglio method. Intaglio, from the Italian word intagliare, means “to engrave” or “cut into” and is one of the two primary gem carving techniques invented in antiquity. It was often used for finger rings and sealing devices, though this example, due to its large size, was likely a pendant.
See this work in Gallery 153.
Sudanese soldiers wore tailored tunics like this one to mark their role in the Mahdist state’s fight for independence from British and Egyptian rule in the late 19th century. Appliqué elements, such as the sewn shapes seen here, have long held religious significance in Sudan when they appear as talismanic pockets. They also reference the woolen patches haphazardly applied to homemade garments that Sufi followers wore to declare their contempt for worldly goods. The clean lines and orderly arrangements of these patches symbolize the Mahdi’s efforts to centralize army loyalties, while still honoring soldiers’ long-held Sufi beliefs.
See this tunic on view in Gallery 137.
Artist Takuro Kuwata created this large, almost oversized tea bowl using his trademark technique of producing thick cracks on the surface of ceramic works. Kuwata uses porcelain clay and a platinum glaze to make it look like a thick layer of metal is peeling off from the brightly colored vessel it exposes underneath, as if the tea bowl is cracking and melting. Although the work appears entirely modern, Kuwata continually emphasizes the connection between his practice and the traditional Shino-ware technique of kairagi (plum blossom peel). Shown alongside stellar examples of traditional Shino ware, this tea bowl thoroughly modernizes the contemporary Japanese ceramic collection at the Art Institute and illustrates the development of the Shino-ware technique as a living tradition.
See this work on view in Gallery 106.
This painting by British artist William Holman Hunt depicts Jesus Christ as a young carpenter in his father’s workshop, stretching and giving thanks to God after his day of labor. Holman Hunt was a devoted member of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of artists, writers, and critics, whose work were often inspired by Christian themes and who believed that art should be precise and true to nature. These ideals come vibrantly alive in Hunt’s painting, which is rendered with almost hallucinatory detail. The painting is among the artist’s most famous compositions and is now one of the most important Pre-Raphaelite paintings in North America.
See it on view in Gallery 223.
Contemporary Korean ceramic artist Lee Kang-hyo was inspired by buncheong ware from the early Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) in creating this modern interpretation of the traditional form. In particular, Lee Kang-hyo borrowed the technique of using a flat brush (guiyal) to apply white slip over the entire surface of this vase in unplanned, overlapping strokes. The work also features the same basic shape and materials as the Joseon dynasty–era Flask with Fish as well as dynamic motifs that the artist traced with his fingers or a bamboo knife.
See this work on view in Gallery 131.
Expert ceramist Mncane Nzuza, the maker of this pot, is celebrated for her skill; her innovative creations are deeply valued in Zulu society and highly sought after at home and abroad. Serving and sharing ceremonial beer, made with a sorghum malt, from an ukhamba pot is an integral and traditional way to honor ancestors at communal celebrations. A member of Nzuza’s Zulu community commissioned this pot directly from the artist for that purpose. Historically, ukhamba pots have been made by women, who build the pots by hand using a combination of coiling and slabs and scrape the vessels’ walls to thin shells when the terracotta is leather-hard. This ukhamba is a testament to the dynamic nature of the art form as Nzuza flattened and expanded the profile of a standard vessel and playfully adapted a traditional triangular diamond motif linked to historic Zulu designs. This addition to our collection is part of our ongoing work to emphasize individual contributions of creativity and craftsmanship, especially by female artists and artists of color.
See this work on view now in Gallery 137.
In The Milliners, Theresa Bernstein explored the aesthetic qualities of community and concentration, depicting a group of women engaged in the meticulous and artistic labor of fashioning hats. The window at upper left suggests that they are in a city apartment, and therefore undertaking piecework at home to earn extra income. An important voice in early American modernism, Bernstein celebrated the vibrancy and dignity of immigrant and working-class experiences in 20th-century New York. Born in Krakow, she trained at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, a noted center for female professionalism in the arts. Bernstein pursued a dynamic style of realism throughout her long career, working well past the age of 100.
See The Milliners on view now in Gallery 272, and read more on our blog.
Ana De Orbegoso’s “new huaco” recalls the complicated past of Peru’s ancient ceramic vessels, asking how Peruvians should now relate to their history. Its mirrored surface allows Peruvian viewers to gaze upon this modern “portrait vessel” and see their own reflection, offering an embodied connection to their ancestors.
See Neo-Huaco #3 on view now in Gallery 136.
This is an example of one of the most popular types of wine cup in ancient Greece, the kantharos. Rising from a round foot and a thin stem, the cup flares out to a wide bowl with two handles on opposite sides. While most examples are glazed, this elegant exception bears evidence it was once gilded. Before firing it was also inscribed with the word “Aphrodites” near the lip of the cup.
See this work on view in Gallery 151.