About: Jan Bender

I'm a library assistant for special collections at the Getty Research Institute, and also write and illustrate semi-professionally. Some of my fiction will soon be published by the Conlan Press.

Posts by Jan

Posted in Art, Getty Research Institute, Research

Treasures from the Vault: Harry Smith and Patterns in the Wind

Paper airplane made from a flyer for The Event from the Cafe Au Go-Go, 1967
Paper airplane made from a flyer for "The Event from the Cafe Au Go-Go" published by Verve Folkways and the Infinite Poster, Inc., 1967. Harry Smith papers. The Getty Research Institute, 2013.M.4, box 273

What drove artist Harry Smith to collect paper airplanes on the streets of New York? More»

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      gettypubs:

      COBALT

      The histories of many colors are amazing, but cobalt may well have the most brilliant of them all. From the Ming Dynasty to Renaissance Italy, cobalt was a popular glaze for porcelain and other ceramics. Cobalt ink is invisible unless exposed to flame, which turns it a vivid green. In the 17th century, this quality made Europeans believe it was witchcraft, but decades later it was used as a neat trick on fire screens. It wasn’t until 1802 that painters added cobalt to their palette. 

      It is this little tidbit from cobalt’s history that saved master forger Han van Meergeren’s skin after WWII, when he was tried for collaborating with the Nazis. Want to find out how some art history sleuthing and smart science got him a not guilty verdict? Hint: Don’t try to forge a Vermeer with cobalt! 

      Read all about it in The Brilliant History of Color in Art!

      Images, clockwise:

      Glazed earthenware dish with a marchant ship, Italy, about 1510. 

      Glazed earthenware tile floor, Spain, about 1425-50.

      Porcelain lidded vase, China, about 1662-1772.

      All objects from the J. Paul Getty Museum. 

      12/18/14

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