Gothic art

Posted in Art, Manuscripts and Books, Publications

Illuminating the End of Time

Page from Illuminating the End of Time from Getty Publications

2012 was the year proclaimed as the end of time by Mayan hieroglyphs, extra-terrestrial communicators, and bad disaster movies. The Getty Apocalypse, a medieval manuscript of the biblical Book of Revelation recently published as a facsimile by Getty Publications, suggests… More»

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Posted in Art, Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books

The Manuscript Files: An Impish Ape in a Medieval Zoo

Adam Naming the Animals in the Northumberland Bestiary / English

One of my favorite acquisitions of the past five years in the Getty’s manuscript collection is the Northumberland Bestiary (Ms. 100), featured currently in the Gothic Grandeur exhibition. A bestiary is a kind of medieval encyclopedia of animals. In addition… More»

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Posted in Art, Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books

The Manuscript Files: Dancing Your Way to the End of the World

The Lamb Defeating the Ten Kings / Spanish

The current exhibition Gothic Grandeur features a number of works illustrating the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible that recounts Saint John’s vision of the end of time. This leaf comes from a manuscript of the 1200s made in… More»

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The Manuscript Files: Medieval Children’s Games

Initial C: The Massacre of the Innocents in a breviary / French

The current exhibition Gothic Grandeur abounds with images in the margin. These charming and often humorous additions, called marginalia (Latin for “things in the margins”), were introduced to manuscript illumination during the Gothic era. In the lower border of this… More»

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The Manuscript Files: A Demon Whispering Sweet Nothings

Detail of Initial D: The Fool with Two Demons / Master of the Ingeborg Psalter

One of my favorite details from the current exhibition Gothic Grandeur comes from a French psalter of the early 1200s. A hallmark of Gothic art was an increasing sensitivity to the natural world, which led not only to a new… More»

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Posted in Art, Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books

The Manuscript Files: A Medieval Holiday Message

A nativity scene in the Abbey Bible / Italian

On the opening page of the Abbey Bible, the first image we encounter is this roundel containing a scene of the Nativity of Christ. According to Christian tradition, late in her pregnancy Mary traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem for a… More»

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Posted in Art, Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Manuscripts and Books

The Manuscript Files: A Medieval Marilyn?

Detail of Saint John the Evangelist Writing / German
Saint John the Evangelist Writing, German, about 1340–50. Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment, 17 7/8 x 12 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 108, verso

The luxuriant locks sported by this medieval figure might seem to say more “Marilyn Monroe” than “Saint John.” Both he and the movie star sport hairstyles from the glamorous ‘40s—in the saint’s case, the 1340s. In the Middle Ages, it… More»

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      A Chat with Photographer Tomoko Sawada

      A conversation about Japanese matchmaking traditions, self-portraiture, clothes, and identity.

      When did you start photographing yourself?
      I began making self-portraits when I was 19. It was an assignment for a photography class. I can’t even explain in Japanese why I liked them so much. It was instinctual. It’s as if I knew that this was going to be my style, that this is what I wanted to do. And I’m still doing it because I love the self-portrait, but I don’t know why. 

      What themes are you exploring in your work?
      I’m interested in the relationship between inside and outside. If you wear a sexy dress or if you wear kids clothes or casual clothes, people treat you differently. Even though you are you no matter what you wear. It’s that relationship that makes me think. 

      My new work is from when I was living in New York. When I was in New York, people didn’t think I was Japanese. Sometimes they thought I was Korean or Chines or Mongolian. Even Singaporean. It was funny, when I would go to the Japanese market, they would speak to me in English. When I went to the Korean market, they would speak to me in English again. I don’t seem to look Japanese outside of Japan. I was surprised because I think I look totally Japanese. It’s funny that people’s points of view are totally different.

      Could you talk a little about OMIAI, the series that represents a traditional Japanese matchmaking technique.
      OMIAI is a tradition that is somehow still working today. Usually, there is a matchmaker and photographs are exchanged before meeting. If both sides are interested, they can meet for lunch or dinner accompanied by their parents and steps for marriage proceed from there. In the old days, some people chose their marriage partner just through photographs, without even meeting each other. 

      When OMIAI was exhibited in Japan I saw people making various comments in from of the work. People would say things like, “she looks like a good cook; surely she would prepare delicious meals every day,” or “ this girl could be a perfect bride for my son,” or “I can tell she would not be a good housewife,” or “she’s such a graceful girl; she must be the daughter of a decent family.” Comments like that. 

      What was the process of making that work?
      I gained 10 pounds before I started taking the pictures, and in six months I lost forty pounds, because I wanted to look different in each photo. I wanted to change the way my legs looked. 

      Every weekend I went to the hair salon and put on a kimono. Then I went to the photo studio on the street in Japan. I would take a picture and then change my clothes to western dress. Then I would go to the studio again the next weekend. 

      Did you tell the photographer how you wanted it done?
      I told him I was an artist and wanted to make photographs with him. I told him to think that each weekend new girls would show up to make the OMIAI. I didn’t want him to think of me as the same girl who came every weekend. He understood the concept. 

      We had fun. While he was taking pictures, his wife would tell me how to lose weight. She gave me many tips.


      Tomoko Sawada’s work is on view at the Getty until February 21, 2016 in “The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography”

      02/11/16

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