Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘woman’

Photo: Museum of London Archaeology via Hyperallergic.
A necklace found in a UK burial site probably belonged to an “elite woman who wanted to highlight her Christian identity, says Hyperallergic.

Archaeology reminds us that there will always be surprises to uncover no matter how much we think we know. A necklace found in a medieval burial site and considered a “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery is one recent surprise. Michael Levenson wrote about it for the New York Times.

“A 1,300-year-old gold-and-gemstone necklace that was recently discovered in an ancient grave site in England may have belonged to a woman who was an early Christian leader, according to experts involved in the discovery.

“The ancient jewelry was unearthed in Northamptonshire in April [2022] during excavations that took place ahead of a planned housing development. … The 30 pendants and beads that once formed the elaborate necklace were made from Roman coins, gold, garnets, glass and semiprecious stones. The centerpiece of the necklace, a rectangular pendant with a cross motif, was also among the artifacts that were discovered.

“ ‘When the first glints of gold started to emerge from the soil we knew this was something significant,’ Levente-Bence Balázs, a site supervisor at the Museum of London Archaeology, [said in a statement announcing the find]. …

“X-rays of soil blocks lifted from the grave also revealed an elaborately decorated cross featuring unusual depictions of human faces cast in silver, the statement said.

“While the soil is being investigated more closely, ‘this large and ornate piece suggests the woman may have been an early Christian leader,’ the statement said, adding that she might have been an abbess, royalty or both. The site also contained two decorated pots and a shallow copper dish.

“The skeleton itself has decomposed, with only tiny fragments of tooth enamel remaining. But the Museum of London Archaeology said it was almost certain that a woman was buried there because similar necklaces and lavish burial sites were almost exclusively found in female graves in the period.

Scholars said the discovery pointed to the important but often overlooked role of women in the development of early Christianity.

“ ‘The evidence does seem to point to an early female Saxon church leader, perhaps one of the first in this region,’ Helen Bond, a professor of Christian origins and head of the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, wrote in an email. ‘We know from the gospels that women played an important role in the earliest Christian movement, acting as disciples, apostles, teachers and missionaries,’ Professor Bond wrote. ‘While their role was diminished later on at the highest levels, there were always places where women leaders continued (even sometimes as bishops).’

“Amy Brown Hughes, a historical theologian at Gordon College, who studies early Christianity, called the necklace, which has been traced to the years 630 to 670, an ‘absolutely stunning’ artifact from a volatile period when Christianity was becoming established in Anglo-Saxon England.

“Noting that women have often been left out of narratives about Christianity, Professor Hughes said the necklace provides material evidence that ‘helps to reorient our assumptions about who actually had influence and authority.’ …

“Joan E. Taylor, a professor of Christian origins and Second Temple Judaism at King’s College London, said the fact that the woman was apparently buried in a village far from a main population center ‘testifies to the troubled times in this region of Britain in the 7th century.’

“ ‘Perhaps she was on a journey, or fleeing,’ Professor Taylor wrote in an email. ‘It was a tough “Game of Thrones” world with competing royal rulers aiming for supremacy. It was also a time where Christianity was spreading, and abbesses and other high-status women could play an important role in this.’ …

“The artifacts [will] be featured in an installment of the BBC series ‘Digging for Britain.’ “

More at the Times, here. See also Hyperallergic. More photos, no firewall.

Read Full Post »

Art: Artemisia Gentileschi via Wikimedia Commons.
Artemisia Gentileschi, an an Italian Baroque painter, is considered one of the 17th century’s most accomplished artists. Shown here is her “Allegory of Inclination” (1616).

Have you been seeing the name of seventeenth-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi mentioned more these days? I have. Finally the world is coming to grips the astonishing proposition that some female artists are better than many male artists.

Elaine Velie has some thoughts on Gentileschi at Hyperallergic.

“In 1616, the 22-year-old artist Artemisia Gentileschi painted a nude woman perched in the clouds and holding a compass at the Florence home of Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, Michaelangelo’s great-nephew. The work was the first in the Buonarroti family’s home gallery dedicated to their famous ancestor, and the impasto ceiling painting, likely a self-portrait, was also one of Gentileschi’s first commissions. ‘Allegory of Inclination’ remained untouched for around 70 years until a descendant of Michelangelo Buonarroti commissioned the Late Baroque painter Baldassarre Franceschini (il Volterrano) to paint draping over the nude figure in the interest of modesty.

“Now, the former Buonarroti residence is the Casa Buonarroti museum, and a team of conservators there is working to ‘virtually restore the original appearance’ of the painting in a project called ‘Artemisia Unveiled.’ Using imaging techniques such as X-rays and raking light to examine the over 400-year-old brush strokes, the team will determine which additions were Gentileschi’s and which were Franceschini’s, and the final result will be an uncensored image.

“Elizabeth Wick, the restorer leading the project, told the Florentine that the team will not physically alter the existing painting for two reasons: Franceschini’s layer is considered a historic addition that contributes to the painting’s story, and since the two layers of paint were applied only 70 years apart, removing Franceschini’s draping would likely damage Gentileschi’s original coat of paint. …

“Gentileschi’s success in the male-dominated art world of 17th-century Italy, and the woman-focused subject matter of her work, have turned her into somewhat of a feminist icon. Although she earned recognition during her lifetime, Gentileschi’s work has been revisited in recent years through museum shows and other conservation projects.”

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall, but contributions are sought.

At Wikipedia, we learn that Gentileschi started out working in the style of Caravaggio and “was producing professional work by the age of 15. In an era when women had few opportunities to pursue artistic training or work as professional artists, Gentileschi was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, and she had an international clientele.

“Many of Gentileschi’s paintings feature women from myths, allegories, and the Bible, including victims, suicides, and warriors. Some of her best known subjects are Susanna and the Elders (particularly the 1610 version in Pommersfelden), Judith Slaying Holofernes (her 1614–1620 version is in the Uffizi gallery), and Judith and Her Maidservant (her version of 1625 is in the Detroit Institute of Arts).

“Gentileschi was known for being able to depict the female figure with great naturalism and for her skill in handling color to express dimension and drama. … For many years Gentileschi was regarded as a curiosity, but her life and art have been reexamined by scholars in the 20th and 21st centuries. She is now regarded as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation.”

P.S. Check out SJ Bennett’s Queen Elizabeth II murder mystery, All the Queen’s Men, in which the Queen’s Gentileschi painting plays an important role.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe (WHAT a picture! Rinaldi is among the best.)
Virginia Oliver tossed back an undersized lobster as she and her son, Max, haul traps in Maine.

Are you ready for another story about someone loving their job at an advanced age? Brian MacQuarrie of the Boston Globe interviewed a 101-year-old woman who still fishes for lobster — Virginia Oliver of South Thomaston, Maine.

“It’s not yet 5 a.m.,” he writes, “and the landing at the Spruce Head Fishermen’s Co-op is shrouded in predawn fog that obscures the waters beyond. It’s time to go to work, and Virginia Oliver and her son Max approach the dock in the dark in a 30-foot lobster boat.

“They tie up under the stark, mist-speckled glare from an overhead light. Bait is brought aboard, equipment adjusted, and Max peers into the gloom as he eases the boat into Penobscot Bay.

“In the world of Maine lobstering, it’s a scene that is repeated countless times up and down the state’s rugged coast. But here’s the difference: No other boat has a 101-year-old lobsterwoman aboard, and a fully working one at that.

” ‘I grew up with this,’ said Virginia Oliver, a Rockland woman who began lobstering when she was 8, just before the Great Depression. ‘It’s not hard work for me. It might be for somebody else, but not me.’ …

“The fog began to burn off shortly before 7 a.m., and … Max pointed out a ‘sweet spot’ for lobstering among the many small, rocky islands.

“His mother came to work this day with a bit of makeup on her face, her blue eyes and a pair of small earrings twinkling in the hazy dawn. …

“Virginia Oliver has been working these waters since she first accompanied her lobsterman father as a young girl. After raising four children, she returned to the bay with her husband, who died 15 years ago. Since then, she has continued to venture from shore, three mornings a week, to a saltwater world as familiar as the street where she was born and still lives.

“ ‘When I first started, there weren’t any women but me,’ Oliver said, dressed in olive-green overalls, a blue sweatshirt, and high boots. ‘My husband and I used to go out in all kinds of weather. There aren’t as many lobsters today, though. They’re way overfished, like everything else.’

“Oliver’s job is to measure the lobsters, using pliers to place tight bands around the claws of the keepers, tossing the undersized overboard, and stuffing small pogies into bait bags.

“Naturally right-handed, Oliver has worked the pliers with her left hand since she broke her right wrist several years ago. Despite the change, her hand movements seem remarkably supple and strong. …

“Oliver is meticulous when she measures, tossing back lobsters that are only a hair shorter than the 3¼-inch legal minimum from the eye socket to the rear of the body shell. She also can’t keep egg-bearing or reproductive females, a state requirement that helps bolster the lobster stock. …

“Max Oliver, 78, does double duty as helmsman and hauler, emptying every trap that a hydraulic wheel pulls from the water. Between mother and son, they have choreographed an intricate ballet of demanding, physical work that’s conducted quietly and efficiently.

“Max chuckled over his mother’s stamina and work ethic.

“ ‘It’s pretty damn good, that’s what I call it,’ he said, maneuvering the boat in low water past pine-studded islands. ‘She might give me hell once in a while, though,’ he added with a laugh. ‘She’s the boss.’ …

“Her son drives her to the boat during lobster season, which for the Olivers stretches from the end of May to the beginning of November. They rise about 3 a.m., go to bed at 10 p.m., and look mildly amused when asked how they manage it.

“Oliver said she doesn’t nap when the lobstering is done for the day. There’s shopping to do; there are errands and trips to the post office.

“ ‘I find plenty of housework, too. I don’t like to do it, but I have to do it,’ she said. … ‘I still drive — a GMC four-wheel-drive truck. As you can tell, I’m pretty independent.’

“Her three sons and one daughter range in age from 76 to 82. One of them, 79-year-old Bill, waited at the Spruce Head Co-op this recent morning as he prepared to go lobstering in a separate boat. His mother’s work habits seem to run in the family.

“ ‘Someone asked me, why don’t you retire? I said, “I can’t. My mother would break my neck.” ‘ “

Read more and enjoy all Jessica Rinaldi’s amazing photos of this woman at the Globe, here.

Read Full Post »

gettyimages-672032280_custom-6b6c018d87fef9c6dbbccff25b715a092972ad1e-s600-c85

Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images
Man Kaur of India celebrates after competing in the 100-meter sprint in the 100+ age category at the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, in April 2017.

It was Erik who sent the story about a 101-year-old champion runner. He sent it to his mother and my husband, too, in case we want to take up athletic competition at our advanced ages. The woman in the story got a late start on running, and although I am not interested in running, I always like stories about late starts. Especially stories about starting something big after age 90.

As Chhavi Sachdev reported at National Public Radio (NPR) in 2018, “Man Kaur is 101, but her routine could tire most 20-somethings.

“Every day she wakes up at 4 a.m., bathes, washes clothes, makes tea, recites prayers until about 7 a.m. Sometimes she goes to the Gurdwara, the place of worship for Sikhs, other times she prays at home.

“And then she goes to the track for an hour of sprinting practice. And she’s not just doing it for fun. A competitive runner, Kaur is a world record holder in her age group for several categories and is now training for the Asia Pacific Masters Games in Malaysia. …

“She was declared the brand ambassador for a nonprofit organization called Pinkathon, which raises awareness of women’s health issues — and encourages running as a way to improve physical fitness. At the Pinkathon announcement event, Kaur was literally mobbed by gushing women, many of whom started running in their 30s and 40s. …

“The diminutive Kaur hasn’t been a lifetime runner. Far from it. She started running in 2009, when her son, Gurdev Singh, 79, urged her to take up track and field. …

“What made him take his then 93-year-old mother to the track? It was mainly a whim, he explains — but also a desire to keep her fit. ‘She was very well, with no health problems, and she moved fast. So I took her to the university track with me and asked her to run 400 meters. She did it, slowly, and I thought “Yes, She can do it.” ‘

“Kaur enjoyed it enough to want to return. She liked running, she said. And quickly she started to improve. Two years later, given how well she was doing, her son registered her for international events he was participating in. Kaur agreed with no hesitation. And she hasn’t stopped. …

“Since starting her competitive career, Kaur has run in meets in Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan. And she’s nailed 17 gold medals.

“In Auckland, New Zealand [in April, 2017] she won gold for the 100-meter and 200-meter runs as well as two new sports: javelin and shot put. In those two events, she’s sometimes the only contestant in her age bracket, so winning gold is a sure thing. But she doesn’t just show up. In Auckland, Kaur broke the master category world record in javelin with her 16-foot throw. …

“To improve her speed, Kaur tries to go to the track every day. Three days a week, she does shot put and javelin practice; the rest of the week, Singh puts her through her paces on the track. On sprint days she does runs of 30 meters, 40 meters and 50 meters. These are alternated with days when she does 100-meter and 200-meter runs.

” ‘And if the weather is inclement, I go to the gym and lift weights,’ she says.”

Read about her early life and future plans at NPR, here.

Read Full Post »

Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine by Artemisia Gentileschi, a painter whose reputation is second only to Caravaggio among 17th-century Italian artists.

Lately, I’ve been following a really cool twitter feed called Women’s Art, @womensart1. It’s astonishing how many women, known and unknown, have been creating beautiful works over the centuries. Paintings, embroidery, sculpture, photos, quilts — you name it. The pictures have been an absolute treat.

Speaking of women’s art, I just learned about Artemisia Gentileschi, a painter whose reputation is apparently second only to Caravaggio among 17th-century Italian artists.

Paul Jeromack reported at Art Newspaper that she recently scored a big price at auction. Too bad she doesn’t get to benefit.

“A previously unknown Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine,” writes Jeromack, “sold at Drouot in Paris on 19 December for an artist record of €2,360,600 [about $2.9 million]. …

“The work, which dates from the same period (1614-16) as another Saint Catherine picture by the artist held by the Uffizi, was discovered by auctioneer Christophe Joron-Derem and presented in his sale of European paintings. …

“Lionised as an icon of feminist empowerment and artistic accomplishment since the 1970s … Gentileschi was canny enough to exploit her singular fame as a female painter in the form of self-portraits in the guise of religious or allegorical figures (her most notable depiction by another artist is by her friend Simon Vouet, who portrayed her with her brushes and palette and a wonderfully commanding swagger).  …

“Despite the artist’s popularity, she is not represented in many important museums: neither of the National Galleries in London or Washington, DC, nor the Getty, nor the Louvre, which curiously did not pre-empt the sale under French patrimony laws. While the picture’s relatively modest size of 71 sq. cm would endear it to private collectors, one hopes a major museum would be astute enough to acquire it.” More here.

Don’t you love it when someone “discovers” a lost masterpiece? That’s what I dream of — finding a masterpiece at a garage sale. Or like the blogger Things I Find in the Garbage, finding something amazing dumped on the curb.

Read Full Post »

vaklyrie

No sooner had I seen this Science article describing female DNA at a Viking burial site, than I learned there was a controversy about it. Was this a Viking with weapons and war horses — or not? (Turtle Bunbury tweeted the tip.)

Michael Price believes the researchers who analyzed the bones. “A 10th century Viking unearthed in the 1880s was like a figure from Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries: an elite warrior buried with a sword, an ax, a spear, arrows, a knife, two shields, and a pair of warhorses. And like a mythical valkyrie.”

A study published in “the American Journal of Physical Anthropology finds that the warrior was a woman — the first high-status female Viking warrior to be identified.

“Excavators first uncovered the battle-ready body among several thousand Viking graves near the Swedish town of Birka, but for 130 years, most assumed it was a man — known only by the grave identifier, Bj 581. A few female Viking soldiers have been unearthed over the years, but none had the trappings of high rank found in the Birka burial — not just weapons and armor, but also game pieces and a board used for planning tactics.

“In recent years, reanalysis of skeletal characteristics had hinted that the corpse might be female. Now, the warrior’s DNA proves her sex.” And you can see the study at Wiley Online Library, here.

Skepticism may be read here, at Ars Technica, where Annalee Newitz makes the point that 19th C. excavation was often careless and this one may have mixed up bones.

Sigh.

Read Full Post »


Image: Ancient Sumerian bas-relief portrait
The world’s first poet, a woman, is revered by ancient alien conspiracy theorists, but few others know of her, writes this professor of Mesopotamian studies.

I saw this story at Arts Journal recently and decided to take it seriously, even though the last link I followed to learn about the “first poet” led me down some crazy paths. I’m prepared to believe in Prof. Charles Halton at LitHub, but see what you think.*

“Though hardly anyone knows it,” Halton writes, “the first person ever to attach their name to a poetic composition is not a mystery. Enheduanna was born more than 4,200 years ago and became the high priestess of a temple in what we now call southern Iraq. She wrote poems, edited hymnals, and may have taught other women at the temple how to write. …

“If you have heard of Enheduanna, it was likely in one of two contexts. She made a one minute appearance in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos reboot which depicted her as a hybrid creature, part Walt-Disneyfied Native American and part Solomonic princess. After Tyson narrates a quasi-factual mini-bio, a shaman-like voiceover recites a line from one of her poems as a laser cuts the words into the night sky. The vibe is dusty Mesopotamia meets Blade Runner.

“The other place you may have learned of Enheduanna is from one of Betty Meador’s books. Meador is a retired Jungian analyst who has tirelessly worked to get Enheduanna into mainstream conversation. Meador began this crusade after she, I kid you not, had a dream in which she dug a grave for two male Jungians. … Other than these two instances, however, people largely don’t talk about the world’s first author.

“But why?

“One of the reasons has to be the people who study the culture from which she comes. Have you met a professor of Mesopotamian studies? … We have an almost divine-like ability to take ultra-fascinating ideas and make them slightly less exciting than a traffic ticket. …

“When historians have given scant attention to aesthetic and humanistic endeavors, they have tended to focus on the achievements of males, particularly those from Europe. This is partly why Don Quixote is identified as the first novel more often than the Tale of Genji. …

“Enheduanna … was the king’s daughter, which gave her an immense amount of privilege. She used this privilege to carry her father’s water as he brutally expanded his colonial empire.

“Enheduanna employed her poetic skills to produce a collection of religious hymns. These short poems celebrated the various temples of her father’s nascent empire, and the purpose of her collection was to project the myth that all of the people shared the same religion. …

“Nothing lends a person more rhetorical power than asserting that God is on their side. Nonetheless, it’s important that we add the first poet to our ready list of world-first inventors, even if she isn’t a pristine example. If we interpret her charitably, she produced the most beautiful things she could within the demands and strictures of her environment.”

Read more here.

* Prof. Halton says in a footnote, “Enheduanna is sort of a cult-hero and quasi-religious figure. Trust me on this. Don’t go digging around the web to find out more about it unless you’re ready to encounter something really bizarre.”

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: