The text "1994-2004: Towards a new World View - Berger (1915-2009)" is still an appropriate introduction to the genesis of the World Art Treasures project.

To say that a new world view is coming into existence is not saying much, unless we hasten to add that, for the first time, the view in question is truly universal. Indeed, it is not rooted in any of the outlooks once imposed by different empires of the mighty: Egyptian, Roman, Chinese or even Napoleonic. Nor does it stem from any religious hegemonies, whether poly- or monotheistic. It has no links with political ideologies, with any Marxist/Leninist trends of the sort that, at one point, looked like they would dominate the world. And it is equally unrelated to the neo-liberal view attached to the globalization that is a direct product of the free market economy. At another level, one might also put forward some connection with the views bequeathed to us by science, such as the rationalism of Galileo and Descartes, in conjunction with numerous technical inventions. The latter include the clocks and watches which, over such a long period of time, lent credence to a mechanistic view of the world. Only today has the resulting reductionism gradually begun to loosen its grip on us. In short, the new world view I have in mind has nothing to do with the "traditional" Weltanschauungen. It comprises no new representations or content matter, as might well be expected, but a process of emergence that resists definition - not for lack of information, but because that very information is undergoing massive changes.

As circumstances would have it, the whole story begins with a man -Tim Berners-Lee, a consultant with the CERN - and a dream: the dream of an instrument, the "Web," capable of linking together more than just the men and women who pioneered the Internet for military, scientific and academic purposes. Instead, he dreamt of a "World Wide Web" for the population in general, linking person to person, group to group, anytime and anywhere in the world: "The fundamental principle behind the Web was that once someone somewhere made available a document, database, graphic, sound, video or screen at some stage in an interactive dialogue, it should be accessible (subject to authorization of course) by anyone, with any type of computer, in any country. And it should be possible to make a reference - a link - to that thing, so that others could find it." (Weaving the Web, Orion Business Books, 1999, p.40). The author goes on to underscore the philosophic impact of this undertaking: "This was a philosophical change from the approach of previous computer systems." (ibid.)

The project was, and to this day remains so novel that, already at the time, Tim Berners-Lee felt free to assert: "Getting people to put data on the Web was a question of getting them to change perspective, from thinking of the user's access to it as interaction with, say, an online library, but as navigation through a set of virtual pages in some abstract space." Hence, it is the interaction between the "users" themselves and technology that constitutes, not the content of the view but, and more importantly, its raison d'être and the conditions enabling its realization as a living experience.

A further consequence - difficult to fathom, let alone accept, especially for authorities of all stripes - is not so much that the Web eludes all supervision, as some were quick to suspect and by the same token to condemn, but that it escapes that supervision by its very nature and ambition: "There was no central computing 'controlling' the Web, no single network ... not even an organization anywhere that can 'run' the Web. The Web was not a physical 'thing' that existed in a certain 'place'. It was a 'space' in which information could exist." (ibid p.39) (the single quote marks are my own emphasis).

Thus the Web is not to be confused with a data base, no matter how gigantic its scope. And even if it can be used for all the classical purposes, which it then augments thanks to its exponential power of calculation, it can never - and this is worth repeating, given how deeply ingrained our mental habits are - it can never be reduced to being a mere extension of the traditional structures. In short, it is always in the process of being reinvented.

Yet someone out there has to keep track of the latest developments. The review Flash Informatique, created to fulfill that purpose, offered Jacqueline Dousson occasion to address the question "Mosaic, vers une nouvelle culture?" (Mosaic, towards a new culture?) in its February 1994 issue: "Imagine that you are in front of your screen, that you click and read the latest news bulletin issued by the Pittsburg Supercomputing Center, that you click again and consult various works put out by the publisher O'Reilly, and that, with still another click, you land at MIT? Today, this is a reality, you can access all that and much more still." Dousson went on to point out the decisive role belonging to Mosaic, a project developed by the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) in Champaign-Urbana, as one of the first browsers to grant the masses access to the Web. And, finally, she asked "And what about the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in all this? Although the EPFL has already finalized its presentation 'for the initiated' (http://www.epfl.ch/ [...] the goal to be reached is that from no matter where in the world, by being linked to the Internet, one will be able to know what the EPFL is, what is being done there, whom to contact."

Certainly, at the time of the article - that is, a mere ten years ago (as the stipulation "for the initiated" attests) - no one, not even the article's author, could guess that the "new culture" to which a question mark was attached would not only develop but actually change the course of the entire planet with its explosion of ever more numerous and efficient networks. No one except a Bill Gates! Noting in its issue of November 3, 1994, that "the emergence of Mosaic and the World Wide Web is the most exciting development in a decade,"the International Herald Tribune goes on to comment with remarkable clairvoyance: "Microsoft has already begun to purchase reproduction rights to the masterpieces of the museums all over the world to produce specific CD-ROMs on art (among others those of the National Gallery of London). The openness of INTERNET through WWW is one way; the commercial way of Microsoft is another. At this point, it is not to me to judge; both are surely shaping our future, but questions are raised and initiatives should be taken."

I deliberately draw the reader's attention to this last highly significant remark. The future of the Internet was to be decided on the basis of a trend characterized by heretofore unprecedented complexity. It would be an oversimplification to reduce that trend to mere commercial ends.

By painful coincidence, it was during this same period - late in 1993 - that the life of our son Jacques-Edouard Berger, born in 1945, was abruptly interrupted by a heart attack. During his all-too-short lifetime, devoted entirely to art, his thirst for knowledge had driven him almost all around the world. During his travels he collected numerous artworks with which he built up a private collection, while at the same time he served as travel guide to private groups, introducing them to the ancient civilizations to which he was particularly attracted - Egypt, China, India, Japan, Burma, Laos, and Thailand - together with a good number of locations in Europe and the United States.

While sharing his discoveries and enthusiasm with others, he unflaggingly photographed the sites and works encountered along the way. He thus assembled over 100,000 slides; these he subsequently put to use to illustrate his countless classes, lectures and publications. In the words of Jacques-Edouard himself, "Are not our creations and more precisely our works of art the most intricate and faithful evidence of our mutations?"

The prospects offered by the Web at that very time having come to our attention, it was thus in June of 1994 that we joined forces with the EPFL - in particular, with Francis Lapique - to create the Web site "A la rencontre des trésors d'art du monde / World Art Treasures." From the outset, we noted: "Taking advantage of the multidimensional specificity of the network, our intention is to shed a new light at the same time on art itself and on the manner in which it is contemplated. In contrast to the usual manner, consisting mainly in establishing data banks in a historical or documentary vein, our goal is to design and elaborate a different approach for each journey. [The idea is] to take into consideration and underscore each time one particular aspect in order not only to provide information, but to prompt a new experience in harmony with the new technology." Of course this was in no way meant as a stab in the back to Bill Gates - as ridiculous as it would have been presumptuous - but to demonstrate that the Internet and Web encompass a variety of potential pathways. That, besides the economic imperative lurking in this technology, the networks offer opportunity and room for spiritual and artistic values as well.

The first of our "programs" was featured on the Internet as early as July 1994, very shortly after the Web and the browser Mosaic had come into their own. It provides an overview of the main forms of artistic expression in the countries so well-traveled by Jacques-Edouard (Egypt, China, India, Japan, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand). The second program, Pilgrimage to Abydos, looks to the Internet as a means of allowing visitors to relive the pilgrimage taken some 3000 years ago by Pharaoh Seti I to build a temple bearing his name at Abydos, one of the meccas of ancient Egypt - a pilgrimage that Jacques-Edouard Berger himself accomplished numerous times, as described in his book "Pierres d'Egypte" (Stones of Egypt). The challenge of this digital approach is that of reconstituting the itinerary of a pilgrim not only in abstract and intellectual terms but, still more, one could say "spiritually" and "existentially": The trip is divided into successive stages leading from the first open-sky room all the way to the secret shrine inhabited by Osiris, Isis and Horus. In other words, the "pilgrims" visiting the site are invited to rediscover the process of being initiated, not only through words and images but by being subjected to an inner experience mirroring their virtual stage-by-stage screen trip. The paradox here, deliberately and duly considered, is that of resorting to electronics to produce a progression akin to an actual spiritual experience. It is as if the network, by freeing itself of defined space - or, at the least, from the primacy of a space where signs and images are traditionally inscribed - were freeing time into the flow of an initiatory journey. As if, too, it were rendering perceptible the feeling, or intimation, of the sacred.

These first shared treasures soon sprouted a whole series of offshoots: Roman Portraits from Egypt in January 1995, Sandro Botticelli in May 1995, A Shared Vision in December 1995, Enchanted Renaissance Gardens in March 1996, Vermeer in June 1996, Angkor in May 1997, Dizzying Grandeur of Rococo in May 1997, Georges de La Tour in September 1997, Borobudur in December 1997, Caravaggio in March 1998 - programs that are already past history in the light of all the subsequent advances in technology. Surprisingly and endearingly, right from the start this innovative undertaking enjoyed the warmhearted and very diversified collaboration of a wide circle of friends. It was they who, among other things, saw to the digitizing of several thousand slides, the gradual addition of legends, and the researching and verification of all the sources. More recently, in view of the progress in the software realm, they have also seen to it that Jacques-Edouard's lectures could appear on the Internet, treating viewers to his brilliant commentary viva voce on various subjects of his choice and many of his travels. Not to mention, furthermore, the generous and dedicated work accomplished by the members of the Foundation Committee, including the much appreciated contributions of several temporary assistants. All of which brings us to the site as it exists today: "FONDATION JACQUES-EDOUARD BERGER: World Art Treasures."

It is a change in the very nature of the link that lies at the heart of the transformation taking place today. No being, from the simplest to the most complex, can survive in isolation. Links are the sina qua non of our existence, of all existence: endogenous in linking together the component parts of each organism, and exogenous in linking living beings among themselves with their environment. The driving force behind a link -serving at once as its inspiration, manifestation and realization - comes down to what could be termed the phenomenon of activation. In a nutshell, links exist inasmuch as they are activated. That is, inasmuch as they are experienced in the relationship between the subject and the "object" (thing or being) or, more exactly, their interaction.

Now, by definition, the Web serves to set up links from one end of the planet to the other, from the farthest reaches of our collective memory to the latest news of the day. And this with anyone at all, immediately, everywhere? So that at present we have a situation where a connection experienced in real time establishes a virtual world - a world no longer based first and foremost on past references, as has been our habit until now, but one that emerges at the same time as the link comes into being. Hence it is no longer necessary to depend on classical tools, methods and techniques such as art history and the books it yields. The Web enables the creation of a multimedia field in which we can at once immerse ourselves and play a part. Here lies probably one of the most significant benefits of World Art Treasures: The adventure on which the site's founders first embarked has now become an ongoing process of expansion and ever more in-depth discovery. One could perhaps even go so far as to say that, despite his physical absence, Jacques-Edouard has been "brought back to life" - not in the usual sense of the expression, but in the sense of a kind of "cyber-existence" in which all can share. We can see that new dimensions are emerging from our present-day world and its accelerated transformation. Today's young people imply as much when referring, for instance, to our exploration of Mars: "Maybe we all go into space but we go mentally, virtually, electronically. We don't go with our bodies. As the technology gets better, the virtual reality could get quite profound." (International Herald Tribune, January 28 , 2004). In the generations to come, humans will have to be in a constant state of becoming. And their becoming will come to pass only if they link up with others to accomplish actions interconnected with the ever-growing possibilities of the new technologies.

RB (janvier 2004)
Translated from the French by Margie Mounier, March 2004

Jacques-Édouard Berger
Jacques-Edouard Berger, born in 1945, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in the fall of 1993, midway in a career which had taken him by then to the four corners of the earth. From his earliest years on, his life had been totally absorbed by the pursuit of art and beauty. During a period as a curator of the Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne, he was already active in organizing exhibitions and writing many articles and prefaces. But the world at large beckoned and, leaving his moorings, he set out and spent many months each year in traveling all over the world. He was particularly attracted to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, etc., yet never neglected his European heritage as mirrored and celebrated in countless museums and galleries in Europe and the United States.
(J.E. Berger) Foundation owns and manages a photographic Archives of around 100,000 slides - a treasure trove of memories from cultural journeys undertaken between the 1970s and the 1990s - as well as a media collection with around 150 hours of audio recordings, as well as a collection of artifacts and books. The lessons and conferences that we offer make use of these media and photographic collections. We have now held over 100 conferences. A very large proportion of the photo collection can be accessed online.

Cultural Journeys

J-E. Berger organized a number of trips to Europe, the United States, and the Near and Far East. In drawing up the itineraries for these trips, he has sought to favor a sensitive approach to the various civilizations, to their respective culture, religion, and arts. Visits to each country's archaeological sites, monuments, museums, and galleries are prepared with an eye to three parallel lines of reference - namely history, the history of ideas, and the history of art - as presented in lectures both preparing for, and in prolongation of, each trip for art's sake.
Journeying certainly belongs to the most significant phenomena of the second half of the 20th century: to my mind, far more than a "digression" in our lives, such activity encourages the development - better yet, the revelation - of our consciousness.
The 20th century is often called the father of invention.

Journeying is perhaps its greatest invention: Greece has been brought to our very doorstep, Egypt seems far from foreign to us, and India can be conquered in less than 24 hours. How long ago they seem, those travellers who once - barely one hundred years ago - had to spend months preparing themselves for their departure, for the crossings, the heat and cold, the long days by horse, the bivouacs, the dangers, and the threat of the unknown. Arriving in Marseilles or Toulon, they would embark on a frigate - already to set foot on the vessel was to be "elsewhere" - from which, one or two or even more years later, they would disembark. Proudly emulating the mustachio of the Ottomans and the swagger of the Persian desert conqueror, each returning traveller would settle his body down onto a tiger skin, perhaps ignoring a forgotten pistol still hanging from his belt, to narrate his epic adventures to his untravelled audience... Nowadays, all it takes to reach Bombay is several thousands of feet in altitude: see the Mont Blanc to your left, Naples if the weather permits, here a desert, there the meanders of a river and, finally, hear the roar of the landing gear.

Not that we would wax nostalgic over the era of sailing vessels and Phileas Fogg. No, we simply hope that our travels will recapture all the marvel of journeying, will render our fellow travellers aware of the pathways blazed in our honor by the likes of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy the Geographer, Marco Polo - from Greece, to the kingdoms of India, and on to the conquest of the horizon.

The collection is dedicated to ancient Egyptian art (Predynastic Period - Old Empire - Middle Empire - New Empire - New Empire & Late Period - Late Period - Late & Greco-Roman Period - Greco-Roman Period - Coptic Period - 19th Century), to objects from Asia, Chinese (Shang Dynasty - Dynasty Western/Estern Zhou - Warring States Period - Han Dynasty - Wei Dynasty - Six Dynasties Period - Tang Dynasty - Song Dynasty - Yuan and Ming Dynasties - Qing Dynasty - 20th century) but also Indian (12th-17th century - 18th-19th century - 19th century - 20th century ), Tibetan, Japanese, Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and Nepal.

This important personal collection of rare artifacts can be accessed online: Photographic Collection → Advanced search → MUDAC.

Contact

Fondation Jacques-Edouard Berger
Avenue de la Harpe 12
Case postale 249
CH-1001 Lausanne
Switzerland
e-mail: fondationjeb@gmail.com

This hundred courses lasting about 90 minutes, are organised along three axes: the continous analysis of major movements, trends, and schools punctuating the course of history - the analysis of certain major centers and sites which, through their importance, presided over transmutations in the realm of the aesthetic, - the in-depth study of artists, painters, sculptors and architects whose work provides keys.

Lectures ( each of the cycles mentioned has fifteen lectures ):

fall-winter 1993-1994: Enigmas in Painting - Fifteen Works Seeking our Gaze
Every painting is an enigma. No matter what motif the artist chooses, the artist's eye sees beyond the limits of reality, beyond what is commonly designated as "reality." For it is here that the creative adventure has its starting point: Mont Saint-Victoire is an arid heap of loose stones, but Cezanne transforms it into a marvelous microcosm, disclosing stone in its original state, shaped, crumpled, and crushed by the genius of the creator and the very paste of his brush.
Herein, then, lies the true miracle of art, namely that of turning the commonplace into the sublime, the mediocre into the absolute. Ingres's Madame Moitessier, the upper class daughter of a high ranking government official (Water and Forests Dept.), was no doubt a good wife and mother, a little thick- waisted as was the fashion at the time, with a placid gaze and gestures as slow as her passions. But her supreme effigy at Washington D.C.'s National Gallery has her transformed into a sovereign Juno, with skin so smooth that centuries of wear have been - and will continue to be - unable to alter her deliberately obvious beauty.
Other paintings are just as enigmatic: Fragonard, for example, object of the public's adulation for his masterful depictions of frivolities, is known to have abandoned his elegant, rapid and often caustic brushstroke in order to transform a Fête de Rambouillet into a dizzying stroll along the swirling rapids of a darkly shaded Styx. Or Klimt, master of the Byzantine-Japonizing effects of "Secessionist" Vienna, who was wont to adorn forest and glades, flower plots and rock gardens with interlacings as skillful and shimmering as those with which his beloved lady friend Emilie Flöge graced her suitors. In one case, the painter's entire career remains a mystery: Bosch the first, whose wild visions fuel debate among critics still today. One wonders, are these the fruit of troubled sleep or psychotic dreams? Do they imply hermetism to which there exists a key, or an encoded message? In a far solar language, Giorgione remains just as incomprehensible, given the degree to which he had assimilated the erudite humanism of Venice, whose very rules we have since lost.
And, finally, El Greco comes to mind: his exaggerated mannerism can certainly not be attributed to a defective vision but, rather, can be explained as an expression of the impact of a cultural clash between the artist's Cretan and Byzantine origins and his training in the higher spheres of the Renaissance in its prime.
This semester's course does not promise to answer all these enigmas. Instead, it proposes a questioning of fifteen works in their original context, in an attempt to achieve a below-the-surface understanding of them in the light of their era - the ideas, beliefs and cultural contexts connected with their creation. A 15th-century native of Florence would not have the same approach to the painting of his time, his "contemporary painting," as would today's museum visitor. Consider Botticelli in the light of the Medicis at the height of their glory, the rise of Cosimo and Lorenzo, the triumph of humanism, the Church crisis instigated by Girolamo Savonarola's first sermons. At the time, Botticelli was a painter upholding a new ideal, a committed ideal, instead of merely the melancholic bard of Madonnas and evanescent nymphs.
You might say that we intend to take a "polyphonic " approach to art, without losing sight of the fact that enigma characterizes many other dimensions of art:
  • the unstable world of attributions: the question of how it is affected by various discoveries, as in the case of the Louvre's The Concert, first attributed to Giorgione, in obedience to tradition, and recently re-attributed to Titian;
  • iconography and its mysteries: the question of how to identify the subject matter of a painting with respect to the milieu in which it came into being, as in the case of the major landscape /Summer, from The Four Seasons/ at the Louvre, into which Poussin - succumbing to the appeal of classicism like so many of his contemporaries - introduced key elements stemming from the myth of Orpheusand Eurydice;
  • the shadow and light of genius: the question of why certain artists - Bouguereau at the end of the 19th century, for instance - were worshipped as demigods of painting, only to fall into complete oblivion upon their death. Meanwhile, others - Georges de La Tour, for example - suddenly reemerge to be consecrated well beyond their wildest lifetime dreams.
fall-winter 1992-1993: The Forgotten Pathways
Certain events have proven history-making: the unification of the Indian subcontinent under the aegis of Emperor Ashoka, during the 3rd century BCE, for instance; the opening of the Horse Road - the future Silk Road - by the Han sovereign Wudi; or, just before our era, the battle of Actium [31 BCE], the interview on the Field of the Cloth of Gold at Guines [1520], or the Declaration of the Rights of Man on August 26, 1789. And certain figures have shaped our cultural awareness: Confucius, Buddha, Plato, St. Augustine, Leibniz, Newton, and, closer to our time, Tagore, Einstein, Bohr.
Then, too, certain works of art have so imprinted themselves in our minds that they have transformed our perception of reality: the pediments by Phidias on the Parthenon; the journey along the Ganges carved by the Pallavas into the granite hillocks of the village of Mahabalipuram; the frescoes by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel of Padua; the Meninas by Velazquez; and up to Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon, which, in 1907, marks the birth of modern art.
Events, people and works are the stuff of history. But are not our creations, and more precisely our works of art, the most intricate and faithful evidence of our mutations? The bas-reliefs of the Temple of Amon in Karnak contain all the unswerving faith of ancient Egypt; Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel contains the fears, torments, shadows and hopes of the Renaissance at its crisis point; all the way to today's Grande Arche de la Defense, reflecting as it does the many challenges of our century.
But there are, too, more secret works, more remote sites. These are often left to the side, erased, as if the very singularity of their message is enough to frighten us away from them. So it is in China, where every year thousands of visitors visit the terraces, courtyards and pavilions of the Forbidden City, bedazzled by the sacred splendor unfurled there by the last of the Qing; but few will visit Chengde, yet so close, where dark and oppressing temples allow all the anxieties of the dynasty to well up. So it is in India, where crowds jostle at Udaipur to merge for a fleeting moment with the dream-inspiring white marble rendered sublime by the reflections of the water; yet no one stops off at Orchha (by the way, where is Orchha ?), as arid and severe as it arguably is but so revealing of the spiritual depth of the Rajputs, who fiercely rejected all the affected tastes flaunted by the royal court. People will endure hardships to reach the holy site of Angkor, while forgetting all the temples that the Khmers built along the plains of today's Thailand and Laos - temples that are especially fascinating when one realizes that the faces of the gods had to be remodelled to fit in with both the dogma of the conquerors and the secular beliefs of the latter's subjects. This semester we shall explore together several of the remote valleys where History allowed itself to be forgotten.
fall-winter 1991-1992: The Keys to Looking
"In the words of Horace some two thousand years ago, "Painters and poets possess the ever constant right to dare everything."
Twenty centuries later, his remark remains strangely valid, for painters and poets have retained not only their right, but their mission to dare. The privileged nature of their gifts, which we commonly refer to as their genius, confers upon them this inevitable and seemingly destined power to constantly adventure beyond the everyday. In so doing, they sweep us along with them, leading us towards other coun-tries, opening our eyes to other worlds.
In their creative surge some were carried by the enthusiasm of the crowds, of their friends, of theirpatrons, at times of a whole city. In one chronicle, for instance, we read that the great Duccio's Maesta Altarpiece crossed the city of Siena in the form of a triumphal procession, on its way to the artist's studio at the Town Hall where it was to be installed. Later, Raphael painted Julius II's Apartments in a theretofore unheard-of atmosphere of celebratory veneration. And it is alleged that the enthusiasticpainters who were allowed to assist Vermeer did so as if participating in a church service.
But the right proclaimed by Horace was not always appreciated with such serene equanimity: artists often tend to disconcert their contemporaries, to clash with their traditions, undermine their convictions. In such cases, a scandal crops up, a famous scandal which, one or two generations later, at the same time asserts and supports its author's glory: an Empress's fan slap to Olympia's bosom was enough to ensure the start of Manet's posthumous fame, the reproving fainting spell of a Lady in front of Fuseli's Macbeth won the artist the jealous respect of the gentry. We can even imagine how much comment Giotto's implacable message to the Scrovegni [cf the Scrovegni Chapel frescoes] must have aroused atthe time among the faithful.
Whether subjected to praise or obloquy, artists and their works are both the catalysts and the revealing agents of our society.
Fifteen major painters, fifteen master paintings, are the focal point of this semester's lectures. They will provide keys to understanding the evolution of various cultures, the intellectual movements in various societies, the reactions of artists who have sometimes been friends and more often rivals, the turns and turnabouts of art criticism - all this during six centuries in the history of Western cultural awareness.
fall-winter 1990-1991: The genius loci
"No one denies that some places are "inhabited."
The astrological events celebrated in the Room of Months of Ferrara's Schiffanoia Palace, the pathways lined with sphinges [lion-bodied sphinxes] at Tivoli's Villa d'Este or, further away, the precious pavilions of the residence of Emperor Qianlong in Peking's Forbidden City, are all peopled by jinni. Visitors lost in thought as they stroll through these sites cannot help but feel their presence and powers from time to time.
Dream power, the power of enchantment, of illusion... Here a fountain, reaching sky-high, with, in the middle of its miniature cascades, a gilt-bronze crown bearing the fragile flame provided by eleven candles; there an honor salon with a classical layout, a whole section of which collapses thanks to a miraculous trompe-l'oelig;il - apocalypse as a sort of joke; or, there again, the play of shattered mirrors embedded in the gold of the stucco work, distorting reality, shattering and fragmenting it, recomposing it according to whim, reflecting it ad infinitum.
At such times, then, the genius loci awakens, a goblin who smiles at our state of confusion, laughs at our apprehensions, and revels in our pleasure.
In order for the goblin to be born, in the fashion of the mandrakes in the fairy tales of yore, there must be the "alchemical" union between an inspired patron - emperor, prince, cardinal, margrave (all those whom Voltaire enjoyed deriding once he had stuffed himself at their table), or simply millionaire - and an artist, that is, someone capable of producing the sort of visionary work that does justice to the laws of perspective and of gravity, someone who can accomplish miracles - in short, a magician. Several such sites exist still today, and they have lost nothing of their magic spells. It is with an eye to discovering fifteen of these that we invite you to join us this semester.
From the Renaissance to present times, from nearby Bavaria to the furthermost bounds of India and China, we shall, in successive stages, regain the sublime privilege of dreaming.
fall-winter 1989-1990: Fifteen Pharaohs in Search of the Absolute
It is common knowledge that Pharaonic Egypt is a most fascinating realm of study. Egypt's history is located at the very roots of our own, and represents one of its most brilliant chapters. Egyptian art successively charmed the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the great thinkers of our Renaissance, and even the Empire specialists in architectural ornamentation who, during the early 19th century, enjoyed decorating the armrests of their chairs with sphinxes. The ideas spawned by Egypt - many of them at least - are so deeply anchored in our minds that they have survived all the upheavals of the subsequent centuries, becoming immortal for and within us.
In our lecture-courses, we have already devoted an entire semester to Egypt upon two occasions. The first time was in 1979, the very year René Berger created the study cycle, at the time when he was the director-curator of Lausanne's Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts; we were then a group of sixty-two, so the archives recall, to gather every week in Auditorium XVI. The second was in the fall of 1983, by then already in the "Aula" [university hall].
This year, we will be taking a slightly different tack: from the long list of names covering the successive dynasties ruling the Double-Land, I have chosen fifteen sovereigns who in my eyes played a major role. These range from Narmer, who presided over the rituals accompanying the foundation of the first royal city in history, to Constantine I, who was a pharaoh in title only, but who lent Egypt the support of nascent Christianity. Week after week, each of these sovereigns will be put back into the context of one of the major sites to whose magnificence he contributed: Saqqara, where King Djoser had built the first step pyramid; Karnak, which Ramesses II endowed with a hypostyle hall of unparalleled beauty, featuring one hundred and thirty-four monumental columns; or Tunis, whose splendor was assured by King Psusennes I.
With these key sites as our starting point, we will go on to discover sites perhaps less prestigious but all the more appealing in their secrecy, such as Kom el Ahmar [the Red Mound], Biyahmu or Tehna el Gebel. The vestiges to be studied at such sites will help us .sharpen our aesthetic discernment by comparison with the recognized masterpieces from the capital cities.
We will be borrowing the major works on display in the great museums of Europe and the United States in order to re-situate them, for the duration of a lecture, within their original time and location: the Museum of Boston's Prince Ankhaf will thus be returned to Giza, among his peers; the New York Metropolitan Museum's exquisite bearer of offerings will be brought back together with her master Meketre, who lies buried in his hypogeum at Deir el Bahari; and Berlin's noble Nefertiti will be reunited with the ghost of Akhenaten at Tell el Amarna.
From the first slate palettes dating back almost five thousand years, to the wall paintings that the Copts applied, to the low reliefs of the old temples, it is the origins of man's very genius that we shall rediscover.
fall-winter 1988-1989: Art and Civilization of Classical India.
Badami! How few sites in the world (at least in what I know of the world) impressed me as much as these enormous red sandstone hills, hieratic and tormented at the same time, encircling Fake Bhutanatha. It reminds me of the setting for those barbarian jewelry pieces where gold-crafted twists and turns serve to enhance the infinite depth of a chrysoprase or beryl. The ruins of a fort lie at the top: a fort so diminished by countless attacks that its depopulated bastions now serve as shelter only to monkeys, and its courtyards as pastures to stray goats. But the atmosphere is far from sad or bitter up there; one is left with the insidious - and in fact intoxicating -feeling that time has no hold on anything, not even on the passing traveller's footsteps. At the foot of the rocks, along the ghats, an uproar can be heard - a mixture of voices, calls, songs, and the never-ending smacks of saris being beaten on the flat stones of the riverbank. Midway between sky and earth, several caves gape open: for fourteen centuries, these rockcut temples have been dedicated to Vishnu the Immutable, Shiva the Tempestuous, gentle Parvati, Indra on his elephant, andAgni wreathed inflames. It was Prince Mangalesha, royal descendant of the august Chalukyas, who offered unto those gods the rocks, lake, fort and ghats; the sky and earth, the perfume of the flowers, the destiny of his people, and the inexorable majesty of silence. And so the gods keep watch! The Island of Elephanta! One hour's boat ride, neatly steering between the skeletons of rusted, ghostly cargoes that bear illegible names and fly unrecognizable flags. The disembarkment is an at once dangerous and comic affair: many hands stretch out to lend assistance, and then comes a staircase that dissolves into the rock, along which several dozen tourists can be seen struggling, together with hundreds of picnickers come from Bombay who sport black jackets and pink saris, and several thousand somewhat unruly - despite their English-style uniforms of white and blue — schoolchildren. Just a few steps more, and an inexplicable miracle: a sudden, total and absolute silence envelops you and seems as though it will never release you, at the very instant that your eyes - until then attracted by the "alland anything " surrounding you - meet Shiva's, within the darkness of the cave-temple. And you realize that one day, this day, at a time when you hardly expected it, just around a column and your gaze met with God's.
Fatehpur Sikri! Beyond Agra, in the bleak, drought-exhausted hills of the state of Uttar Pradesh, a monumental gate featuring a white marble pediment opens up onto an outsized mosque, palaces, pavilions, courtyards, gardens - all empty for centuries now, forgotten, neglected, damaged, pillaged. The Emperor Akbar has closed his eyes: all this was but a dream! I have been privileged to fall under these spells, and I very much look forward to sharing their memory with you.
fall-winter 1987-1988: Art and Civilization of Classical China
In September of 1740, Father Parennin, at the time a missionary with the Society of Jesus, wrote to Dortous de Mairan, Perpetual Secretary of the Paris Academie Royale des Sciences, in the following terms: "If Europe's scholars could travel throughout China, taking into consideration even its surface alone, how very many strange things they would come across, of which nothing has yet been said. (...) It would be a whole new subject that would keep our people busy for over a century and, during that lapse of time, they would give a rest to the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, the Greeks and other nations once very high-ranking but no longer worth anything at all."
But Fate refused to heed the words of the good Father, and for a long time only a partial - in both senses of the word - vision of China, its art and its literature was available to the European public. During the 18th century, China lovers had to be satisfied with the tastes of the Companies which were ploying the seas to the Orient in order to stock up on porcelain vases with their inevitable blue-and- white decors, opalescent celadons, and grimacing magots of the sort that show up in interiors painted by Hogarth, genre scenes by Boucher or still lifes by Chardin.
In the 19th century, the International Expositions replaced the Companies, sweeping along in their wake heaps of cloisonne enamels, gilt bronzes, openwork ivories, which occupied every available shelf and piano top. These became the delight of aesthetes fond of this sort of salon eclecticism, soon baptized "gout Pierre Loti" [19th-century French author popular for his travel books]. During the first half of the 20th century, large Oriental vases belonging to the period of the last Ming emperors were still considered the highest form of Chinese genius; Tang Period horses and riders, whenever such objects did show up, were considered "curiosities." Very little was known about art under the Han, and - with the exception of the rare collectors whose eccentricity matched their enthusiasm - even less about the bronzes produced during the earlier dynasties. And then things changed.
China opened its doors to the curious. In the process, study and research projects, publications, all multiplied. The ensuing travelling exhibitions and accompanying catalogues were marvelled at by a public that, nonetheless, had already got a taste of such masterpieces at the Petit Palais in Paris in 1973, and at the Zurich Kunsthaus in 1980.
The fact is that China was and remains a land that is rich in undiscovered necropolises, temples, entire palaces, even cities sometimes. All that is needed is archaeologists to bring them to life!
In 1968, two fully intact tombs were discovered in the town of Mencheng, not far from Peking (Beijing); these spilled out an extraordinary treasure trove of funerary furnishings - vases, cups, oil lamps and, above all, in order to ensure the immortality of the souls buried there, two shrouds made of small, overlapping little jade plaques, attached with gold wire.
In 1971, during construction of a hospital in Mawangdui (on the outskirts of Changsha), the remains of the Marquis of Dai and his family, who lived during the 2nd century BCE, were brought to light. To serve them in the hereafter, lacquerware dishes of an unparalleled, quality, in a black and red design, had been set down next to their coffins. The painted funerary banners that were pulled out their caskets The most extraordinary adventure in all the history of archaeology began at the gates of Xi 'an in May of 1974. While digging a well, peasants unearthed the head of the first of six thousand terra-cotta warriors keeping watch over their master for all eternity. Their master is known today as the Great Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, more famous than even Ramesses II or Tutankhamen. Amazingly, the tomb itself, even the burial mound, had not even been touched by searchers until then! During an archaeological project at Suixian, near Wuhan [Hubei province], hardly had the enormous concrete project shelter gone up than the attention of the specialists was drawn to a new discovery: again a tomb, in this case belonging to Prince Yi [Marquis ofZengj, whose renown dates from the Warring States Period. In addition to the traditional funerary objects, this find provided a unique set of eighty-four musical instruments, including a carillon composed of sixty-five bronze bells whose range embraces fifteen octaves. greatly evolved by now, but there is very good reason to believe it will continue to do so in the years to come. Which means that after two hundred and fifty years, Father Parennin continues to be right!!
fall-winter 1986-1987: Splendors and Miseries of Genius (1780-1880).
Everyone will agree that we owe our all to the 19th century: the soaring development of science; technological progress; a sense of order and rigor in all things; a taste for what is accurate and irrefutable, such as was celebrated by the dictionaries and encyclopaedias that abounded during that privileged era; a decent education; ethics beyond reproach; respect for institutions; disdain for the marginal, and many other virtues, including savings and profit, all of which were unfailingly crowned with laurel!
Today, the 19th century seems less digestible. It has left a bittersweet aftertaste: sweet for those who still long for its unshakable faith in the ordering of all things, but bitter for others, in particular for those who seek to progress but feel fettered by overly heavy roots, chains as overbearing as Lift re's expression as he looks out at us from the frontispiece of his dictionary.
One wonders: was the 19th century as monolithic as we would believe?
Indeed not! Let us consider the following anecdote, whose hero, Jean-Baptiste, is as good a man as any. His only outstanding feature is to have been born in 1780 and to have died in 1880, fully conscious of his times. Leaning over his cradle, the fairies instilled in him a good dose of respect for His Majesty Louis XVI and pious love for Queen Marie Antoinette. To reward him, they sang him a lullaby consisting of the two last arias from Mr. Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride, so popular at the time. For Jean-Baptiste's tenth birthday, Paris saw the storming of the Bastille and the efforts of the National Convention, in a series of vibrant tirades, to set up a new world.
At twenty, under the Directory, his heartfelt sensibility was touched by the music of the pianoforte as it burst forth with the latest sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven (soon to be named the Pathétique).
In 1810 (when he was thirty), his imposing bearing entitled him to participate in all the pomp of Napoleon's marriage to the Archduchess Marie-Louise, while his sensibility - again! - made him an avid reader of Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake. His fortieth birthday took place under Louis XVIII, and his children (I almost forgot to mention that he married during the first days of the Empire) gave him Ivanhoe as a present, so he could recall the era of the great dispensers of justice.
In 1830, our Jean-Baptiste was fifty, just a little too late to join in on the Hernani debate, but early enough to shed a tear upon reading Lamartine 's Harmonies.
Ten years later, Louis-Philippe, seven years his senior, was presiding over the destiny of France. A comfortably serious period, since that devil Rossini himself had taken to writing a Stabat Mater. Seventy - a time to rest. A well-earned rest at that, since the Second Republic had come up with a pension fund. Jean-Baptiste was amazed!
In 1860, our hero was still spry enough for his daily constitutional around the block. His neighborhood was far from what it used to be, ever since Gamier had decided to build an Opera there, as commissioned by the Emperor (still another emperor).
Then came the defeat at Sedan. Not to mention Wagner's Rheingold. All in all, the world was getting a bit too much for our friend.
It was under the premiership of Jules Ferry that Jean-Baptiste at last passed away, with his last gasps taking in the dramatic impact qf Parsifal and the unseemly remarks in Massenet's Hérodiade.
So, neither the century nor the man can be termed "monolithic," stretching as they both did from Louis XVI to Jules Ferry, from Beaumarchais to Labiche, from Gluck to Wagner, from Houdon to Rodin, and from Greuze to Manet.?
fall-winter 1985-1986: The splendors of the Baroque and Rococo Styles.
The history of the Baroque and Rococo periods is written in letters of marble, jasper, bronze, and stucco in all the capitals of the newly emerging Europe: in Rome, in the form of the monumental colonnade built by Bernini as the propylaeum to St. Peter's; in Prague, on the Charles Bridge, where Braun, Brokoff, and their pupils produced a multitude of effigies of the patron saints of Bohemia; in Vienna, where the perspective from Schönbrunn Castle stretches as far as the Gloriette - that landmark imperial arcade built by von Hohenberg as a symbol of the infallibility of sovereigns; in Berlin, Paris, Madrid, and even in the tree-shaded valleys of friendly Bavaria, where swarms of stucco putti sing out the joy of celebrating the divine order of all things.
The centers of the Baroque style are disconcerting to visitors; the sheer size of the building sites and the audacity of their design can leave one speechless. It could be said that this came to be because the sun was at its zenith during the 17th century, thanks to Louis XIV, and because the lights of reason crowned the reign of Louis XV during the 18th. We are almost tempted to overlook the fact that in 1660, the King ordered Pascal's Provinciales to be burned, while in 1752, his successor condemned the Encyclopaedia! One possible conclusion to be drawn from this is that darkness is closely related to light. Perhaps Caravaggio sensed as much when, at the dawn of the century, he came up with the technique of chiaroscuro, that impassioned duel between night and day lying at the very heart of Baroque drama.
For the Baroque style, and later the Rococo, were indeed theatrical, with full mastery of contrary complementarities: the empty exalts the full, the full confers resonance on the empty; scrolls and interlace motifs bring the pure and austere verticals and horizontals to vibrant life; light exorcizes shadow; gold makes white reverbrate to the point of incandescence.
Fifteen sites, under the auspices of fifteen key works, will thus inspire us to travel through Europe, from Rome during the reign of Sixtus V to the extravaganzas of Prussia's Frederic II, with a few special stopovers of a particularly unusual or appealing nature, such as the Bethlehem forest area in the heart of Bohemia, where a masterful sculptor carved tortured rocks into faces of hermits and ascetics; or Villa Palagonia in Sicily, surrounded with legions of sniggering and grimacing monsters commissioned by an enlightened prince.
On the way, we will rediscover those absolute masters whom we all too often forget, and who also played a major role during their time: Zurbarán, Velázquez, Poussin, Rembrandt and Vermeer. In other words, the history of the Baroque and Rococo styles, too, deserves to be written in capitals!
fall-winter 1984-1985: Art and Civilization during the European Renaissance.
A strange idea, indeed, is that of rebirth, or "renaissance"...
Above all, the term is two-faced: reassuring and worrisome at once. Reassuring inasmuch as it encompasses searches, intuitions and illuminations that allowed Western man to forge an identity to which he clings still today. But worrisome, too, as we become aware in our museum visits, when dialogues between various works bring up paradoxes that remind us of just how fragile that identity is.
Nothing could be more solar than the smile on the Mona Lisa, nothing more lunar, nocturnal and mysterious than that on Piero di Cosimo's Venus. Yet both were painted during just about the same year. Undoubtedly, this is the sort of paradox that gives the full measure of the greatness of the Renaissance.Fifteen masterpieces - paintings, sculptures, goldsmith pieces - will guide us along: each one will reveal an interesting aspect of our approach.
Thus, Piero Delia Francesca 's Ideal City will break the silence of its deserted squares to speak to us about perspective; the finery on Carpaccio's Two Courtesans will illustrate the tastes developed by ducal Venice for the splendor of the Orient; and the salt-cellar offered by Benvenuto Cellini to Francis I will serve as an emblem of the primacy granted by artists to the exhilarating frenzy of ornamentation. Together, we shall travel the cities that were the birthplaces of "homo novus," the new man:Mantua, Ferrara, Verona, Padua, Venice, Florence, Rome; there we shall encounter the haughtiness ofthe patron-princes, lawmakers, tyrants or condottieri — the Gonzagas, the Estes, the Farneses, the Medicis - side by side with those who immortalized them: Mantegna, Botticelli or Bronzino. We shall view thefamous works dedicated to them, such as Paolo Uccello's San Romano Battle scenes, and the lesser known ones such as the sibyls [Room of Sibyls] in the Casa Romei in Ferrara, creatures who - it is rumored - caught the eye of Lucrezia Borgia when she sought haven at that peaceful site.
For over a century now, we have been questioning the Renaissance. But despite all the brilliant works this has inspired - by Jacob Burckhardt, Bernard Berenson, Roberto Longhi, Andre Chastel, to name but a few — we feel sure much still remains to be discovered.
fall-winter 1983-1984: The Art and Civilization of Pharaonic Egypt
Some two centuries ago, in 1764, European scholars enthusiastically discovered a work that would deeply influence the new cultural tendencies: History of the Art of Antiquity by Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Winckelmann's intuitions enabledNeoclassicism to establish itself, ushering in the noble capital-topped colonnades, historiated pediments, and draped figures of frozen solemnity that would blossom throughout 18th- and 19th-century Europe.
However, if this taste is reflected in the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris, the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, the Admiralty building in Leningrad, and even the noted Lion of Lucerne, an objection could be raised to the effect that Winckelmann 's influence restricted our curiosity to Greece and Rome.
His remarks about Egypt are serious: "The Egyptians hardly moved on from their first style; hence, they never achieved the same degree of perfection in art as did the Greeks. There are various reasons for these obstacles: the shape of their body, their way of thinking, their customs, their civil and religious laws, their lack of respect for artists, together with the latter's lack of talent and elevation." Further on, he adds: "To bring the article on Egyptians to a close, I would say that this people's history of art, together with their country's present-day aspect, is somewhat like a great, deserted plain, which can nevertheless be surveyed from the top of two or three large towers."
His comments may seem exaggerated, no doubt due to a lack of information. Perhaps... But the truth of the matter is that, still today, one would prefer to be a descendant of Pericles than of a Theban ritualist, be he wreathed in the glory of Ramesses II! Yet, we owe so much to ancient Egypt: our highly fragile intuition of eternity, our faith in the deep ordering of all things, and many more of our - at times hardly conscious - aspirations. All these feelings were serenely experienced by those who peopled the banks of the Nile at the time.
Hence, to draw near Egypt is not only to accomplish an archaeological or art-historical act, but to unearth some of our deepest roots. Indeed, the feeling shared by many who have visited Luxor, Idfu or Philae is that an Egyptian temple is not so much discovered as rediscovered.
fall-winter 1982-1983: Japan: Art and Civilization
... "Queen Ti-so-la-é has donned her ceremonial dress with its long sleeves; thirteen feet long, in heavy green, scarlet leaf-patterned satin embroidered with gold lilies. Her ink-black hair is plaited and braided; clusters of rubies form a diadem. She sits with her feet crossed, before a lovely lacquer inkwell filled with black ink, though less black than her hair, and she, Queen Ti-so-la-é, sitting there with her bouffant dress, looks like a big, white water lily between greenish reeds and fine pink plumes."
Sister to Whistler's lady with a fan (Red and Black: The Fan), to Puccini's Madama Butterfly, this Queen Ti-so-la-é - whose dire outcome is narrated by Jean Lorrain in La Jonque doree - heads the fragile and lavish parade of Japanese heroines peopling the dreams of Westerners in the late 19th century.
Revealed by the Goncourts to the painters, poets, and aesthetes of their day, the exquisite world of prints - the ukiyo-e - became all the rage at Le Faubourg [Paris]. Soon the salons were boasting translucent porcelains, paper screens, shimmering folding partitions, ivories and hard stones - all of which easily deposed the opals favored in the past. This was the birth of "Japonaiserie"...
Time passed, and yet Ti-so-la-é continued to reign in a relentlessly despotic manner over a faded world of received opinions, over a land as sadly tired out as a forgotten fan.
The time has come to give Japan back its real face, and its art its real strength: subtlety, inventiveness, daring, as well as rigor and humility. What could be more disconcerting than the secret geometry governing the layout of the various Horyu-ji Temple pavilions? What could be more implacable than the enormous Todai-ji Temple Buddha? And what more brutally restrained than the statue of Uesugi Shigefusa at the Kamakura museum?
fall-winter 1981-1982: The Art of India
The many faces of India I: men and gods, Benares [now Varonasi], Sarnath, Sravanabelgola, Goa - The many faces of India II: men and the divine laws (Aurangabad) -A first assertion of Indian art: the stupas of Sanchi (Satavahana Dynasty, 200 BCE - AD 200) - The Buddhist epic at its zenith: the painted and carved caves of Ajanta and Ellora (Vakataka Dynasty, 275-550) -A masterpiece on the fringes of history: Elephanta (Gupta or Post-Gupta Period, 550-730) - Adversary courts I: the kings of the plains (Badami, Aihole, Pattadaka: Chalukya Dynasty, 543-755) -Adversary courts II: the kings of the sea (Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram: Pallava Dynasty, 325-897) - A city devoted to the glory of the gods (Bhubaneshwar: Ganga Dynasty, 750-1250) - Sacred love and secular love: Khadjuraho (Chandella Dynasty, 950-1203) - A cosmological hymn in stone dedicated to the sun: Konarak (Ganga Dynasty,750-1250) - A frenzy of decoration (Halebid, Belur, Somnathpur: Hoysala Dynasty, 1100-1300) - The era of excess: Tanjore (Chola Dynasty, 846-1173) - Indian "Baroque": Madura! (Pandya Dynasty,1190-1310) - The end of the Indian epic: Hampi (Vijayanagar Dynasty, 1335-1600) - India under the conquerors: the citadels and forts (Agra, Delhi, Daulatabad: Mogul Dynasty, 1526-1707) - The fabulous land of India: pavilions of pearl and kiosks of diamond (Jaipur: Mogul Dynasty) - Dream symbols: the tombs (Delhi, Agra, Sikandra: Mogul Dynasty) - The Utopia of a reign without boundaries: Fatehpur Sikri (Mogul Dynasty) - From India to the furthermost bounds of the Orient: Nepal I (Kathmandu, Badhgaon, Patan) - From the stupas to the pagodas: Nepal II (Pasupatinath, Swayambunath, Bodhpath).
spring-summer 1981: Rocaille-style Europe - Neoclassicism - Romanticism - Academism - The Aesthetic Revolutions
The serenity of the everyday: J.-B. Chardin, J.-E. Liotard - The frenzy of celebration: A. Canaletto, P. Longhi, G. B. Tiepolo - Dizzying grandeur on a divine scale: rocaille style in Bavaria, Ettal, Ottobeuren, Die Wies - Dizzying grandeur on a human scale: Italian villas and extravagances (Pisani, Valmarana, Bagheria, La Favorita) - Asserting Reason: W. Hogarth and artistic moralities - Asserting Virtue: Winckelmann, A. Canova and sublime art - Utopia and dreams: G. B. Piranese, C.-N. Ledoux and the Illuminati on the eve of the Revolution - Utopia and nightmares: J. H. Fuseli, F. Goya (exalting the forces of darkness) - The beginnings of a new order: the Empire (J.-L. David) - On the eve of Romanticism: a fascination with nothingness (Hubert Robert, C. D. Friedrich) - Romantic Europe: the invasion of genius (E. Delacroix) - Genius mastered: Academism and inescapable laws (Ch. Gleyre) - The major pathways of the imaginary: Orientalism (J. A. D. Ingres) - Roundabout pathways of the imaginary: Symbolism (G. Moreau, A. Bocklin) - At the origins of our era: Vienna and Paris (G. Klimt and Art Nouveau).
fall-winter 1980-1981: The Dawn of a New World - The Renaissance in Italy - The Renaissance in Europe - Mannerism - The Advent of the Baroque.
The beginnings of the Renaissance: space and time - The play of space: perspective in the marquetry of Verona, Parma and TJrhino - The play of time: the return to antiquity (Mantegna) - Opening out onto the world: the discovery of the Orient (Carpaccio) - Venice and the appeal of the unusual (Crivelli, Lotto, Giorgione) - Florence and the celebration of the sublime (Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci) - The Renaissance beyond the frontiers: major centers along the Loire Basin - At the crossroads between worlds: between Nuremberg and Venice (Dürer) - Reason's death knell: the masters of the fantastic (Bosch, Grünewald) - Epic language: Michelangelo and Mannerism - Mannerism in Italy: Florence, Rome, Venice - Mannerism in Europe: a confusion of genres - Mannerist staging: architecture from Serlio to Palladio - On gods, heroes and princes: the Valois court and the Ecole de Fontainebleau - Enchanted palaces: Ferrara, Mantua - Enchanted gardens: Bomarzo, Bagnaia, Este - A city like a dream: Sabbioneta - The return of Reason: the Baroque in Rome - Asserting a new language: Caravaggio's chiaroscuro - European "Caravaggism": Lorraine and Georges de La Tour - The triumph of light: Classicism and Poussin.
spring-summer 1980: Rome - The Paleo-Christian Era - Byzantium - The Early Middle Ages - The Roman Era - The Gothic Era.
Rome: Roman genius, from the forum to the paths of conquest - Public institutions (gods, heroes and emperors at the origin of the epic) - Private institutions (citizens and honest men in search of immortality) - A crucible of time recaptured (Pompeii, city of Vesuvius). Byzantium: The advent of Christian iconography, from the catacombs to the first basilicas - Justin's golden era - Ravenna, a town-iconostasis - Istanbul's Hagia Sophia and Holy Saviour, reflections of heavenly Jerusalem. Early Middle Ages: The Dark Ages, from Ireland to Sicily. Roman art: Images of the Holy Grace, from manuscript illuminations to the doors of Saint-Zenon - The pathways to Grace, from Souillac to Moissac. Gothic art: The reassertion of faith and the mystery of life and death at the cloister of Cadouin and the abbey of La Chaise-Dieu - The holy sites of Bourges and Strasbourg illuminated by the church windows - Rediscovering the prophets of Paradise (the Limburg Brothers).
fall-winter 1979-1989: Prehistory - Egypt - Greece
Prehistory: Wall art (Lascaux) - Personal objects. Egypt : The prehistoric Nile Valley - The first dynasties - The Old Empire (Memphis) - The Middle Empire (El Faiyum) - The New Empire (Thebes) - The Late Period (the Delta) - Greek and Roman occupations - Alexandria, the seat of Hellenism. Greece: The island civilizations (Crete and Cythera) - The Mycenaean era - The blossoming of Greek genius (Athens of the kouroi) - The supremacy of Greek genius (Athens of the Parthenon) - The spread of Greek genius: from Paestum to Segeste - The twilight of Hellenism.
  1. Pilgrimage to Abydos
    This was renamed Abdjo, which the Greeks transcribed as Abydos. Leaving Thebes to go down the Nile, passing Dendera where Hathor reigned, the traveler soon comes to al-Balyana, from where he can go overland to Arabat-el-Madfouneh, the barren hamlet which guards the entrance to the antique site of Abydos (more...)
  2. Amarna, capital of the Disk
    Tell el Amarna, Capital of the Disk: Introduction Descending the Nile, as we follow its flow from south to north, we leave Thebes behind. (more...)
  3. Roman Portraits from Egypt: The eye and eternity
    Located some one hundred kilometers south of Cairo, Fayyum is a green and fertile region in a vast circular depression. Its diameter from east to west is approximately 60 kilometers, northwest of the lake of Birket Qarun. The ancient Egyptians called this region Mer-our (The Great Lake). Fayyum played a significant role during the 12th Dynasty, and later under the Ptolemies. (more...)
  4. The Symbolic World of Egyptian Amulets
    At this point the meaning of the word needs to be clarified. The term is attested in English in the seventeenth century, and in French in the second half of the sixteenth. It is derived from the Latin amuletum, origin unknown, but which is an approximation of the Greek phulakterion (phylactery). It may also be compared with the Arabic homaba/hemel, meaning 'to carry' (more...)
  5. Art can, and should, inspire analysis
    Besides awakening our enthusiasm, art can, and should, inspire analysis. To carry out such analysis, however, requires understanding what questions to ask of a work. Let us take an obscure statuette as an example, and attempt to draw forth as much information as possible (more...)
  6. Memphis
    Some thirty-five kilometers away from Cairo, near the modern village of Mit Rahineh, a vast palm grove stretches out across a pale ochre terrain crisscrossed by irrigation canals and marked by an occasional expanse of water. It is here, in the peaceful and lush landscape of this wide strip of land, that we will come upon the rare remains of the ancient city of Memphis (more...)
  7. Angkor - Divine Breath of Stones
    As an avid traveller throughout Asia, Jacques-Edouard Berger had planned to visit Angkor, at the very heart of the Khmer civilization which he found so fascinating and had been researching for years (more...)
  8. A visit to the stupa Borobudur
    Located 42 kms. west of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java in Indonesia, Borobudur - one of the most magnificent Buddhist shrines in the world - was built at the end of the 9th century by the Hindu kings of the Sailendra dynasty (more...)
  9. The Enchanted Gardens of the Renaissance
    Since man has existed, and, one might almost say, before man existed, there have been gardens (more...)
  10. Shaanxi History Museum
    Pottery Figurines. As early as the 4th Century BC, earthen figurines were used in tombs within Shaanxi Province. From the Qin and Han Dynasties came the trend of burying the dead with luxurious honours and pottery figurines were used in large quantities as burial articles (more...)
  11. Grottes d'Ajanta
    Final Nirvavana. Among the most renowned masterpieces is this rock-carving in the caves of Ajanta (India), c. 6th centuray AD (more...)
  12. Sandro Botticelli
    This is the painting which gave Botticelli his opportunity and endowed him with a nearly supernatural aura, which he is perhaps the first of the Renaissance to have had: that of the "cherished son of the gods" and of "divine prodigy".
  13. Caravaggio
    This program is not conceived for consultation in a linear manner. Viewers are free to choose from among the eleven separate subdivisions, according to their personal interests (more...)
  14. Vermeer
    Consider the possibility: Vermeer did not paint "genre" scenes, as is often repeated, certainly adding that it was done with the "stroke of a genius", but that from the start to the end of his work, Vermeer painted the metamorphoses of the pearl and the egg, the alchemy of its beginnings and its ends.
  15. The Dizzying Grandeur of Rococo
    "The early eighteenth century was in the hands of princes and prelates whose wealth and ambitions were reflected in masterpieces commissioned to celebrate the pomp and splendor of their reign. Marvels of a dizzying grandeur were created in an exuberantly ornate style designated as Rococo." (more...)
This relatively large online collection consists of around 85,000 images. It covers a variety of topics including painting, museum collections, and country's archaeological sites. In the first instance, you can view a subset of the collection (consisting of thousands of images) while making use of a predefined reading list of ten keywords. A second, advanced approach gives you access to the entire collection. The search, which may consist of two or three steps, is detailed in the corresponding section.
Reading list: Art, Museum, Italy, France, Germany, Egypt, Garden, India, Japan, Indonesia.

Choose the topic for your search (artist, movement, museum, or country).
  • For the Artist topic, we have extracted a randomized list of around seventy painters, architects, and sculptors. To browse this list as straightforawrdly as possible, enter a nationality (e.g., Flemish, Dutch, Swiss, British, or Austrian), a city (e.g., Venice, Mantua) where the Artist was active or a name as a last resort.
  • The Movement topic allows you to select a number of different artists based on the artistic movement that they belong to. Here is the list that we have compiled: Spanish Golden Age, Rococo, Dutch Golden Age, Florentine Renaissance, Artists of the Duchy of Lorraine, "Caprice" Painters, Romanticism, Classicism, Mannerism, Gothic Painting, Symbolism, Swiss 19th Century Artists, Flemish Primitives, Sienese School, Impressionism, 18th Century Moralizing Painting, Neo-Classicism, Northern Renaissance, Academic Art, Venetian School, Caravaggisti, Vedutisti, Baroque To switch between Movements, click on X.
  • With the Museum theme, you will be able to view collections from museums across the world. The system will respond once at least three characters have been entered, with the name of a city (e.g., Mumbai, Chennai, Nara, Luxor...), the name of a US state (e.g., Missouri, Ohio), or a Chinese province (e.g., Shanxi, Gansu, etc.). To switch between Museums, click on X.
  • The Country theme allows you to view images from the cultural assets of around twenty countries. Here is the list: Austria, China, Burma, Czechia, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Italy, Laos, Nepal, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, USA. Once the country has been selected (in parentheses country name in French ), select a site using word completion then use the same method to select by detail.