Vanished Civilization II: The Tocharians

These people, they said, exceeded the ordinary human height, had flaxen hair, and blue eyes, and made an uncouth sort of noise by way of talking, having no language of their own for the purpose of communicating their thoughts. – Pliny the Elder on the report of an embassy from Sri Lanka on the people who …

Uniforms of the Brazilian Army

Greetings from Brazil! More to follow on the fascinating city of São Paulo. For now, I present some images of eighteenth century Brazilian army uniforms, courtesy of the excellent Portuguese-language blog Arquivo Histórico, : Note the ‘auxilaries’ in the bottom left of this last image — apparently mestizo and African-descended soldiers, sporting uniforms with much brighter …

Brasil.

I leave for Brazil (S.P. and Rio) today and will be there until the end of the month. While traveling I plan to use this blog as a clearinghouse for the interesting history-related things I find there, and for the occasional photo I take with my friend’s fancy DSLR camera. Inspired by my impending visit, …

South Georgia Island Church

Click to enlarge. I love the solemness and austerity of this old church in the abandoned settlement of Grytviken on one of the most remote islands in the world, South Georgia, which lies hundreds of miles to the east of Tierra del Fuego. According to Wikipedia, the church was built by Norwegian whalers in 1913. …

Image of the Week 2: the Court of the Ottoman Grand Vizier

Click to enlarge. Today’s image of the week depicts a formal audience between Ahmed III‘s powerful Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, and the  Vicomte d’Andrezel, the French Ambassador to the ‘Sublime Porte‘ (as the Ottoman court was called in diplomatic circles.) The date is given as October, 1724. This puts the work squarely in the middle …

Europeans as ‘Other,’ Redux [February 2011 update]

A post today inspired by last week’s post on early modern Japanese and Chinese depictions of Europeans. Thinking about that led me to look more closely at an image I’ve had filed away for awhile — a remarkable example of sixteenth century Japanese Nanban (‘Southern Barbarian’) art depicting a group of Portuguese merchants at a …

Animals in Pisanello

Looking at the paintings of the early Italian Renaissance painter Pisanello just now, I was struck by how wonderfully delicate and accurate his paintings of animals are. If he had lived in a different time or created these images in a different context (one of scientific learning rather than courtly patronage) I’m convinced that Pisanello …

The Drawings of George Psalmanazar

The brilliant eighteenth century impostor George Psalmanazar (1679?-1763) is one of my favorite historical figures and someone I’ll return to at a later date to write about in more depth. Today I’m just going to post some of his drawings, which were discovered by the historian Frederick Folely, S.J., in a sheaf of Church documents …