Everything about this coat makes it seem as if its wearer could take flight—its light silk medium, the silhouette that gives the illusion of a soaring bird, and the profusion of cranes amidst the clouds. In Chinese culture, the crane is a revered bird symbolizing longevity. The number five, present here in the five roundels that each contain five cranes, represents the elements of Chinese philosophy (water, fire, earth, wood, and metal) and has historically been associated with the Emperor. As such, this garment likely belonged to a woman of elevated status.
The world’s first insect-scale flying robot has a wingspan of 3 cm (1 in.) and is the approximate weight of a honeybee, its source of inspiration. Harvard researchers were responding to the alarming collapse of bee colonies worldwide and wanted to replicate their swarming behavior. Other applications include search-and-rescue missions, environmental sensors, and covert surveillance.
This object is currently on display in room 105 in Carnegie Mansion.
This European 16th-century print is from a series illustrating recent inventions and technological advancements that would aid in the advancement of Europe. The inclusion of The Discovery of America suggests that the conquest of the New World would be similarly exploited for European benefit. Amerigo Vespucci here sets foot for the first time in the New World and encounters an indigenous woman, “America” herself. He is fully dressed, including wearing armor under his robe, and in possession of various markers of power, religion, and navigation, while America rises as if from slumber, nude except for a feathered loincloth and headdress. Vespucci’s accounts of his travels in the New World led to the formulation of the stereotypes of American primitiveness, including nudity and cannibalism.
Personification of America is part of a popular 18th-century series of allegorical depictions of the Four Continents (Africa, America, Asia, and Europe) by Rosalba Carriera. These suites were so in demand in the 18th century that at least five sets by Carriera are thought to reside in museum collections today. Her version of “America” repeats the traditional clichés of partial nudity and feathered ornamentation, and adds to them interpretations of New World weaponry, notably spears and arrows.
Created for the Second International Poster Biennial in Mexico City with the theme, “America Now, 500 Years Later,” I examine how colonialism is experienced in the body—both as the receiver of its numbing iron fist and its capacity to resist and recover from this trauma. I also chose to challenge the celebration of the so-called “conquest” and reduce Columbus’s ships to a decorative wallpaper element in the background.
Following the incursions of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci onto the continent, America began to feature in European allegorical representations of the known world. “She” was most often portrayed as a semi-nude indigenous woman adorned with feathers and accompanied by birds, crocodiles, and other exotic animals. This representation promoted the perception of the New World as lush, exotic, and docile—suited to conquest. Despite her elaborate feathered cape, skirt, and headdress, Meissen’s depiction of America—made by its most celebrated modeler—is still bare-breasted. While most Europeans would not have actually journeyed to the Americas, expedition chronicles helped to cement these tropes, which appeared frequently in works of art and design made in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries.