Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




One of the Wonders of the World

The mystery of Stonehenge



The band of silver paleness along the east horizon made even the distant parts of the Great Plain appear dark and near; and the whole enormous landscape bore that impress of reserve, taciturnity, and hesitation which is usual just before day. The eastward pillars and their architraves stood up blackly against the light and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone beyond them; and the Stone of Sacrifice midway. Presently the night wind died out, and the quivering little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay still

Thomas Hardy, The Wessex Novels, vol. I, Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), 5th ed. 1896



Druid Ceremony at Stonehenge


Megaliths thousands of years old
rise up against the southern English sky near Ames-bury in Wiltshire. Who erected them? Did human sacrifice take place here? Was the legendary sorcerer Merlin at work here?

The dressed sandstone megaliths erected to form a lintelled stone circle are approximately six metres high, some of them weighing up to forty-five tonnes. Standing on wind-swept Salisbury Plain, this mysterious monument to a world long forgotten was first called a "wonder of Britain" in the twelfth century. Since then, not a century has passed without fresh conjectures on what might have led to the building of this unique henge monument.

The Romantics were expounding lofty theories about Stonehenge when the great English landscape painter John Constable painted his famous watercolour of it based on the numerous preliminary sketches he had made on a visit in 1820. Even today the meaning of the circle of thirty uprights, some of which are still capped by massive lintels, surrounding a horseshoe arrangement of five trilithons (two upright stones connected by a lintel), is as much a mystery as ever. Archaeologists tend to believe that religious motives led to the erection of Stonehenge. In the cold grey light of dawn, the site with its towering megaliths is a menacing, almost apocalyptic place. With the sun's first rays, the uprights cast shadows forming eerie linear patterns on the ground. One legend has it that the power of the Druids was concentrated where the shadows converge.

Thought to have been Celtic priests, Druids were intermediaries between the gods and humankind, soothsayers, healers and judges, and, as tutors to the sons of the aristocracy, were allegedly the real rulers of the ancient Britons. Unfortunately, however, Latin accounts of the Druids fail to shed much light on these structures. Opponents of the theory that the Druids officiated at Stonehenge point out that the Wiltshire stone circle had already been standing for over 2,000 years before the heyday of the Celts and the Druids (100 ВС—AD 78). Besides, the latter are not known to have built temples. Instead, they held their ceremonies in glades. Knowledge of the stars may have been passed down by oral tradition to the Druids, who were wiped out by the Romans on Anglesey in the year 78.

One thing is certain: the people who built Stonehenge demonstrated a knowledge of astronomy. The original approach to the site is marked by a stone over which, when viewed from the centre of the circle, the sun rises on the Summer Solstice.

The stone circle is ringed by fifty-six pits. Radiocarbon dating of one of these as well as pottery finds indicate that the earliest structure on the site dates back to late Neolithic times (roughly 2,300 ВС). Whatever Stonehenge may have been, the site was more or less in continual use for thousands of years. Speculation on this most enthralling puzzle of all ancient monuments continues to abound today.


John Constable


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