Happy New Year! Have you sent your friends cards decorated with pigs for luck in the coming months? While the pop of champagne has been associated with New Year’s celebrations since the 19th century, much of the contemporaneous Victorian visual symbolism now appears rather strange.
The Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford notes that from the late 19th to the early 20th century, pigs were quite popular as good luck charms in France, England, Ireland, Germany, and Austria. So when postcards became ubiquitous in the late 19th century — helped along by the introduction of stamps that facilitated cheaper mailing as well as a burgeoning print industry in Europe and the United States — the pigs appeared on New Year greetings. As did clovers, horseshoes, and lucky mushrooms, as well as pansies to symbolize that the sender is thinking of the receiver. (The word “pansy” is derivative of the French word for a thought — “pensée” — as the flower petals look a bit like a face in thought.)
Victorian and turn-of-the-20th-century New Year cards also often featured symbols of rebirth, such as butterflies and hatching chicks, as well as winter imagery like snowmen. As collecting them with other ephemera in albums was a popular 19th-century pastime, quite a few survive. And as we’ve previously explored with Victorian Christmas cards (with their murdering frogs and dead birds), things could also get a bit strange as all the visual influences collided, including human faces on tipsy butterflies and pigs eating Christmas tree ornaments. Here are a few from library, museum, and other collections around the web. Cheers to digitization!
They Managed to Mess Up an Art Heist Movie
There must be a lesson in Vasilis Katsoupis’s film Inside about the vacuousness of the art market or the claustrophobia of exhibition spaces — I just don’t care.
Ten Painful Stories of the Dutch Colonial Slave Trade
The Rijksmuseum’s traveling show strives to remind us that we are all, in some way, a part of this chapter of human history, whose legacy continues today.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Textured Histories at Shiprock Santa Fe
The Santa Fe gallery features Indigenous textiles and jewelry from the early 19th century to today.
Renaissance Portrait of “Ugly Duchess” Likely Depicts a Man
A curator at London’s National Gallery believes the subject of painter Quinten Massys’s painting “is most likely a he.”
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Hokusai’s “Great Wave” Makes a Splash at Auction
An edition of the iconic woodblock print broke records when it sold for $2.8M this week.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?