Droolworthy rare vintage posters for sale

Mele by Gian Emilio MalerbaPoster Auctions International is celebrating their 50th anniversary with a huge auction of 500 rare and important posters, with a particular focus on Art Deco and Art Nouveau pieces. If you’re a sucker for beautiful vintage advertising posters like I am, these 500 will put stars in your eyes.

Bugatti by Rene VincentBeginning this auction is a stellar gathering of over 40 rare automobile posters, from the classic car ads for Chrysler and Bugatti to the exhilaration announcements for the early races at Monaco and Le Mans. Immediately following this section are three specialty categories, featuring some of the finest examples of historic aviation posters, posters on silk, and exceptionally rare Buffalo Bill posters. […]

Additional highlights include impressive offerings from some of the most renowned Art Nouveau masters. Over 30 works by the Father of the Poster, Jules Cheret, 15 works by Cappiello, 18 posters by Mucha, and a dozen Italian fashion classics for the Mele store in Naples.

WPA National and State Parks poster by Dorothy WaughOther highlights include a contemporary work by William Kentridge, the original one-of-a-kind bas relief sculpture for the film Metropolis, the rare Sutro Baths, Mistinguett, propaganda (from Rockwell to Obama to the famous recent Swiss anti-minaret poster), WPA, the 1923 Lawn Tennis Championship, a very early Houdini, and Soviet posters from Lenin through Stalin.

Reverie by Alphonse MuchaIn other words, every vintage poster you’ve ever seen replicated.

If you’re going to be in New York anytime between April 9th and May 1st, hightail it down to the Poster Auctions International showroom at 601 W. 26th Street where all the posters will be on display. Admission is free, so you can drool to your heart’s content even if you can’t afford to bid the thousands of dollars each piece is likely to garner at the May 2nd auction.

For those of us who can’t be there in person, we can browse the gorgeousness on the PAI website.

“Door to the Afterlife” found in Egypt

Archaeologists working near the Karnak temple in Luxor have uncovered a six-foot-tall, 19-inch-thick slab of pink granite used as a false door through which the spirits of the dead traveled to and from the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians put these false doors in the west walls of tombs facing tables laden with victuals left for the spirits of the deceased.

The door is 3500 years old and the copious religious texts and inscriptions engraved on it indicate it used to be in the tomb of User, Queen Hatshepsut’s chief minister, and his wife Toy.

User held the position of vizier for 20 years, also acquiring the titles of prince and mayor of the city, according to the inscriptions. He may have inherited his position from his father.

Viziers in ancient Egypt were powerful officials tasked with the day-to-day running of the kingdom’s complex bureaucracy.

As a testament to his importance, User had his own tomb on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, where royal kings and queens were also buried. A chapel dedicated to him has also been discovered further south in the hills near Aswan.

The door wasn’t actually found in his tomb, however. It was found quite away. According to Mansour Boraik, the head of the excavation mission, probably removed a thousand years after User’s death to be used in the construction of a Roman-era wall in front of the Karnak temple.

User's door to the afterlife

Lead “burrito” sarcophagus found outside Rome

Last year archaeologists excavating the ancient remains of Gabii (the site where Tarquin’s palace was found last month) found an 800-pound lead sarcophagus that instead of having the standard casket-and-lid construction actually folds over its resident like a burrito. It’s been in storage since its discovery, and is now being moved to the American Academy in Rome for further study.

It dates to 4th or 5th centuries A.D., and most likely contained someone of some importance, or at least of means. Lead was extremely valuable back then, so anybody who managed to scare up 800 pounds of it only to bury it all had to have serious funds.

It’s also unusual because Romans, even at that late date preferred cremation, and when they did bury people they used wooden caskets. Several hundred lead coffin Roman burials have been found, many of them containing the remains of gladiators, high-status women and adolescents.

Figuring out who was buried in this coffin will be no easy matter. For one thing, there were no grave goods found despite the burial having been found intact and capped with a cement cover. For another, the thick lead is impenetrable by x-ray and CT scans, so the options for non-invasive investigations are limited.

The researchers’ only hint so far is a small foot bone protruding through a hole in one end of the coffin.

Some lead burials have allowed for “extraordinary preservation” of human tissue and hair, Becker said, though the opening in the sarcophagus may mean that air has sped up decomposition of the body.

Still, early examinations reveal that the foot bone is “exceedingly” intact, Becker said: “Worst case, there’s an exceptionally well-preserved human skeleton inside the wrapping.”

Another curiosity about this burrito burial is that it took place in the middle of a city block. There was a powerful taboo against burials within city walls, so whatever drove the survivors to bury this fellow intown must have been compelling indeed.

There may have been some major event that made people bury the body downtown—a possibility he intends to investigate during the next dig.

“As we seek to understand the life of the city, it’s important for us to consider its end,” Becker pointed out.

“To see someone who is at first glance a person of high social standing associated with later layers of the city … opens a potentially new conversation about this urban twilight in central Italy.”

See the Sistine Chapel Up Close All Over

Lying on your back on the Sistine Chapel floorThe Vatican has up an amazing 3D virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel on its website. You can move in any direction, crawl the beautiful mosaic floor, climb up the walls to the ceiling, slide down The Last Judgment and back again. It rotates in every direction. Click and drag and the whole room follows.

The room takes a little time to load when you enter, and the zoom function can be a little poky reloading the images, but they have beautiful hold music while you wait and the end result is totally worth it.

From the “OMG I can’t believe how spoiled I’ve become” annals, I wish they had annotations, even just some hovertext notes would be great so you could identify characters and themes. I went hunting online for a numbered map that provide that information, but I couldn’t find one. This site is as close as I’ve found. It’s not exactly the most navigable site I’ve ever seen, but it packed to the gills with info about the ceiling frescoes, The Last Judgment, and the chapel wall frescoes.

The virtual tour was designed by a team of students and faculty from Villanova University‘s communications and computer science department on behalf of the Vatican Museum. They’ve been working on the project for 2 years, photographing every inch of the chapel. This is the most access any outside group has ever been granted.

“This is one of the most innovative explorations of a work of art to date,” said Paul Wilson, a faculty member in Villanova’s Communication Department and one of the leaders of the virtual tour project. “It will change forever the way artists and historians can view the amazing work and mind of Michelangelo – his attention to detail, social commentary and sense of humor.”

Several thousand digital photographs were taken with an advanced motorized camera rig and then digitally stitched together, color-corrected, and post-processed by Villanova team members to create a cubic panorama file that presents the Chapel in a three-dimensional projection. Tour visitors can zoom in for high-resolution views of the interior of the Chapel. The tour can be viewed over Internet connections with a variety of bandwidths.

The Villanova team have already created virtual tours for the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls (my favorite church when I was a girl because of the glorious gold facade and the cloister) and the Basilica of St. John in Lateran. They just finished the internal work on St. Peter’s Basilica, with the tour scheduled to go online as early as this summer.

Oregon loggers find wreck of WWII aircraft

Helldiver debris, Wheeler, OregonLumber company workers logging a wooded property near Rockaway Beach, about 20 miles away from the former Naval Air Station Tillamook, uncovered wreckage from a World War II-era aircraft last Thursday.

They first spotted a wing, tail, the landing gear and some other assorted bits and bobs. Then they looked around and found more debris scattered widely. Later investigators determined that the wreckage is spread out over 200 yards.

The aircraft has been identified as a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, a two-seater that after a rocky early production run became one of the Navy’s most-used attack and bombing planes during the latter part of World War II. They could reach a top speed of 295 mph, carry 1,000 pounds of bombs and one internal torpedo of up to 500 pounds. Helldivers based out of Air Station Tillamook acted as submarine escorts in the area during the war, targeting any Japanese submarines that might be hunting US vessels.

Helldiver debris, Wheeler, OregonIt’s likely, however, that this particular aircraft didn’t see active war-time duty. A stamp of “1946” was found on one of the fragments, which could be a random numeral but is most likely the date, so although investigators are looking into all known Helldiver crashes in the area, one that happened in 1948 — the same year Navy Air Station Tillamook was decommissioned — 15 miles north of Tillamook seems the best candidate.

Navy investigators are still searching the area meticulously. They’ve already ruled out the presence of any unexploded ordnance. Oregon State Police bomb experts have scoured the site and found no bombs or bullets. Now the focus of the investigation is any potential human remains.

“If this is one of our shipmates we would treat that like we would treat one who died today with respect to our fallen comrade and respect to the family,” said Sean Hughes, Navy Region Northwest Public Affairs Officer.

“We would try to connect the past with the people who may still be alive. I don’t want to speculate that there are remains, but if there are, we will treat them with the utmost respect.”