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Friday, November 11, 6 to 9 pm

6 pm – Symposium opening notes

6:05 pm – Boris Groys
There is a long history of discontent regarding art museums, which could be related to the main promise of the museum: to protect artworks. In response to this promise, people often think that there is either too much, or not enough, protection for art. Most often, these two responses become intertwined. Though this may seem paradoxical, the art museum is nonetheless regularly criticized for being simultaneously too protective and not protective enough.

7 pm – Liam Gillick, Anne Pasternak, and Nancy Spector
Liam Gillick moderates a discussion between Anne Pasternak and Nancy Spector—who are both relatively new to the Brooklyn Museum—about reconciling progressive, community-based projects or collaborative, experimental exhibitions with the reifying effects of a major art museum. Topics include the exhibition theanyspacewhatever at the Guggenheim Museum in 2008, which brought together a group of artists who had worked together and separately since the early 1990s, but who had not yet exhibited collectively within the constructs of an institutional environment. What is lost and what is gained when collaboration is dictated by an organizing entity? Similarly, the question of translation will be applied to many of the itinerant, social practice projects of Creative Time. Is there a space for such outreach in an encyclopedic museum?

7:40 pm – Hans Ulrich Obrist
Classical, traditional exhibitions emphasize order and stability. But in our own lives, in our social environments, we see fluctuations and instability, a plethora of choices, and limited predictability. Alexander Dorner, who ran the Hannover Museum in northern Germany in the 1920s, defined the museum as an energy plant, a Kraftwerk. He invited artists such as El Lissitzky to develop new and dynamic displays for what he called the “museum on the move,” where exhibitions would be in a state of permanent construction, and where the viewer could permanently create—and question—his or her own history.

8:20 pm – Anton Vidokle, Immortality and Resurrection for All
Anton Vidokle presents part of a new film based on Russian Cosmist philosopher Nikolai Fedorov’s c. 1880 essay “The Museum, Its Meaning and Mission,” which is included in Avant-Garde Museology. Starring members of the present-day Fedorov Library in Moscow, as well as Arseny Zhilyaev, the film was shot last winter at the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow Zoological Museum, the Lenin Library, and the Museum of Revolution. Entitled Immortality and Resurrection for All, the film is an artistic interpretation of Fedorov’s universal museum, where immortality and resurrection will be actualized.

Saturday, November 12, 11 am to 8 pm

11 am – Session introduction

11:05 am – Arseny Zhilyaev
The editor of Avant-Garde Museology reflects upon the main conclusions drawn from his research for the book. Today many contemporary artists uphold the historical avant-garde’s negative attitude toward the museum as an institution for maintaining the class enemy’s order of things. In 1917, with the new social agenda of the Russian Proletarian Revolution, art was transformed from a bourgeois ghetto into a means of production in the service of a new communist society and a new human. Marxist museology appeared to provide a possible solution to the dilemma the historical avant-garde posed for artistic institutions. The display methodology and concept of the post-revolutionary museum drew closer to historical materialist practice, even echoing a number of avant-garde principles. According to Zhilyaev, the final stage in establishing museology as a means of production and a medium for social and human development is best described by the philosophy of Russian Cosmism, which envisioned the museum of art as the ultimate frontier for human expression—based not on social or physical contradictions, but on overcoming any limits imposed by nature or earthbound political or economic orders.

11:45 pm – Molly Nesbit, "Duchamp's View"
Marcel Duchamp was always considered by his peers to be the outlier, not part of any one avant-garde, and yet setting the benchmarks by which the radicality of their work would be measured. On a few special occasions he designed installations for avant-garde exhibitions, but this was the exception, not the rule. In March 1961, Duchamp told a group of art students at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art that the great artist of tomorrow will go underground. In the draft for this talk, he used the French word maquis. The wider scope of this resistance and Résistance can be seen throughout his work and measured empirically. In his own underground, there was always already a politics casting its shadows over them all.

12:25 pm – Nikolay Punin, "The Dead-end of Bourgeois Art"
A few years after the Soviet Revolution, some museologists began thinking about the role of art and the art museum in the new socialist society. If socialism is the most advanced society, then its art should be the best, while the art of previous epochs must be considered inferior and presented accordingly. Thus, in the early 1930s, Aleksei Fedorov-Davydov organized several "Marxist exhibitions" in which pre-Revolutionary modern art was labeled "bourgeois" and "formalistic." Soon after, works by Malevich, Tatlin, and Rodchenko were removed from museum walls and gradually erased from collective memory. Meanwhile, primarily thanks to Alfred Barr, the Russian/Soviet avant-garde was promoted and exhibited in the West and became an important part of the modern canon. However, in Russia today there seems to be a rising question of how to reclaim and reinterpret this avant-garde heritage using a different narrative, which looks for its origins perhaps not so much in Cubism and Futurism, but rather in Fedorov and Cosmism.

1:05 pm – Lunch break (1.5 hours)

2:35 pm – Session introduction

2:40 pm – Fred Wilson
Fred Wilson speaks about Mining the Museum and other museum projects that he has created over the past twenty-five years, particularly focusing on the aspects of his installations that question the orthodoxy of meaning, subvert the systems of display, and/or reveal denial within the museum. All of Wilson’s projects are inspired by observation, not premeditated intention. Projects may include ones the artist created at the Hood Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Old Salem Museum, Allen Memorial Museum of Art at Oberlin College, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and The Ian Potter Museum of Art (Melbourne), among others.  

3:20 pm – Lynne Cooke
What defines whose work is shown and collected in museums of modern and contemporary art today? In the 1930s, Alfred Barr argued that the work of self-taught artists, beginning with Henri Rousseau (who had no formal academic training), constituted a tributary or division within the narratives of modern art that he was then constructing at MoMA. Recently, a number of institutions, spurred on by the example and advocacy of well-established artists, are beginning to revisit this notion—albeit in substantially revised terms.

4 pm – Kimberly Drew, "CTRL + F ‘Black’ "
Kimberly Drew, a.k.a. @museummammy, will talk about her blog Black Contemporary Art, diversity in museums, and the role of the digital institution in 2016.

4:40 pm – Short break (30 minutes)

5:10 pm – Session introduction

5:15 pm – Irene V. Small, "Notes on the Lives of Art"
Avant-garde practices have frequently asked how art might become life. What if instead we questioned the life of art itself? This presentation considers the work of Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, whose wearable Parangolés have long embodied a paradigm of art’s exit from the museum. Yet principles of another museum—a natural history museum where Oiticica worked while he conceived of the Parangolés—complexly condition both his own participatory proposition and the afterlives of his works. Excavating these principles suggests an alternate model of a museum: one that does not stand polemically between art and anti-art (or more crudely art and life), but functions as a space for the investigation of living things. 

5:55 pm – Fionn Meade, "Objects of Prohibition"
Whether it’s Trostky’s bullet-riddled villa in Coyoacán, Mexico, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s retreat house in Sussex, or the Nietzsche House in Sils-Maria, Switzerland, a trip to the preserved and thereby altered sites of truly significant creative production falls somewhere between the tourist cliché of encountering a time capsule and courting the uncanny. Both embarrassing and comforting to the visitor, equal parts homage and opportunism, the space of the house museum provides an uneasy model for considering the critical stagecraft of museology. By considering such examples as the Avant-Garde Institute in Warsaw (home and studio to the artists Henryk Stażewski and Edward Krasiński) and the late Decors of poet and artist Marcel Broodthaers, alongside additional contemporary artistic examples, Fionn Meade looks to the paradoxical testament of "avant house museology" for its capacity to question and disrupt the retrospective gaze. 

6:35 pm – Bruce Altshuler
The e-flux publication of Soviet writings on museums reveals a largely unknown history, one in which such familiar themes as the museum-as-mausoleum and the socio-political use of institutions are presented within the framework of Marxism-Leninism. Focusing on a variety of exhibition strategies—from early twentieth-century displays in Germany, the U.S., and Russia, through changing postwar conceptions of the museum mission, to innovative exhibition-making in the 1990s—this talk investigates how particular museological ideas have been deployed for instrumental use in very different ideological contexts.

7:05 pm – Juliana Huxtable
Closing presentation
 

About the participants:

Bruce Altshuler is Director of the Program in Museum Studies at New York University. He is the author of Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1962–2002; Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1863–1959; The Avant-Garde in Exhibition; and the monograph Isamu Noguchi, and editor of Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art. Altshuler has written and lectured extensively about the history of museums, exhibition history, and curatorial issues. He has been a member of the graduate faculty of the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies and the Board of Directors of the International Association of Art Critics/United States Section.

Lynne Cooke is Senior Curator for Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. In 2012–14, she was Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In 2008–12, she served as chief curator and deputy director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, and from 1991 to 2008 as Curator at Dia Art Foundation. In 1991, Cooke co-curated the Carnegie International, and has helmed numerous major shows since, including the 10th Biennale of Sydney (1996), the traveling exhibition Rosemarie Trockel: Cosmos (2012), and Cristina Iglesias: A Place of Reflection, recently on view at the Casa França-Brasil in Rio de Janiero. She is currently working on a project researching the interface between mainstream and outlier artists in the United States in the twentieth century.
 
Kimberly Drew (a.k.a. @museummammy) received her B.A. in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College, with a concentration in Museum Studies. An avid lover of black culture and art, Drew first experienced the art world as an intern in the Director’s Office of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her time at the Studio Museum inspired her to start the Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art, sparking her interest in social media. Since then, Drew has worked for Hyperallergic, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Lehmann Maupin. She has delivered lectures and participated in panel discussions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Basel Miami Beach, Moogfest, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Brooklyn Museum, and elsewhere. Drew is currently the Social Media Manager at The Met, was recently honored by AIR Gallery as the recipient of their inaugural Feminist Curator Award, and was selected as one of the YBCA100 by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Liam Gillick is an artist living and working in New York City. His work exposes the dysfunctional aspects of a modernist legacy in terms of abstraction and architecture when framed within a globalized, neoliberal consensus, and extends into structural rethinking of the exhibition as a form. Gillick’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Tate in London, and at documenta and the Venice, Berlin, and Istanbul Biennales, and is included in collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Bilbao, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. Over the last twenty-five years, Gillick has also been a prolific writer and critic of contemporary art, contributing to Artforum, October, Frieze, and e-flux journal. He is the author of a number of books, including the recent Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820 (Columbia University Press, 2016).
 
Boris Groys is an art critic, media theorist, and philosopher. He is currently Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University and Senior Research Fellow at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe, Germany. He has been a professor of Aesthetics, Art History, and Media Theory at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design/Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, and an internationally acclaimed professor at a number of universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, and the Courtauld Institute of Art, in London.

Juliana Huxtable is an American artist, DJ, and model who works in photography, video, performance, poetry, and music. Huxtable's work primarily focuses on archiving and abstracting representations of art history, the internet, and her experience as a queer woman of color. In her photography, Huxtable uses her own body as the primary subject. She draws from a broad range of references, including the Nuwaubian movement. Huxtable is co-founder of the nightlife gender project SHOCK VALUE and is a member of the New York–based collective House of Ladosha. Her recent multimedia performance, titled There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed, was co-commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art and Performa to be performed during the latter's biannual festival. She lives and works in New York.

Fionn Meade is Artistic Director at the Walker Art Center, where he has curated the exhibitions Less Than One and Andrea Büttner, and the upcoming Question the Wall Itself, and has served as the Walker’s coordinating curator for the traveling exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. Previously, Meade curated Coming to Reality (2014) as well as From the Sky (2014) with Laure Prouvost at Danspace Project, New York. Meade has served as a curator at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, and SculptureCenter, New York. He has written recent catalogue essays on Dieter Roth, Camille Henrot, Nina Canell and Laure Prouvost, Uri Aran, and Elad Lassry. His writing has appeared in Artforum, Bidoun, Mousse, Modern Painters, Parkett, and SPIKE Quarterly, among other publications.

Molly Nesbit is Professor of Art History in the Department of Art at Vassar College and a contributing editor of Artforum. Her books include Atget’s Seven Albums (Yale University Press, 1992) and Their Common Sense (Black Dog, 2000). The Pragmatism in the History of Art (Periscope, 2013) is the first volume of Pre-Occupations, a series collecting her essays. The second volume, Midnight: The Tempest Essays, will be published this winter by Inventory Press. Since 2002, together with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija, she has curated Utopia Station, an ongoing collective book, exhibition, seminar, website, and street project, opening next at the Brooklyn Museum in April 2017.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries, London. Previously, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show World Soup (The Kitchen Show) in 1991, he has curated more than 300 shows. In 2011 Obrist received the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence, and in 2015 he was awarded the International Folkwang Prize for his commitment to the arts. Obrist has lectured internationally at academic and art institutions, and is contributing editor for several magazines and journals. His recent publications include Conversations in Mexico, Ways of Curating, The Age of Earthquakes with Douglas Coupland and Shumon Basar, and Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects.

Anne Pasternak recently joined the Brooklyn Museum as Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, where she envisions new ways to connect the Museum to its historical collections with leading-edge practices. Previously, she served as President and Artistic Director of Creative Time, a New York City–based nonprofit arts organization that commissions and presents adventurous public art projects. Renowned projects include performances in the historic Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, sculptural installations in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall, sign paintings in Coney Island, skywriting over Manhattan, and the Tribute in Light, the twin beacons of light that illuminated the sky above the former World Trade Center site six months after 9/11, and which continue to be presented on the anniversaries of that date.

Nikolay Punin is a well-known art theoretician from the time of the Russian avant-garde who, in 2011, many years after his death, reappeared with the lecture "Malevich in the West" during the exhibition/conference Anfang gut. Alles gut. at the Kunsthaus in Bregenz. In the lecture, Punin first presented his thesis that Kazimir Malevich has been conceived of as one of the most important characters in the History of Modern Art in the West—primarily owing to his inclusion in the 1936 MoMA exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art. Punin gave the same lecture during the exhibitions Art Histories (VOX, Montreal, 2012) and The New International (Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2014).

Irene V. Small is assistant professor of modern and contemporary art and criticism in the department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, where she is also an affiliated faculty member of the Programs in Media and Modernity, Latin American Studies, and the department of Spanish and Portuguese. Her essays and criticism have appeared in Artforum, Third Text, October, and Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, among others. She is author of Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame (University of Chicago Press, 2016), and a contributor to the catalogue for the exhibition Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, opening at the Carnegie Museum of Art in October 2016 and touring to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is currently researching a new book with the working title The Organic Line and the Ends of Modernism.

Nancy Spector is Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Brooklyn Museum. During more than twenty-nine years at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, she organized exhibitions on Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle, Richard Prince, Louise Bourgeois, Marina Abramović, Tino Sehgal, Maurizio Cattelan, and Peter Fischli/David Weiss, and the group exhibitions Moving Pictures, Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) and theanyspacewhatever. Spector was Adjunct Curator of the 1997 Venice Biennale and co-organizer of the first Berlin Biennial in 1998. She has contributed to numerous books on contemporary visual culture with essays on artists such as Maurizio Cattelan, Luc Tuymans, Douglas Gordon, Tino Seghal, and Anna Gaskell. In 2007 she was the U.S. Commissioner for the Venice Biennale, where she presented an exhibition of work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Spector is a recipient of the Peter Norton Family Foundation Curators Award, five International Art Critics Association Awards, and a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award for her work on YouTube Play, a Biennial of Creative Video.

Anton Vidokle is an artist and editor of e-flux journal.

Fred Wilson is a conceptual artist whose work explores the relationship between museums, individual works of art, and collections of other kinds. Wilson is a 1999 MacArthur Fellow and represented the United States at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Since 2001, Wilson has explored making sculpture in glass, among other media. His work can be found in several public collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Whitney Museum of American Art.

Arseny Zhilyaev is an artist who lives and works in Moscow and Voronezh. Using artistic, political, scientific, and museological histories to uncover and propose potential futures, Zhilyaev explores a productive space between fiction and nonfiction. Within his projects, the artist casts a revisionist lens on the heritage of Soviet museology. Zhilyaev is a member of the editorial board of the Moscow-based art magazine Khudozhestvennyi Zhurnal.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
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When you visit the Brooklyn Museum, you can use our app to ask us questions or chat about the artwork you see.

You’ll be connected with a team of art historians and educators who know our collection, can answer your questions, and can give you recommendations on what to see next. 

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Explore our permanent collection or a special exhibition on a guided group tour led by one of our friendly and experienced Museum Guides, or on your own with a self-guided group tour. These tours are for adult groups with at least 10 people, last about one hour, and can be tailored to meet the interests and needs of your group.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

We're renovating our second floor to bring you a better experience, which means the Libraries and Archives are currently open by appointment only. If you're a researcher who would like to access our resources, send us an email and we'll do our best to assist you.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the Fifth Floor

Rest rooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor rest rooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor rest rooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the Fourth Floor

Rest rooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor rest rooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor rest rooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the Third Floor

Also on the Third Floor: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium

Rest rooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor rest rooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor rest rooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Our Second Floor galleries are currently closed for renovations.

Also on the Second Floor

Rest rooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor rest rooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor rest rooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk on the first floor.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Parking
Parking is available in the lot behind the Museum, off Washington Avenue. On Target First Saturdays, there's a flat rate of $6 starting at 5 p.m. Park your bicycle in the rack behind the building, next to our sculpture garden.

Shopping
Our Shop offers an eclectic mix of gifts, jewelry, books, clothing, crafts, and foods from around Brooklyn and around the world. Shop hours

Dining
Have small plates, dinner, or drinks at The Norm restaurant and bar, led by Michelin-starred Chef Saul Bolton. Or stop by the BKM Café or Bowl. Planning a group tour? Consider a catered lunch for your group.

Rest Rooms
Rest rooms are on the first and third floors (floor plan), are wheelchair accessible, and have baby-changing tables. A family rest room is located just off the main lobby.

Coat Check
A free coat check is available on the first floor, where you can leave any packages, large bags, umbrellas, or strollers.

Wheelchairs
Complimentary wheelchairs are available at the coat check on the first floor. Our entrances and rest rooms are wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit our Accessibility page.

Strollers
You're welcome to use strollers throughout the building (although from time to time there are certain areas where we might need to restrict their use, on account of small spaces, especially fragile art, or other circumstances). If necessary, leave your stroller at the coat check.

Wireless Access
We offer free wireless access throughout our galleries and grounds. During your visit, we encourage you to switch to wifi (BrooklynMuseum) for faster download speeds. The wireless project was created by the Brooklyn Museum Technology Department, with help from NYCWireless.

Go Mobile
Need information on the go? Planning your next visit? Access www.brooklynmuseum.org from your mobile phone to view our mobile-friendly website.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

We're committed to making our galleries and facilities accessible to everyone.

  • We are fully wheelchair accessible. Check our online and printed floor plan for details.
  • If you need a wheelchair during your visit, they're available for free at the coat check in the lobby.
  • Companions of people with disabilities are admitted for free.
  • The parking lot behind the Museum is fully accessible. There's a free, 15-minute grace period for pickups and dropoffs.
  • If you need an assistive-listening device, they're available for free at our Admissions Desk, on the first floor.

We also offer a wide range of services for our visitors of all ages with special needs.

  • For those who have low or no vision, guided visits that include verbal descriptions can be scheduled for both adult and school groups, with advance notice. Verbal descriptions of collection highlights are available via Art Beyond Sight.
  • For those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, American Sign Language interpretation for both adult and school group tours can be arranged, with advance notice.
  • For those with intellectual disabilities or other special needs, we offer specially tailored guided gallery visits to adult and school groups.

We hope that you'll get in touch with us via email or at 718.501.6520 if you have questions about any of the above services, or if you'd like to make advance arrangements.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

No matter what your interest, there's a tour for you:

  • Join our Museum Guides for daily public tours (free with admission) focusing on a variety of themes, eras, and movements in art.
  • Book a group tour for ten or more adults.
  • Explore tours and programs for school groups, all designed to help students and teachers construct meaningful experiences with works of art.
ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

Exhibitions on the First Floor

Also on the First Floor

Rest rooms are on the first, second, and third floors; those on the first and third floors are wheelchair accessible. The second-floor rest rooms can be reached only via the stairs from the Schapiro Wing on the third floor. Water fountains are near the first- and third-floor rest rooms.

Pick up Assistive Listening Devices at the Admissions Desk.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

By Subway

2/3 to Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum. Transfer to 2/3 from 4/5 (at Nevins Street) and B, D, Q, N, R, and LIRR (at Atlantic Terminal-Barclays Center). See a subway map. Make sure to check with the MTA for any service changes, especially on the weekend.


By Bus

The closest bus stops are:

B41 and B69 at Grand Army Plaza

B45 at St. Johns Place and Washington Avenue

Check with the MTA for the most up-to-date bus information.


By Car

From Manhattan:

Brooklyn Bridge; left at Tillary Street; right on Flatbush Avenue for about 1.5 miles to Grand Army Plaza; about 2/3 around Plaza; right on Eastern Parkway. We're at the first intersection (Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue). Or: Manhattan Bridge enters directly onto Flatbush Avenue.

From Westchester, the Bronx, Queens, or Connecticut:

Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (Triborough) to Brooklyn Queens Express (BQE); Manhattan Bridge exit to Tillary Street; left onto Flatbush Avenue and proceed according to the directions from Manhattan.

From Staten Island and southern or central New Jersey:

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Gowanus Expressway (Route 278 towards Manhattan); exit to 38th Street; left on Fourth Avenue for about 2 miles; right on Union Street; 5 blocks to Grand Army Plaza; go 1/2 around Plaza; right on Eastern Parkway. We're at first intersection (Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue).

From northern or north central New Jersey:

George Washington Bridge/Holland or Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan; follow directions from Manhattan.

From Long Island:

Grand Central Parkway to Jackie Robinson Parkway; exit at Bushwick Avenue; left at third traffic light to Eastern Parkway; about 3 miles to Washington Avenue. We're across intersection at left.


Parking

On-site parking is available in the lot behind the Museum, off Washington Avenue. On Target First Saturdays there's a flat rate of $5 beginning at 5 p.m.


Bikes

Park your bicycle at the racks behind the Museum, next to the Sculpture Garden. Bikes are parked at your own risk; we don't accept responsibility for vandalism or theft.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.

ASK Brooklyn Museum Bloomberg Philanthropies

Here's what people are asking.

Did Degas often paint portraits?
Although Degas is perhaps best known for his paintings of ballet dancers, he also painted many portraits during his career. In the mid-19th century, some artists began to change portraitures emphasis from social status to individual personality. These artists, including Degas, began to explore new ways of communicating the sitter's character to viewers. Do you feel like you can guess anything about this person from his portrait by Degas?
Is he a butcher?
That's a great guess, because of the two platters of meat, right? He may actually be an artist who painted still-lifes of food and then those plates would be his "props."
He looks awkward sitting like that. I guess that an artist would find it awkward to pose for someone.
Yes, he's kind of slumped, with his legs oddly bent like he's tired, or bored. If you look at some of the earlier portraits on that wall, you'll see how individuals were shown in more formal, "proper" poses. This was because the portraits were made to preserve their legacies and achievements and social status. Degas, on the other hand, is just interested in man as an individual with a personality.
It makes sense. For me a portrait would have to describe a picture of your present, but the present is not what is in front of you. The present is what makes you the person that you are at the moment.
You put that so well, and I agree! It's a "modern" way of thinking but it's true, we are all so much more than our facial features and our best set of clothing.
Maybe Degas wanted to portray a person through what we can't recognize at first.
Of course, I also enjoy very elegant traditional portraits but I find Degas's portraits so perceptive and moving. I hope you'll look up more of them online at some point! He looks deeper into the person, and he uses pictorial techniques like composition (especially unusual viewpoints and cropped edges), color palettes, and his handling of the paint to convey a feeling about that individual.
Can you provide a bigger picture of cats in Egyptian society please?
Many people think that cats themselves were worshipped as divine. This is untrue, the Egyptians respected aspects of cats and other animals and associated their attributes with the divine. Their depictions of half-human half-animal hybrids were more complicated, and show that certain gods had these types of traits.
Cats were revered because they were able to kill vermin (mice, rats etc) that would get into food supplies and since grain was so important to daily life and food cats were important too. Cats also were able to kill snakes like the cobra. The Goddess Bastet, who I mentioned earlier, was the goddess of Protection, fertility and motherhood, because cats (large and small) tend to have large litters and are very nurturing and protective of their kittens. Also, it's worth mentioning that cats were believed to be first domesticated in the region!
Thanks!
Would you be able to tell me more about this?
This is a wood sculpture, which is interesting because wood was extremely expensive and rare. Very little wood survives the test of time which is why most artifacts we see are made of stone but Egyptians regularly used wood.
The sculpture may have worn a jeweled collar, based on the markings around the neck. And the gem on top of its head is a representation of a scarab, an animal also important to the Egyptians. So, while sculptures of cats often show accessories on the cats, scholars aren't sure if actual cats wore any adornments.
Were some of them used as containers for mummified cats?
Yes! Some of them were, the picture you sent me however wasn't as its solid wood. Mummified cats were often offerings to the Goddess Bastet. Mummified cats may have been thought to still have protective qualities.
What was the significance of this crouching pose?
You may have read about it on the label but it was unusual to see a 3D mummified figure sitting this way and here, it may connect the goddess with the Netherworld.
Kneeling was regularly seen, as a pose of worship and giving offering and was placed in temples. But this figure is crouching more than kneeling, and seems to be holding something in its hands. The crouching stance is well known in 2-dimensional representations. Also the cat-like figure is meant to look mummified.
Egyptian art was about communication, and as such was standardized so it could be as clear as possible. We very rarely see a break in standard poses, or actions or ways of depicting a figure. So when we do it's unusual. The label offers some thoughts as to what this pose may mean however.
Thank you so much for your help!
Do you know anything about Jack Baur, the man in this Alice Neel painting?
Hi! John I. H. Baur directed the Brooklyn Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture from 1936 to 1952. He was a scholar and curator of American Art in particular. After working at this museum, he was a curator and the director of the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. She has shown him here in his suit -- ready for the business of art and museum work!
Baur and Neel were friends. He even gave a speech in her honor at a memorial service after her death.
Hi! We were surprised by the Squishmatician Calculator by Harry Allen in the case with dishes. Can you tell us more about that and the decision to put those objects in the same group on display?
When the American Art curator gave us a tour of these galleries, she reminded us that this calculator was really cutting-edge when it was first made. The clear silicone (the "squishy" plastic-like material) allows light to reach the solar-powered battery; plus, it's unbreakable if the calculator is dropped or crushed.
It also shows us exactly what's inside the object. Many of the objects in that case were innovative when they were first produced in their use of materials, or in their approach to shape/form. They're all everyday objects, too!
There are some other transparent objects nearby, as well including some glassware, and a chair by Louis Dierra.
We are looking for objects in the museum made in the Americas before 1776. Where should we go?
The first gallery after the entrance gallery in American Identities shows portraits and furniture from colonial America around and a little before that time period and you should absolutely see the Arts of the Americas exhibit, "Life, Death and Transformation".
Thank you! Are there objects from this period in Visible Storage?
Yes, definitely. Go to the back drawers and you'll see some great objects from the American collection, though I'm not sure what time periods you'll find.
Super. Thank you! My students are here trying to piece together colonial America through material culture. I've done the project several times and wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything new. Thank you for being amazing, BMA.
If you want to dig into some specific objects, the portrait of Mrs. Silvester Gardiner in that first gallery I mentioned might be interesting to look at. It was painted in 1772 and during the revolution, her husband tended to hurt British soldiers after the battle of Bunker Hill, and was quite vocal about his Tory views. They ended up sailing back to England in 1778.
You'll also notice that many of the portraits in that gallery have unusual styling, that is because many of the portrait artists in Colonial America were self-taught, often relying on reproduced prints of European artworks to train themselves.
They were really excited to find the Zuni necklace. And they were fascinated by the portraiture. Thank you!
You're very welcome. I hope you and your class will be able to visit again, too!
I'm curious if these statues have significance as religious objects or were just artistic objects created to sell (since kachinas are usually worn as costumes ceremonially).
Kachina dolls are used to teach children about religion in Zuni and Hopi Pueblo Native American culture. Kachinas are thought to embody the spirit of a living thing and when called upon, they will evoke the power of whatever spirit they represented, such as an eagle. They are also represented by men in costume during ceremonies and sacred dances, so that's another aspect of them. The dolls are not considered sacred and are given to children and young women during ceremonies so that they may learn about the religion.
Awesome, thank you!
No problem!
What is this?
This is the OLPC XO Laptop, which stands for One Laptop Per Child. This was a part of a project that intended to provide a laptop for every child for learning. It was a non-profit initiative taken to distribute technology to teaching and learning in the developing world.
The project faced strong criticism since many human rights groups argued that third world countries don't have the infrastructure needed to support such a technology. It was good in theory, but not entirely practical.
What does "provenance not known" mean? It's on the label for this statue.
Provenance means the history of how this object came from its original location to its current location. Very often, museums have a record of original location found, and what the history of ownership is for each object, but sometimes this information is missing from the record. That's a great observation and a great question!
Oh, I see. Do we know whether this was originally freestanding or carved into a rock wall? I was also wondering about that
Also, whether it originally had a head?
It was probably part of a larger group statue which was freestanding, but placed next to a wall in a tomb. And it would definitely originally have had a head, headless statues were not a deliberate style in Ancient Egyptian statues. Which is interesting though considering modern sculpture. Rodin made bodies deliberately missing certain body parts, sometimes limbs, sometimes head, to concentrate on the shape and figure of a specific element of the human body. You'll notice some of his casts on your way out of the museum in the lobby!
I'll look for those! Thanks.
ASK App ASK Team

Curious about how we developed ASK Brooklyn Museum? The project team is blogging regularly on BKM Tech, and we've open sourced our code on Github.