Louisiana chimpanzee wins first prize in art contest

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A painting by a 37-year-old Louisiana primate who applies color with his tongue instead of a brush has been deemed the finest chimpanzee art in the land.

Brent, a retired laboratory animal, was the top vote-getter in an online chimp art contest organized by the Humane Society of the United States, which announced the results Thursday. He won $10,000 for the Chimp Haven sanctuary in northwest Louisiana.

A Chimp Haven spokeswoman said Brent was unavailable for comment Thursday. “I think he’s asleep,” Ashley Gordon said.

But as the society said on its website, “The votes are in, so let the pant hooting begin!” – pant hooting being the characteristic call of an excited chimp.

Five other sanctuaries around the country competed, using paintings created during “enrichment sessions,” which can include any of a wide variety of activities and playthings.

Chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall chose her favorite from photographs she was sent. That painting, by Cheetah, a male at Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce, Fla., won $5,000 as Goodall’s choice and another $5,000 for winning second place in online voting, Humane Society spokeswoman Nicole Ianni said.

This undated image provided by Chimp Haven, Inc. shows Brent, a chimpanzee at its shelter in Keithville.

This undated image provided by Chimp Haven, Inc. shows Brent, a chimpanzee at its shelter in Keithville.


Ripley from the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Fla., won third place and $2,500.

More than 27,000 people voted, Ianni said in a news release. The organization is not giving vote totals “to keep the focus on the positive work of the sanctuaries and not necessarily the ‘winner,'” she said in an email. The sanctuaries care for chimpanzees retired from research, entertainment and the pet trade. Chimp Haven is the national sanctuary for those retired from federal research.

Other submitted paintings were by Jamie, a female at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Cle Elum, Wash.; Jenny, a female at Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, Ky.; and Patti, a female at Chimps Inc. in Bend, Ore.

A profile of Brent on the Humane Society’s website says he has lived at Chimp Haven since 2006, is protective of an even older chimp at the sanctuary and “loves to laugh and play.” It continues, “Brent paints only with his tongue. His unique approach and style, while a little unorthodox, results in beautiful pieces of art.”

Cathy Willis Spraetz, Chimp Haven’s president and CEO, said she chose a painting by Brent partly because of that unusual method. She said she later held a canvas up to the mesh of his indoor cage so she could watch him at work.

Some other chimps use brushes or point to the colors they want on the canvas, but Brent comes up to smush pre-applied blobs of child-safe tempera paints with his tongue, she said.

“If we handed the canvas to them where it was on the inside, they might not want to hand it back,” she said. “They might throw it around and step on it.”


D’oh! American tourist accidentally snaps finger off medieval Italian statue



An American tourist who was visiting a museum in Italy accidentally snapped the pinky finger off a medieval statue, authorities in Florence say.

The statue, believed to be from the 14th or 15th century, is thought to be the work of sculptor Giovanni D’Ambrogio. Security guards at Museo dell’Opera del Duomo say they spotted the unidentified, middle-aged man touching the statue but were unable to stop him before he damaged the work. He reportedly told the guards he was trying to measure it.

“In a globalized world like ours, the fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten,” museum head Timothy Verdon told MSN U.K. “That is, ‘Do not touch the works.’”

It’s unclear how much repairs to the statue would cost. Verdon said the man, who was visiting from Missouri, apologized.

“It is a fairly simple restoration,” the museum told the Daily News, adding that the incident was reported to police.

It’s apparently not the first time the statue had been damaged.

“This was already a very fragile piece of art,” Ambra Nepi, head of communications for the museum, told ABC News. “But every year throughout the Duomo we have many items that are damaged and broken.”

Bizarre but Real Photographs – Rare and Real

Children for sale in Chicago, 1948.  Some parents sold their children due to poverty.

Children for sale in Chicago, 1948. Some parents sold their children due to poverty.

Albert Einstein brings sexy back in 1932.

Albert Einstein brings sexy back in 1932.

The Japanese "War Tuba" used to locate enemy aircraft before the invention of radar.  Circa 1930.

The Japanese “War Tuba” used to locate enemy aircraft before the invention of radar. Circa 1930.


Arnold Schwarzenegger shows off to some elderly women in the 1970's.

Arnold Schwarzenegger shows off to some elderly women in the 1970’s.


Prosthetic legs in 1900.

Prosthetic legs in 1900.



Ancient Carving of Roman God Found in Garbage Pit

A stone head possibly depicting a Roman god was found by Durham University archaeologists at Binchester …

A stone head possibly depicting a Roman god was found by Durham University archaeologists at Binchester …

Originally posted by:



An 1,800-year-old stone carving of what may be the head of a Roman god was recently found in an ancient garbage dump, British archaeologists announced today (July 3).

An undergraduate student at Durham University discovered the largely intact head during an archaeological dig at the Binchester Roman Fort, a major Roman Empire fort built around A.D. 100 in northeastern England’s County Durham.

Archaeologists involved in the dig believe that somebody probably tossed the 8-inch-long (20 centimeters) statue in the garbage when the building was abandoned in the fourth century, during the fall of the Roman Empire. [See Photos of the Stone Head & Dig Site]

The team is still not certain who the carved head is meant to represent, though they have noted its resemblance to a similar stone head discovered in 1862 inscribed with the name “Antenociticus” — a Celtic deity associated with military prayers in that particular region.

A shrine sits nearby the garbage dump, further suggesting the stone head was involved in prayer and represents a deity.

“It is probably the head of a Roman god — we can’t be sure of his name, but it does have similarities to head of Antenociticus,” David Petts, a Durham University archaeologist who was involved in the dig, said in a statement. “We may never know the true identity of this new head, but we are continuing to explore the building from which it came to help us improve our understanding of late Roman life at Binchester and [the] Roman Empire’s northern frontier in Northern England.”

The team is particularly interested in the unique local aesthetic of the head, which combines classical Roman art and regional Romano-British art. Some of the facial features also appear to be African, though this remains speculative.

“This is something we need to consider deeply,” Petts said in a statement. “If it is an image of an African, it could be extremely important, although this identification is not certain.”

The dig was conducted in collaboration with Stanford University in an effort to unearth evidence from the era leading up to the fall of the Roman Empire. The team has yet to publish a report on their recent findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Follow Laura Poppick on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.


Tomb with a View

A new virtual-reality project at the Vatican Museums allows visitors to wander through a 2,600-year-old Etruscan burial vault

Virtual reconstruction of the exterior of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, 7th century B.C. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Virtual reconstruction of the exterior of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, 7th century B.C.

Originally posted on artnews.com


For the first time in history, visitors to the Vatican Museums are playing an Etruscan video game. That is, a pan-European team has created a walk-in, virtual-reality replica of the famous 7th-century B.C. Etruscan tomb known as the Regolini-Galassi. Located at seaside Cerveteri (ancient Caere), north of Rome, the tomb is otherwise off limits to the public.

Etruscanning 3D, as the project is known, won the top award at the international Archeovirtual exhibition in Paestum, Italy, last November. Its creators wanted to explore the possibilities of applying “new visualization techniques” to complex archeological and historical sites. Another goal was to re-create, on a scientific basis, the original context of the Regolini-Galassi tomb as it likely looked more than 2,600 years ago. Motion sensors allow visitors to wander through the site while standing in front of a three-meter-wide, high-resolution screen, and a menu lets them choose nearby artifacts to examine more closely, from Egyptian-style sarcophagi to a black ceramic inkpot to a large golden fibula, or brooch, decorated with lions.

Demonstration of Etruscanning 3-D, which allows users to virtually explore the Regolini-Galassi tomb. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Demonstration of Etruscanning 3-D, which allows users to virtually explore the Regolini-Galassi tomb.

A richly endowed, subterranean burial vault with multiple chambers, the Regolini-Galassi was discovered intact in 1836 by local priest Alessandro Regolini and retired general Vincenzo Galassi, who were excavating a hillside necropolis at Caere. At the time, the territory on the Tyrrhenian coast belonged to the papal state, which had passed Europe’s second-oldest heritage law in 1822. As a result, after two years of negotiations, the rich trove of burial objects became Vatican property.
The findings—and particularly the elegant gold items that once belonged to a princess—caused a sensation. “It was the discovery of a lost world, known until then solely through ancient literature,” says Maurizio Sannibale, director of the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, a smaller museum within the Vatican Museums.

Real-time rendering of the inner chamber of the tomb, showing the sarcophagus of an Etruscan princess and her funerary goods. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Real-time rendering of the inner chamber of the tomb, showing the sarcophagus of an Etruscan princess and her funerary goods.

Virtual construction of a bronze six-headed lebes (pot) in the tomb. COURTESY CNR-ITABC, ROME.

Virtual construction of a bronze six-headed lebes (pot) in the tomb.

“Most unusually, experts arrived to make drawings of the objects,” Sannibale continues. “However, their descriptions were often contradictory and gave no indication of where the precious objects were found.” The designers of Etruscanning 3D attempted to remedy this omission by placing the treasures in what is thought to be their rightful places within the tomb. And through photogrammetry and computer imaging, many existing artifacts have been “digitally restored” to revive worn-out or missing details.

In addition to the Vatican Museums, the project involved the Allard Pierson Museum at the University of Amsterdam; the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden; the Gallo-Romeins Museum in Tongeren, Belgium; the National Research Council of Rome; the Belgian architecture and heritage firm Visual Dimension; and the Archeological Superintendency of Southern Etruria.
Remarkably, the new virtual-reality tour had a precursor in 1837 London. One year after the uncovering of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, three brothers named Campanari, who had been excavating at Vulci, reconstructed an Etruscan tomb for an exhibition at Pall Mall, thus spurring an English fad for collecting Etruscan objects.

Judith Harris is the author of Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery.




‘How the Other Half Lives’: Photos capture New York slums in 1890

By Claudine Zap

It might be hard to imagine in the now-gentrified neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, but at the beginning of the 20th century, they were marked by slums teeming with newly arrived immigrants who lived in horrific conditions.

Danish photographer and social reformer Jacob Riis, an immigrant himself, became a New York Tribune reporter in 1877—and he made it his mission to make sure the world saw New York City though his eyes. His 1890 book, “How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York,” exposed in graphic terms the squalor of New York’s East Side slum district. It is still considered “a landmark in the annals of social reform.”

Riis documented the conditions typical for immigrants using an early form of flash photography, which enabled him to literally shed light on extreme poverty. The book pushed tenement reform on to New York’s political agenda and prompted then-Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to call him “the most useful citizen of New York.”

4e83abbb-80d6-478c-a109-ace65e23877d_3233961_10 3c5c9a89-fd41-47a9-b935-f091ae9b63e5_3233964_10 119f728d-3653-4a78-ae17-22ce80559ede_3202536_10 61c25b88-628e-4a81-aaec-67793ee359aa_3238344_10 0057f621-9db4-400d-a3b2-ce38c438e877_97643275_10 47be358a-5f04-4acf-9168-de9b585b149e_3233300_10 9a0c1554-ee18-472b-91ac-7d920e497960_3230096_10 8aea06f7-ab5d-4498-adc7-f3efe992f850_2668634_10 5f1b1ce6-ff26-44be-b703-076e89ff3c79_3238339_10 3387d9ad-0b83-412d-8666-8bb5ca47fd21_3202609_10 4168ea55-2cc7-48c4-ab19-c8bd397a7d3a_3233997_10 4647fd2a-a46f-4b78-b856-9554eb3d9f89_3071371_10 25837e3e-08eb-421a-9779-1d7d26222514_3233305_10 620303e8-e439-428d-97f2-c1d6103e8b2f_2644138_10 b5fe7250-b1d6-41f5-8da0-6884b53f25d9_3233999_10 c2d45a12-01c4-4842-9a10-fbb08041a22f_3233302_10 ffa3ff48-38b8-4272-b96a-ce28922c17a7_3233301_10 f60a8203-21e3-42a0-a118-8c304b5c5e94_3240091_10 dcc95e78-bad9-4bb6-8459-57c316e2ebbf_2664903_10 fe1be5fd-4238-4a5f-9404-7644fef3e973_2668629_10 d7e82867-6511-4bf7-b961-b6df9b7f3863_2644139_10 d3b5d906-e81b-48e1-956c-955dbc71e974_2668624_10 da943150-dec8-4f5f-b4c1-467e09981389_3202504_10


Van Gogh’s True Palette Revealed

A NEW LOOK A digital version of “The Bedroom” shows what may be the original violet walls.

A NEW LOOK A digital version of “The Bedroom” shows what may be the original violet walls.

Originally posted by-

AMSTERDAM — “The Bedroom,” Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 painting, with its honey-yellow bed pressed into the corner of a cozy sky-blue room, is instantly recognizable to art lovers, with his signature contrasting hues. But does our experience of this painting change upon learning that van Gogh had originally depicted those walls in violet, not blue, or that he was less a painter wrestling with his demons and more of a deliberate, goal-oriented artist?

These questions are raised by a new analysis, eight years in the making, of hundreds of van Gogh’s canvases as well as his palette, pigments, letters and notebooks by scientists at Shell, the oil company, in collaboration with the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency and curators at the newly renovated Van Gogh Museum here, which owns the world’s largest collection of works by that Dutch Post Impressionist.

The research did not lead to “earth-shattering new insights” that rewrite van Gogh’s life story, said the director of the Van Gogh Museum, Axel Rüger, but it could shift the understanding of van Gogh’s temperament and personality. The results of that study will be revealed in an exhibition, “Van Gogh at Work,” which opens on Wednesday and features about 200 paintings and drawings, 150 of them by van Gogh and others by contemporaries, including Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard.

“You discover more clearly that van Gogh was a very methodical artist, which runs counter to the general myth that he was a manic, possibly slightly deranged man who just spontaneously threw paint at the canvas,” Mr. Rüger said. “He was actually someone who knew very well about the properties of the materials he used, how to use them, and also he created very deliberate compositions. In that sense it’s a major insight in that it gives us a better notion of van Gogh the artist. He was very goal-oriented.”

By using an electron microscope and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, which reveals the parts of pigments without taking invasive samples, researchers found that early on van Gogh used perspective frames as a guide and drew on the canvas to correctly render proportions and depth of field in his landscapes. Later, as he gained mastery, he abandoned these grids. Like many artists, he reworked certain paintings repeatedly to perfect his desired effect. The most important insight was into his palette, said Nienke Bakker, curator of the show.

“We now know much more about the pigments van Gogh used and how they might’ve changed color over time,” Ms. Bakker said. “That’s crucial to our understanding of his works, and to know better how to treat them. The colors are still very vibrant, but they would have been even brighter — especially the reds. Some of the reds were much brighter or have completely disappeared since he painted them.”

Ralph Haswell, principal scientist at Shell Global Solutions here, which made its lab facilities and researchers available to the museum, said that at the turn of the 20th century artists had just started buying pigments off the shelf rather than mixing them in the studio. “One of the disadvantages of living in a very changing environment where pigments were very new was that they didn’t always know how things would turn out,” he said. “The chemical industry was growing hugely and they came up with all kinds of colors, but you never knew how long they would remain stable. Some pigments weren’t stable.” That was the case with van Gogh’s violet, used to depict the walls of his room in Arles. Because the red in the purple paint faded prematurely, probably even during van Gogh’s lifetime, it left behind only the blue with which it had been mixed.

That may have been fine with van Gogh, Ms. Bakker said, since the largely self-taught artist didn’t regard any of his work as final. He saw pieces as studies that helped him find his style.

“He wanted to express his individual way of seeing the world, and every work of art he made was moving him toward that goal,” Ms. Bakker said, “but he was never satisfied.”

The original hue — seemingly a minor change — presents a more soothing image, said Marije Vellekoop, head of collections, research and presentation for the Van Gogh Museum. The purple and yellow are “not a harsh contrast as we think of now,” she said. “That was something he wanted to express in that picture — tranquillity and a sense of rest.”

A FAMILIAR LOOK The painting as we know it, with blue walls perhaps caused by faded pigment.

A FAMILIAR LOOK The painting as we know it, with blue walls perhaps caused by faded pigment.

In color theory, Ms. Vellekoop said, purple and yellow are complementary contrasts. “Theoretically they have to reinforce each other,” she said. “For me, the purple walls in the bedroom make it a softer image. It confirms that he was sticking to the traditional color theory, using purple and yellow, and not blue and yellow.”

In other paintings the disappearance of the reds had different consequences. For example, in images of blossoming fruit trees,  blossoms are now white that were once pink because the red faded away. That might lead to changing the identification of the type of tree depicted, Ms. Vellekoop said.

In a way, his use of complementary colors places van Gogh strictly in the traditions of his time. Although he was radical in his use of bright colors, she said, “he follows the traditional color theory that was already written down in the first half of the 19th century,” she said, adding, “A lot of his artist friends were reading those books,” but didn’t use the pigments so boldly.

Van Gogh experimented with different techniques to applying color that were used by his contemporaries, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who thinned out his paints and used flat colors. Van Gogh also briefly followed the Pointillists, whose images were built up from many dabs of color. The high-contrast colors of van Gogh’s later paintings are associated with the moment when he came into his own as an artist, developing his own style, in the last couple of years of his life.

The fact that he may have used an even brighter palette, with more reds and purples, indicates that his work may have been closer to that of his friend Paul Gauguin. In that sense, his color choices might have been safer and less iconoclastic than we might imagine.

But, she said, the new color insights don’t necessarily change our view of his psychology. “I don’t think it says anything about his state of mind,” she said. “In Arles, he was using a lot of colors and he was very optimistic about life and his future and his possibilities of selling his work.”

"Self-portrait," from 1887-1888

“Self-portrait,” from 1887-1888

He was also looking forward to Gauguin’s coming to Arles, Ms. Vellekoop said, but he was almost manic about it. “When the cooperation with Gauguin failed, and he was in the asylum, and he becomes more somber and depressed, his colors changed, he goes more towards the ochers, different shades of green and browns,” she said. “A more subdued palette. We do associate color with his state of mind, of course, but it’s not like the more blue, the more depressed he was.”

Starting in September two of van Gogh’s renditions of “The Bedroom” will be displayed side by side at the exhibition, one from the Van Gogh Museum and the other borrowed from the Art Institute of Chicago. Van Gogh painted three versions of the room in 1888 and 1889, and all now have those pale-blue walls. Scientists and conservators have also created a digital reconstruction of what the painting might have looked like when van Gogh first painted it, with those violet walls, which will also be part of the exhibition.

“It looks just, different, and a bit strange,” Ms. Bakker said.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness

Speaking at the TED Conference, famed psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks what’s the source of happiness? And his answer comes down to this: Beyond a certain point (and it’s not very far), money doesn’t affect happiness too much. Rather, as his research shows, we tend to be most happy when we get immersed, almost lost in, being creative and performing at our best. It’s an ecstatic state that he calls “flow.” The video runs about 19 minutes, and is well worth your time. Some book titles worth checking out include: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience or Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life.