Rising above the typical city-state (or polis) of ancient Greece was a high but accessible hill that functioned at various times in its history as a citadel or sanctuary (and, often, both), a place of refuge and a focus of religious life—an acropolis (literally, high city or city on the height). Although some acropoleis (such as Corinth’s) are geologically more impressive, none is more culturally or historically significant than the Acropolis of Athens.

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Cranach Lucas the Elder

Oneof the pivotal figures in early sixteenth-century German art, Cranach the Elder was the Reformation artist par excellence. A close friend and follower of Martin Luther (they were godfathers to one another’s children), Cranach collaborated with Luther in producing numerous single-sheet woodcuts and book illustrations that were crucial for the spread of the new evangelical theology in the early years of the Reformation in Germany. The “Passional Christi et Antichristi” (Wittenberg, 1521), for example, contrasts the holy life of Christ with the decadent life of the pope and the venal customs of the Curia Romana in thirteen antithetical pairs of woodcuts, with brief texts from the Bible and papal decretals composed by Philipp Melanchthon and Johann Schwertfeger. The epilogue was perhaps written by Luther himself. In 1529 Cranach created the quintessential new Reformation image, the “Allegory of Law and Grace,” contrasting mankind’s damnation under the law of Moses with his hope of salvation under the New Testament’s offer of grace in Luther’s interpretation. The allegory was typically produced both as a woodcut (London, British Museum) and as a panel painting (Gotha, Schloßmuseum) and was often copied. Portraits by Cranach and his son, Lucas the Younger, of Luther (Weimar, Schloßmuseum), Melanchthon (Frankfurt am Main, Städel), and the other reformers (Toledo Museum of Art), as well as the many copies and variants made from them by workshop assistants, have determined our perception of the reformers to the present day.

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The agora was the central square in the Greek polis, the setting for political meetings, markets, cults, public entertainment, and civic commemoration. The root meaning of the word is political, derived from the verb agoreuein, to speak in assembly. As a designated space the agora is likely to be as old as the Greek polis, for even the small populations of very early settlements required a central meeting place. The first references occur in epic poetry, where the word denotes an urban space held in common and frequented by male citizens (Odyssey 2.6–257). In its physical form this Homeric agora consisted of a level area brought to life by human activity, and when buildings were added to the agora in later times, the free space continued to be essential. In Homer’s description of the scenes on the shield of Achilles, a city’s elders decide a dispute in the agora while sitting on stones that are arranged in a circle around the two contesting parties (Iliad 18.497–508). The poetic image of a circular political gathering place probably reflects the real existence of such spaces, for several round meeting places of later date have come to light (Metapontum, Paestum, Acragas). Yet even in Homeric times the agora was a multivalent gathering place, not just a political center. In the Odyssey, Homer locates the agora of Scheria , the imaginary polis of the Phaeacians, at the harbor where it would have been a center of maritime commerce, and the same space is also the setting for athletic contests (Odyssey 8.1–198).

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Versailles, Site of Murakami Controversy

VERSAILLES, France— Takashi Murakami’s show at Versailles has drawn worldwide attention for its juxtaposition of the Japanese artist’s manga-influenced work with the Gallic splendor of the Old Regime French kings, but next year the Château will not give over its gleaming halls to contemporary art. Instead, the series of shows by living artists — inaugurated by Versailles president Jean-Jacques Aillagon in 2008 with a Jeff Koons exhibition — will take place in the palace’s gardens.

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Naked Dwarf Revealed Again in Painting

The naked image of a dwarf who starred at the Medici court in the Florentine Renaissance, has been revealed after nearly three centuries of oblivion, Italian art experts announced last week at a press conference in Florence.

Known as the Portrait of Dwarf Morgante, the painting, a two-sided canvas which portrays a court jester, was made before 1553 by mannerist painter Agnolo di Cosimo, better known as Bronzino (1503-1572).

Long considered to be obscene, the full frontal view of the naked dwarf was painted over in the 18th century.

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Duchamp’s “Boîte-en-Valise” to be Published as a Pop-Up Book

PARIS— It’s certainly appropriate that French artist Mathieu Mercier won the prestigious Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2003, since he has always shown a special interest in the ground-breaking conceptual artist. Now Mercier has found a novel way to pay tribute to one of Duchamp’s most famous works, the “Boîte-en-valise,” by making it more accessible, so that it can really be enjoyed in the playful spirit in which it was created. He’s turned the work into a pop-up book, which will be published by Anabet on October 22.

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Russia Blocks Artist’s Anti-Putin Painting from Louvre Show

PARIS—The Russian government has officially refused to allow abstract canvases by artist Avdei Ter-Oganyan to appear in an upcoming exhibition at the Louvre, objecting in particular to a painting that they say advocates the assassination of prime minister Vladimir Putin. In response, several other Russian artists included in the show, which has been planned as part of a  diplomatic France-Russia Year, will boycott the exhibition out of solidarity with Ter-Oganyan, according to the Agence France-Presse.

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Alfred H. Barr

Alfred Hamilton Barr, Jr. (January 28, 1902 – August 15, 1981), known as Alfred H. Barr, Jr., was an art historian and the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

American art historian and administrator who played an enormously important and controversial role in establishing an intellectual and institutional framework for the study and appreciation of modern art. He was born in Detroit, the son of a Presbyterian minister, and studied art and archaeology at Princeton University, graduating in 1922 and taking an MA degree the following year. After several months travelling in Europe, he returned to the USA and taught art history in several leading institutions including Wellesley College, where he taught the first course at an American college devoted solely to 20th-century art. In 1929 he was appointed director of the newly founded Museum of Modern Art.

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