A light-hearted survey course that I, Alexis Clements, put together for my former work colleagues upon the occasion of our weekly beer drinking celebration. Some of the links are dead (I apologize in advance for that), but some people seem to enjoy this, so I've left it up. Click here to return to my homepage.

A Brief Survey of Artistic Representations of Social Interaction:
From the Caves of Lascaux to the Halls of CIW

Unit 6 - (Un)Lucky

Friday the 13th. Not only is this the title of a particualrly well-wrought film (I speak, of course, of the 1933 Brit classic, "Friday the Thirteenth," starring Jessie Matthews as Millie the Non-Stop Variety Girl and directed by Victor Saville.) but it is also the source of grave fears and doomsaying (yes, that is a word-look it up if you like). The ominous number 13 has so affected our Western culture that we no longer build high rise buildings with 13th floors, airplanes often come without 13th rows, children shudder at the merest mention of the menacing 13. Luckily, the high rise of history does not come without a 13th year or a 13th century, by whichever calendar you use to count.

We begin our abbreviated look at art produced in the time of 13 with this statue of the Chantress Enehy (a temple musician), who seems to have found luck around the 13th century b.c.. While it is true that she died at that same time, she must have died well, given the multiude of status symbols that decorate this sculpture, erected to accompany her tomb.

Next we move to this young man, a ruler and builder up Empires, whose rule spanned two thirteens, one b.c. and another a.d.. While to all appearances the man seems to bear an optimistic and even happy expression foretelling of success yet to come in his life, one can quite plainly see that as the years wore on he lost himself and a large portion of his head. But I suppose this is bound to hapen to all would-be emporer's sooner or latter, new clothes or no.

Head of Augustus, Roman, Augustan period
19th dynasty, ca. 1307-1250 B.C.
27 B.C.-A.D. 14, Marble
Height: 15 7/8 in.
Acquired by Henry Walters, 1913
The Walters Collection, Baltimore

Enehy, Egyptian, New Kingdom
19th dynasty, ca. 1307-1250 B.C.
White limestone, Height: 51 15/16 in.
Acquired by Henry Walters, 1924
The Walters Collection, Baltimore

Finally we end with a most interesting piece--a page from an illuminated manuscript in which a handful full of most unlucky fellows are finding themselves trampled in a most, again, unlucky, way. Produced by a nameless monk at the behest of Louis IX of France, this is one of many works that began a trend of translating old stories into a modern-day setting (the thing that every Hollywood and Broadway director who thinks themselves quite clever imagined that he or she invented every time they do another adaptation of a Shakespearean play). Thus, the book functions not only as a religious text, but as a primer on all things 13th century.

Related Links:

All of the works on this page have been excerpted from the collection of The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

A page giving additional information about the Morgan Library's Picture Bible.

A brief article that hypothesizes about why we fear Friday the 13th.

A JavaScript that finds each occurrence of Friday the 13th in whichever year you enter into it.