1. Controversies in Ancient Mesopotamia or Egypt: The Black Cleopatra
Ignoring the fact that the very concept of "blackness" is a relatively recent social construct, there's been a fairly vocal group claiming that Cleopatra, daughter the Macedonian Ptolemies, was a "black Egyptian" queen. I'm weighing the evidence for and against this claim; and to be honest the idea of the black Cleopatra really appears to be a myth invented in the 20th century to bolster a more Afrocentric spin on history. But my research is far from complete.
2. Baroque Japan: The Influence of Dutch Science on Japanese Art
I've learned a new term this semester - rangaku, or 'Dutch Learning'/'Western Learning'. During Japan's isolationist period (1641–1853) some foreign influence remained, in the form of Dutch prints and books. These treatises on medicine, astronomy, and other sciences were eventually translated into Japanese and passed amongst the learned classes, leading to some interesting cultural phenomenon. For example, Japanese physicians took to displaying images of Hippocrates, drawn in the European style by Japanese artists, in their places of work. As time went on, Dutch painting techniques were adopted - Gennai experimented with oil painting, Keiga employed aerial perspective, and so on. To me, the most interesting thing is that as books were translated, Japanese artists would re-draw the art - so if a book of anatomy, for example, was prepared for Japanese readers an artist would recreate the etchings and engravings as woodprints. I suppose that's what one had to do without photocopying technology, but I still find it quite surprising.
3. Greco-Roman Gods in Genre Paintings in 17th Century Northern Baroque Art
Actually, that sentence pretty much sums up the paintings. While many artists were painting the Greek and Roman gods, a few artists would occasionally move beyond godly perfection in order to depict the gods as more human-like, either in appearance or deed. I haven't done much with this topic yet.
4. Cheongsam and 20th Century Chinese Fashion
The Cheongsam or qipao, depending on what region of China you're from, has become something of a national costume. But it's a relatively recent development, descended from Manchu court robes. I'm not sure whether I want to focus on the influence of the Cheongsam on European fashion design or simply on the variations of the garment within China - I imagine this will be decided for me by what books I manage to find before the paper's due date.
5. Fashion designers as artists? Karl Lagerfeld says no...but his practice says yes.
While I have a lot of material for this paper, it lacks direction. Originally, I planned to use Karl Lagerfeld as an example of how a fashion designer can transcend mere functional craft and become an artist. I suppose I can still take this approach, but Lagerfeld himself absolutely rejects the idea of 'fashion designer as artist'. Yet I think he would self-identify as an artist because of his other interests - his photography, his books, and suchlike. I don't know...I really need to pull this paper together soon, but I'm awash in a sea of Karl.
6. California Mission Revival in Public Buildings
I've done nothing for this paper, but the idea is something along the lines of the use of the traditional California Mission layout and design in modern public buildings, such as the Lucie Stern Theatre/Community Center in Palo Alto. I definitely need to get more work done on this one, and soon. There's only three or four weeks of the semester left!