"The Vexed Man" by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt at The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California.

The Man Whose Face Got Stuck Like That

No one could have predicted Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s turn to the bizarre.
The Dance of Death

A Roman Feast… of Death!

The banquet hall was painted black from ceiling to floor. By the pale flicker of grave lamps, the invited senators coud make out a row of tombstones.
The cover of A Book to Burn by Li Zhi

Burn This Book!

Li Zhi’s exasperation with the corruption, greed, and superficiality of the powerbrokers in his society fueled his rebellious writing.
Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (Paracelsus)

The Occult Remedy the Puritans Embraced

Why did the Puritans embrace a medical treatment that looked suspiciously like black magic?
Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia by Michiel Jansz. van Miereveldt

The Afterlife of Royal Hair

Whether worn as a lovelock or set in elaborate jewelry, the clipped-off hair of Kings and Queens outlived the monarchs themselves.
A paper theater

Paper Theaters: The Home Entertainment of Yesteryear

In the nineteenth century, enterprising toymakers developed a novel way to bring theater into the home.
A lode stone encased in a gilded stand

The Souls of Magnets

Lodestones are dull, lumpy, and slate-gray, but their “magnetic intelligence” made them fabulously expensive.
Rustam captures the King of Mâzandarân and takes him before the tent of Kay Kâ'ûs.

The Movable Tent Cities of the Ottoman Empire

The most lavish among them were festooned with colorful appliqué and brightened with gilded leather.
Scottish quack doctor James Graham

The Prince of Quacks (and How He Captivated London)

James Graham, founder of the Temple of Health, benefitted from his undeniable flair for showmanship and his talent for leaping on trends.
Allegorical Groups Representing the Four Continents: America by Francesco Bertos

These Gravity-Defying Sculptures Provoked Accusations of Demonic Possession

Demons and artists, it seems, pull from the same bag of tricks. They take ordinary matter and transform it into something more wondrous, more terrifying.