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Amelia Soth

Amelia Soth

Amelia Soth is a Wisconsin-based writer. She also writes and edits for Mouse Magazine, and more of her writing can be found at ameliasoth.com.

Perseus Rescuing Andromeda by Cavaliere D'Arpino, painted on lapis lazuli

Paintings Made of Stone

Renaissance painters incorporated the inherent qualities of stone to produce works of art that revealed the beauty of nature and hand of God.
Lightning rod hats fashion of circa 1778

Electrical Fashions

From the light-bulb dress to galvanic belts, electrified clothing offered a way to experience and conquer a mysterious and vigorous force.
Natural Lace from the Lace Bark Tree

Lacebark as a Symbol of Resilience

For the enslaved people of Jamaica, the lacebark tree was a valuable natural resource and a means of asserting one's dignity.
Marie Antoinette by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun

The Drama of Point d’Alençon Needle Lace

In its heyday, lace was beautiful, expensive, and handmade. Naturally, lace smuggling became the stuff of legend.

Hot Air Balloon Launch Riot!

In the early days of ballooning, launches were prone to failure. When failure looked imminent, the crowd’s mood would begin to turn.
Façade of the cabarets Le Ciel and L'Enfer, 1909

The Cabarets of Heaven and Hell

In 1890s Paris, cabarets in bohemian Montmartre gave visitors a chance to tour the afterlife.
A view of the outlet of the Cloaca Maxima by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, ca. 1776

Venus of the Sewers

The Roman sewer, the Cloaca Maxima, was presided over by a goddess whose shrine stood near the Forum.
Etching: A wet nurse breast feeding the Duke of Burgundy, grandson of Louis XIV

Source: https://www.jstor.org/stable/community.24839779

How Wet-Nursing Stoked Class Tensions

“[N]o man can justly doubt, that a childs mind is answerable to his nurses milk and manners.”
Peter the Great cutting a Boyar's beard

Peter the Great’s Beard Tax

Why did the Russian tsar seek to ban beards?
An anatomical machine of Prince Raimondo di Sangro

The Anatomical Machines of Naples’ Alchemist Prince

Rumor had it that these machines were once the Prince’s servants, whom he murdered and transformed into anatomical displays. Scholars showed otherwise.
Intricate Paper cutting of a hunting scene by Dutch artist Joanna Koerten

Joanna Koerten’s Scissor-Cut Works Were Compared to Michelangelo

And then, snip by snip, she was cut out of the frame of Renaissance art history.
An illustration of claqueurs from an 1853 issue of Harper's Magazine

When Paid Applauders Ruled the Paris Opera House

Professional applauders, collectively known as the “claque,” helped mold the tastes of an uncertain audience.
Handstone with model mine

The Princes of Saxony Collected These Kitschy Miniature Mountains

Struck with “Berggeschrey,” or “mountain clamour,” early modern nobles of Saxony dolled up the dirty and dangerous work of the mines with gold and glitter.
claude glass

The Claude Glass Revolutionized the Way People Saw Landscapes

Imagine tourists flocking to a famous beauty spot, only to turn around and fix their eyes on its reflection in a tiny dark mirror.
1837 Merchant's Exchange Hard Times Token

“Hard Times Tokens” Were Not One Cent

The counterfeit currencies issued in response to 1837’s coin shortage were worthless—or were they?
Drawing of the funeral procession of Elizabeth I of England

Her Majesty’s Kidnappers

In the 17th century, Nathaniel Giles had the right to conscript young singers into the British royal children’s choir. He and a business partner went a step further.
Yellow Jacobins

Our Long-Running Love Affair with Pigeons

Through crazes of pigeon-fancying, these birds have been reshaped into a dizzying variety of forms.
Aurora Borealis by Frederic Edwin Church overlaid with The Battle of Culloden by David Morier

When the English Witnessed Battles in the Sky

Some claimed the battles were so fierce they could smell the gunpowder.
The New Perfume by John William Godward, 1914

When Royals Perfumed Themselves with the Excretions of Musk Deer and Civet Cats

In the era of Louis XV, it was fashionable to drench oneself in “animal scents.”
People visiting the morgue in Paris to view the cadavers

The Paris Morgue Provided Ghoulish Entertainment

With its huge windows framing the corpses on display, the morgue bore an uncomfortable resemblance to a department store.
Tremolite asbestos from the Aure Valley, French Pyrenees

When Asbestos Was a Gift Fit for a King

File under: “don’t try this at home.”
The Visit, 1746, Pietro Longhi

Socially Sanctioned Love Triangles of Romantic-Era Italy

Eighteenth-century Italian noblewomen had one indispensable accessory: an extramarital lover.
Superbarrio

Superbarrio: The People’s Superhero

Defender of the poor tenants and evictor of the voracious landlords, a masked lucha libre wrestler rose from the ruins of Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake.

Martin Luther’s Monsters

Prodigies, or monsters, were opaque and flexible symbols that signaled that God was sending some message.
Girls' Beating the Bounds' at a fence near St Albans in Hertfordshire, 1913

“Beating the Bounds”

How did people find out where their local boundaries were before there were reliable maps?