|Heraclitus. Detail from|
School of Athens - Raphael
'Tis holy sport to be a little vain,
When the sweet breath of flattery conquers strife.
(William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors)
A couple of weeks ago I learned that this blog had been included on a list of the “Top 50 Art History Blogs”. What’s that you say? You are startled? You should be, I certainly was. I received an unexpected email kindly informing me of this distinction, with a link to the site and inviting me to put the link and badge for the list on my blog. On visiting the web page, I found that, sure enough, my humble pillow was listed there with this blurb:
“Alchemist’s Pillow: This lovely blog is intended as a respite for readers who at times find the world a bit jarring. We like the blogger’s refreshing perspective on familiar works. Featured artists include Ansel Adams, Rafael, Escher, and Goya.”How nice, I thought, although quietly trying to remember when I had ever done anything on the painter Raphael (clue: never, but I did post a poem by Rafael Alberti). Even nicer, though, was the fine company I was in, as some of the other art sites on the list are long-time favorites of mine, like Margaret’s The Earthly Paradise, Bob’s Art Blog by Bob and a few others (though I was a bit puzzled and disappointed over some of the ones that were missing, like Linnea West’s Art Ravels and Jane Librizzi’s The Blue Lantern).
Although this little ego massage was not unappreciated, I decided not to insert a link/badge, mainly because the list is featured on a commercial site that seems otherwise unconcerned with art history. Although they have done at least some research, and the list is helpful in finding art history sites, it had all the makings of a marketing wiz’s ploy to build up traffic to a decidedly non-art commercial site. And, after all, how reliable can a top 50 art history blogs list be that includes a little lapis lazuli elephant whose most prized self-proclaimed talent is an ability to talk to fax machines? It had to be a gimmick.
|Raphael — The School of Athens, 1510, fresco, Vatican|
(There! Now, I have done something on Raphael)
And so it was… and it is not the only one. Apparently this is becoming a fairly common tactic, not just in art history but in many other appealing fields as well. The site I am cited on also carries lists of the Best 50 Buddhist Blogs, 50 Awesome Atheistic/Agnostic Blogs, Top 50 Insect Blogs, Top 50 European Travel Blogs, Top 30 Civil War Blogs... Isn’t it reassuring, at least, to see that we get fewer (only 30) civil wars than dragonflies, awesome atheists, presumably awed Buddhists and leaning-tower-of-Pisa-holder-uppers? And isn't it fun imagining a blog that could somehow manage to make it onto all of these lists (Jeffscape, and 10th Daughter of Memory, are you out there)? This weekend I found an excellent description and discussion of this trend, Top lists and award badges: art history bloggers beware, at H Niyazi’s superb art blog three pipe problem (3pp). I encourage you to read the article and treat yourself to a rewarding stroll through his blog.
In 3pp’s own words:
"The Art and History site Database (AHDB) has been created to serve a specific purpose. Searching online for quality sites dedicated to art and history has become a time consuming process. The Wiki entry for a particular topic or artist is usually the top result in many instances, followed by a slew of image gallery or painting reproduction sites. With particular regard to blogs on the topics of art and history, there is presently no detailed resource that attempts to catalogue these sites and create a search engine that searches only these sites. (…)To be included on the list of sites that AHDB will search, a blog must be previously submitted to and approved by the AHDB administrator. I have the impression that the list is growing quickly and will soon become a very valuable resource for art history enthusiasts and researchers. I encourage all of you to check out the site, spread the word to bloggers who may be interested in using its search engine and/or being included on the site list. It is not a commercially driven project and will therefore be much harder to manipulate for toplisters and all those clever people out there who devote their time and talent to such things.
This project was commenced in November 2010 and has been tested by a closed group of students and art historians. The basic aim is to create a useful tool to make finding art and history sites easier. There are many resources for art and history online but one that aims to include blogs simply does not exist. An increasing amount of art historians, classicists and authors are now blogging, and there should be a resource to find them that is as easy to use as Google."
The address for the new search tool is http://www.ahdb.org/. I will probably put a link to it on my sidebar in the near feature. The alchemist’s pillow has been included there, and that is a distinction I am pleased to have been given and just as pleased to publicize. So, spread the word.
I know I have inserted many links here; if you only have time or patience or clicking stamina for one, it is this one for 3pp, a wonderful, rewarding and very enjoyable site.