On this day:
332 – Constantine the Great announced free distributions of food to the citizens in Constantinople.
Constantine the Great (Latin: Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus; Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος ὁ Μέγας; 27 February c. 272 AD – 22 May 337 AD), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine (in the Orthodox Church as Saint Constantine the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles), was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD. Constantine was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman Army officer, and his consort Helena. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west, in 293 AD. Constantine was sent east, where he rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia (Britain). Acclaimed as emperor by the army at Eboracum (modern-day York) after his father’s death in 306 AD, Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east by 324 AD.
As emperor, Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social, and military reforms to strengthen the empire. The government was restructured and civil and military authority separated. A new gold coin, the solidus, was introduced to combat inflation. It would become the standard for Byzantine and European currencies for more than a thousand years. The first Roman emperor to claim conversion to Christianity,[notes 4] Constantine played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict of Milan in 313, which decreed tolerance for Christianity in the empire. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, at which the Nicene Creed was adopted by Christians. In military matters, the Roman army was reorganised to consist of mobile field units and garrison soldiers capable of countering internal threats and barbarian invasions. Constantine pursued successful campaigns against the tribes on the Roman frontiers—the Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths, and the Sarmatians—even resettling territories abandoned by his predecessors during the Crisis of the Third Century.
The age of Constantine marked a distinct epoch in the history of the Roman Empire. He built a new imperial residence at Byzantium and renamed the city Constantinople after himself (the laudatory epithet of “New Rome” came later, and was never an official title). It would later become the capital of the Empire for over one thousand years; for which reason the later Eastern Empire would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire. His more immediate political legacy was that, in leaving the empire to his sons, he replaced Diocletian’s tetrarchy with the principle of dynastic succession. His reputation flourished during the lifetime of his children and centuries after his reign. The medieval church upheld him as a paragon of virtue while secular rulers invoked him as a prototype, a point of reference, and the symbol of imperial legitimacy and identity. Beginning with the Renaissance, there were more critical appraisals of his reign due to the rediscovery of anti-Constantinian sources. Critics portrayed him as a tyrant. Trends in modern and recent scholarship attempted to balance the extremes of previous scholarship.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on his orders at the purported site of Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem, became the holiest place in Christendom. The Papal claim to temporal power in the High Middle Ages was based on the supposed Donation of Constantine. He is venerated as a saint by Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics. Though Constantine has historically often been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor” (and indeed he heavily promoted the Christian Church), scholars debate his actual beliefs or even his actual comprehension of the Christian faith itself (he was not even baptised until just before his death).
Born on this day:
1852 – Gertrude Käsebier, American photographer (d. 1934)Gertrude Käsebier (May 18, 1852 – October 12, 1934) was one of the most influential American photographers of the early 20th century. She was known for her images of motherhood, her portraits of Native Americans and her promotion of photography as a career for women.
Early life (1852–1873)
Käsebier was born Gertrude Stanton on 18 May 1852 in Fort Des Moines (now Des Moines). Her father, John W. Stanton, transported a saw mill to Golden, Colorado at the start of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1859, and he prospered from the building boom that followed. In 1860 eight-year-old Stanton traveled with her mother and younger brother to join her father in Colorado. That same year her father was elected the first mayor of Golden, which was then the capital of the Colorado Territory.
After the sudden death of her father in 1864, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where her mother, Muncy Boone Stanton, opened a boarding house to support the family. From 1866-70 Stanton lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with her maternal grandmother and attended the Bethlehem Female Seminary (later called Moravian College). Little else is known about her early years.
Becoming a photographer (1874–1897)
On her twenty-second birthday, in 1874, she married twenty-eight-year-old Eduard Käsebier, a financially comfortable and socially well-placed businessman in Brooklyn. The couple soon had three children, Frederick William (1875–?), Gertrude Elizabeth (1878–?) and Hermine Mathilde (1880–?). In 1884 they moved to a farm in New Durham, New Jersey, in order to provide a healthier place to raise their children.
Käsebier later wrote that she was miserable throughout most of her marriage. She said, “If my husband has gone to Heaven, I want to go to Hell. He was terrible…Nothing was ever good enough for him.” At that time divorce was considered scandalous, and the two remained married while living separate lives after 1880. This unhappy situation would later serve as an inspiration for one of her most strikingly titled photographs – two constrained oxen, entitled Yoked and Muzzled –
In spite of their differences, her husband supported her financially when she began to attend art school at the age of thirty-seven, a time when most women of her day were well-settled in their social positions. Käsebier never indicated what motivated her to study art, but she devoted herself to it wholeheartedly. Over the objections of her husband in 1889 she moved the family back to Brooklyn in order to attend the newly established Pratt Institute of Art and Design full-time. One of her teachers there was Arthur Wesley Dow, a highly influential artist and art educator. He would later help promote her career by writing about her work and by introducing her to other photographers and patrons.
While at Pratt Käsebier learned about the theories of Friedrich Fröbel, a 19th-century scholar whose ideas about learning, play and education led to the development of the first kindergarten. His concepts about the importance of motherhood in child development greatly influenced Käsebier, and many of her later photographs would emphasize the bond between mother and child. She was also influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement
She formally studied drawing and painting, but she quickly became obsessed with photography. Like many art students of that time, Käsebier decided to travel to Europe in order to further her education. She began 1894 by spending several weeks studying the chemistry of photography in Germany, where she was also able to leave her daughters with in-laws in Wiesbaden. She spent the rest of the year in France, studying with American painter Frank DuMond.
In 1895 she returned to Brooklyn. In part because her husband was now quite ill and her family’s finances were strained, she determined to become a professional photographer. A year later she became an assistant to Brooklyn portrait photographer Samuel H. Lifshey, where she learned how to run a studio and expand her knowledge of printing techniques. It is clear, however, that by this time she already had an extensive mastery of photography. Just one year later she exhibited 150 photographs, an enormous number for an individual artist at that time, at the Boston Camera Club. These same photos were shown in February 1897 at the Pratt Institute.
The success of these shows led to another at the Photographic Society of Philadelphia in 1897. She also lectured on her work there and encouraged other women to take up photography as a career, saying, “I earnestly advise women of artistic tastes to train for the unworked field of modern photography. It seems to be especially adapted to them, and the few who have entered it are meeting a gratifying and profitable success.”
Gertrude Käsebier and the Sioux
In 1898, Käsebier watched Buffalo Bill’s Wild West troupe parade past her Fifth Avenue studio in New York City, New York, toward Madison Square Garden. Her memories of affection and respect for the Lakota people inspired her to send a letter to William “Buffalo Bill” Cody requesting permission to photograph Sioux traveling with the show in her studio. Cody and Käsebier were similar in their abiding respect for Native American culture and maintained friendships with the Sioux. Cody quickly approved Käsebier’s request and she began her project on Sunday morning, April 14, 1898. Käsebier’s project was purely artistic and her images were not made for commercial purposes and never used in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West program booklets or promotional posters. Käsebier took classic photographs of the Sioux while they were relaxed. Chief Iron Tail and Chief Flying Hawk were among Käsebier’s most challenging and revealing portraits. Käsebier’s photographs are preserved at the National Museum of American History’s Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
Käsebier’s session with Iron Tail was her only recorded story: “Preparing for their visit to Käsebier’s photography studio, the Sioux at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Camp met to distribute their finest clothing and accessories to those chosen to be photographed.” Käsebier admired their efforts, but desired to, in her own words, photograph a “real raw Indian, the kind I used to see when I was a child’, referring to her early years in Colorado and on the Great Plains. Käsebier selected one Indian, Iron Tail, to approach for a photograph without regalia. “He did not object. The resulting photograph was exactly what Käsebier had envisioned: a relaxed, intimate, quiet, and beautiful portrait of the man, devoid of decoration and finery, presenting himself to her and the camera without barriers.” Several days later, Chief Iron Tail was given the photograph and he immediately tore it up, stating that it was too dark. Käsebier re-photographed him, this time in his full regalia. Iron Tail was an international celebrity. He appeared with his fine regalia as the lead with Buffalo Bill at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, and the Colosseum of Rome. Iron Tail was a superb showman and chaffed at the photo of him relaxed. but Käsebier chose it as the frontispiece for a 1901 Everybody’s Magazine article. Käsebier believed all the portraits were a “revelation of Indian character,” showing the strength and individual character of the Native Americans in “new phases for the Sioux.”
Chief Flying Hawk’s glare is the most startling of Käsebier’s portraits. Other Indians were able to relax, smile or do a “noble pose.” Chief Flying Hawk was a combatant in nearly all of the fights with United States troops during the Great Sioux War of 1876. Flying Hawk fought along with his cousin Crazy Horse and his brothers Kicking Bear and Black Fox II in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, and was present at the death of Crazy Horse in 1877 and the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. In 1898, Flying Hawk was new to show business and unable to hide his anger and frustration imitating battle scenes and from the Great Plains Wars with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West to escape the constraints and poverty of the Indian reservation. Soon, Flying Hawk learned to appreciate the benefits of a Show Indian with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Flying Hawk regularly circulated show grounds in full regalia and sold his “cast card” picture postcards for a penny to supplement promote the show and supplement his meager income. After Iron Tail’s death on May 28, 1916, Flying Hawk was chosen as successor by all of the braves of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and led the gala processions as the head Chief of the Indians.
By Craig Burrows: I Photographed The Invisible Light That Plants Emit
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