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We love history, and it seems everything we do leads back to it in some way or another. We would all love to have a time machine, and in one way we do. It seems that in history past, artists and writers and just regular people recorded what they saw and what they did, and these recordings call out to us.

The more we study the easier it becomes to understand. Once an object is found being used in a half-dozen paintings by different artists, it becomes second nature to divine the purpose and design of that object. At times we are perplexed about an image and only later after further study of some other picture or text or comment do we really begin to understand.

We thought that a daily image or text might be a great and quick way of starting that chain of events that helps someone understand the object in history just a little bit better. Our goal is to post one historical picture or text per day in hopes that we might generate some conversation by which we might all gain a better perspective on the time period.

30 Responses to About

  1. Bob Fritz


    Thanks for this wonderful way to look back into the past. Try these images for future postings:

    The Officers’ Mess or the Remains of a Lunch, 1763 by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
    The Boy with a Spinning Top by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
    Still-Life by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
    Still-Life With Copper Pot by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
    The Return from Market by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
    Pipes and Jug by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
    The Diligent Mother, 1740 by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin

    • Hassan

      Fort BumperThere is more to this painting The man on the far right is the nrtoay, drawing up the marriage contract. The missing piece of the picture shows the future bride and the rest of the family, mother and other siblings. The mother, who is crying, is holding the future bride’s hand. A younger sister, who is also in tears, has her arm around the bride’s neck. The future bride is shy and looking down while she holds her fiance’s arm, too shy to even touch his hand.A little girl is feeding a mother hen and her chicks bread crumbs. One chick is drinking in the painting above.

  2. silhouettesbyhand

    I’m now in love with your blog. Thank you 🙂

  3. Marc Geerdink-Schaftenaar

    What an excellent idea for a weblog! Thanks, I’ll recommend it to my friends.
    About Chardin: the complete works can be seen here:
    Is it also possible to contribute to this log if one has found something useful?

    Regards, Marc
    The Netherlands.

  4. Frederic

    Hello. I love your site. I’d very much like to know the title of your front image. Thanks.

    • Jon Townsend

      Thank you for your comments.

      The title is “The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester” by Adriaan de Lelie – about 1794


  5. petronellamg

    Another painting for your consideration:

    Striped fichu, shoes, buckles, gaiters, pitcher, gather cap, hat, coat, vest, bodice, apron strings, pipe.

  6. Ryan McKenzie

    Is there any way you could let others join in this? I know that you say you want one post a day, but you have come up with an amazing idea for a great historical resource. If you let others post, you could create a user driven resource for all of history which could be easily cross referenced with the tags.

  7. thehistoryvault

    What a great idea for a blog.

  8. Francesca

    I found your blog through Stephane of My French Haeven. I’m so glad! I’ve a kind of obsession over history! 🙂 Following you as of now. I look forward to your next posts.
    Have a wonderful day!

  9. Graham

    What a great concept for a blog; art & history an excellent combination and I have subscribed.

    I would like your permission to use a couple of your art pictures to illustrate an article on my site (A Party of Gentlemen fishing from a Punt – Benjamin West 1794 and A Party Angling – George Morland 1789). They illustrate fishing in the Georgian era perfectly. I always reference all sources for articles and images on my site.

    Are you agreeable?

    • Jon Townsend

      Thanks Graham, and yes all the images I use are public domain at least in the US and you may use them as you wish. If the images are from the Yale Center for British Art then they ask for reference to them.

  10. John M. Johnston

    I often come across images that are similar to those you post here, is there a way that I can send them to you? You could then decide if they are of interest.


  11. Mary

    Can you tell me what your original source for the painting “Fishing smack under sail” is- because i cannot find any other information on it on google.
    Also, the painting called “Fishing smack under sail” says it is by Brooking, but when you hover over the picture it says it’s by Sandby

  12. Laura Carpenter Myers

    I would like to suggest a painting for Sifting the Past from the collection of Van Cortlandt House Museum. Please contact me at info @ Thank!

  13. annefinchpoetry

    Very very interested to come across your blog – please take a look at my 18th century youtube channel – the poetry of Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea –

  14. Trinity

    Hello! This is a great blog! I do a lot of historical research (at the moment, in 18th century England) for my novels, and put some of my findings on my blog, Glad to find you!

  15. Jonathan Bate

    Beautiful website – do you know the source / gallery location of that Still Life with Fruit and Sugarloaf?

  16. Lara

    II deeply enjoy your blog and pictures. I hope all is well, since it has been a while since a new one has been posted. As an historical researcher, I love the clarity of your picture posts!

    By the way, I’m doing a lot right now with farms during the American Revolution, so anything in that time and vein would be most welcome!

  17. Mrs. Mac

    You will truly enjoy the effort taken to create this 18th century inspired event. Each setting and photo is portrait worthy.

  18. Alexandra van Dongen curator

    If you need info on historic artefacts depicted in paintings please check our ALMA website:

  19. eklorman


    I’m interested to ask about the Hörmannsperger watercolor showing skittles (bowling) and music. I am a music professor collecting images of this sort for a website I’m developing in connection with a forthcoming book on musical sociability. May I ask if you know where this watercolor is located? Or what was your source for the scan? (I would be eager to include this image in my project but my publisher requires me to seek permission from the image’s owner.) Thanks very much for your consideration!

  20. Wm. Booth, Draper

    Can you cite where the painting comes from? It’s essential to know the year, artist and title but I often try to trace it back to the museum. When I search often it comes back to Sifting the Past.

  21. Mrs. Mac

    I’m not sure if 18th century maternity topics and paintings of pregnant women have been covered. Here is a link to some fascinating everyday life art paintings featuring very pregnant women and their attire. Also some diagrams/photos of maternity clothing items. Shield your eyes towards the end.

  22. Gretchen

    Where can I get the cookbook you post on Facebook. Can’t wait to try the onion rings.

  23. Christine

    I love your images! SO SO helpful for the set decorating I do. We are about to start product on Fiddler On The Roof. Do you have any leads for me for Russian / Jewish Peasants and homes circa 1905?Ch

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