The Second Annual Starving Art Historian Gift Guide

What is it about gift guides, you guys? I will read stupid magazines I normally hate if it’s the holiday issue. There’s something about stuff just crammed onto one page and sorted into neat categories that makes me think having a rickshaw would be a fine idea. While I’m figuring out who in my house would tote me around, here are some gift ideas that make more sense.

For the Tiny Art Historian


1. Archiquest Kings and Castles: Medieval Europe

This gorgeous set of blocks is painted with classic scenes of knights and royalty. I still want one. I almost got one last year for an adult friend. Blocks are  some of the best toys for young children, in my opinion. There’s a lot of wiggle room for the imagination. Plus, the wee’uns can learn about flying buttresses. There are also Chinese, Byzantine, and Roman sets if that’s more your jam.

2. Can You Find It?: Search and Discover More Than 150 Details in 19 Works of Art by Judith Cressy

I loved I-Spy books as a kid (some of those attic rooms were so creepy). It’s a great way to shut children up. But with this art historical spin on the concept, they can be quiet and learn at the same time. It’s a bit more sophisticated than I-Spy as well, so it’s recommended for grades 2-5. The book includes art from Ancient Egypt to the 20th Century. It’s like if my introductory courses in college were  games.

3. Derwent Inktense Pencils

Drawing is a hobby that can keep the brain buzzing for a lifetime. I remember when my brother, a talented artist, visited the Lake District of England and brought back some Derwent charcoals. I was pretty transfixed and sleek black pencils made me want to draw all the damn time. These pencils are a mix between watercolor and pen-and-ink styles, with vibrant hues.

For the Purists



1. Phaidon’s The Art Museum

Egyptian death masks…treat yo self! The Great Wave…treat yo self! Jan van Eyck…treat yo self! Better yet, get someone else to buy you this book! And to buy me this book! This walloping collection has over 2,700 works of art in amazing detail. The idea really is to have a tiny museum on your table (or as a table), so there’s also all the fun of wall placards without the walls. For the art history lover in your life, I can’t think of a better gift. Especially if they live far away from most of the country’s major museums. Cough.

2. The Great Museums Series

This award winning documentary series explores the world’s museums in hour long or half hour long specials. There’s something for everyone, from a run down of the Met’s entire collection or a discussion of the influential Phillipe de Montebello, to a show on the National Museum of the American Indian. The only drawback is that it’s very North American centric, so nothing on the Uffizi or the Louvre, kids. The hour long shows go by pretty fast and are engaging at all levels of knowledge. It warms my heart that things like this are out there.

3. A one year membership to your loved one’s favorite museum

This is truly a wonderful thing to give an art lover. Nothing compares to the first-hand experience. Some art hungry folks might be hard up for the membership fee. You’d also be surprised by how many people live right by a great museum and never go…here’s their impetus!

For the Irrevent, Weird, and Probably Friends of Mine

Pieta Charm Necklace

1. A Tiny Michelangelo’s Pieta

Your very own andachtsbild that fits in the palm of your hand! Spacepearls on Etsy has wide collection of normal things made small to wear, and that’s always an adorable concept. There’s also the Birth of Venus and David, if you like your jewelry more explicit. But I like this sad little devotional image. Crosses are just a little impersonal. Rosaries are probably blasphemous. So this is somewhere in between. If I have to explain why wearing a miniature famous work of art is cool, this section of the gift guide wasn’t designed for you.

2. The Cat in Art by Stefano Zuffi

An art historian wrote a book featuring 170 works of art featuring cats. Why isn’t he director of the Met or the head of Oxford’s department of the History of Art? Why isn’t he my best friend? If you don’t like this book, you have no soul.

3. Pretzel of the Month Club

Heh. This is what I would give to all my amazing readers if I were richer. It’s actually a great gift for anyone and everyone. I ❤ pretzels.

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