subota, 2. lipnja 2012.

Giornale Nuovo

Giornale Nuovo je izvrstan (u međuvremenu ugašen) blog s postovima o čudnim knjigima i slikarima. Fantastični zemljopisi, arhitekture, putovanja, biljke, pejzaži i ideje; figurativne abecede, stare gravure, bibliofilski fanatizam... Evo nekoliko uzoraka:

Alberto Savinio

Objets dans la forêt by Alberto Savinio, 1928 Objets dans la forêt, oil on canvas, 1928
Italian polymath Alberto Savinio (1891-1952) left a large body of work in painting, music and literature which is highly regarded at home but little known in the English-speaking world, in spite of a few translations and exhibitions.

Souvenir d'un monde disparu by Alberto Savinio, 1928 Souvenir d'un monde disparu, oil on canvas, 1928
Brother of the better known Giorgio De Chirico, he shared with him the early phases of life: childhood in Greece, studies in Germany and participation in the Paris avantgarde circles.
The whole of the modern myth still in process of formation is founded on two bodies of work—Alberto Savinio’s and his brother Giorgio de Chirico’s—that are almost indistinguishable in spirit and that reached their zenith on the eve of the war of 1914.
(André Breton, Anthology of Black Humour, 1937.)

La cité des promesses by Alberto Savinio, 1928 La cité des promesses, oil on canvas, 1928
Close enough to be nicknamed I Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), later the two diverged to the point that Savinio wrote ‘[in death] my brother and I will find each other the way we were twenty years ago, when nothing divided us yet and we shared the same thoughts’ (from the introduction to Casa ‘La Vita’, 1942).

Niobe by Alberto Savinio Niobe, tempera on canvas
While his output was protean from early on, Savinio seemed to focus on different media in different periods of his life. ‘My interest in the various forms of expression does not privilege any one of them. I go from one to the other the way people used to change horses at the posting house. My undivided love is for something that lies beyond all forms’.

Donna coniugale by Alberto Savinio, 1951 Donna coniugale, costume for his ballet Vita dell’Uomo, 1951, pencil and watercolour on paper
Le Angiole Infermiere by Alberto Savinio, 1941 Le Angiole Infermiere, pen and ink on paper, 1941
After studying piano in Athens and composition with Max Reger in Berlin, Savinio seemed destined to a career in music. His early compositions seem to have made quite the impression in Paris avantgarde circles. Modern recordings of Savinio’s music exist, but I doubt they do justice to the composer’s own fiery performances:
I was surprised and beguiled; Savinio mistreated his instrument so much that after each piece the keyboard had to be cleared of chips and splinters. I foresee that within two years he will have gutted every piano in Paris. Savinio will then go on to destroy every piano in the universe, which may be a true liberation.
(Guillaume Apollinaire in Mercure de France, June 1, 1914)
Later he moved away from music yet he never abandoned it completely. Like other musician-writers (Sorabji and Gould come to mind) his music criticism is witty and idiosyncratic; it is a shame that it is not available in English.

Il fiume by Alberto Savinio, 1950 Il fiume, tempera on masonite, 1950
As a painter Savinio was more or less self-taught, except of course for his close connection to his brother. I will let the images speak for themselves, except for noting his early predilection for ‘painted collages’ that quote freely from sources both high and low (such as The World before the Deluge or Zur Geschichte Der Costüme), often reproducing the original’s texture: a photograph’s sepia tone, a folk print’s broad cross-hatching, a map’s bold outlines, etc.

Il sonno di Eva by Alberto Savinio, 1941-42 Il sonno di Eva, mosaic after a cartoon by Savinio, 1941-41
Savinio wrote a lot and in many different forms. English traslations are heavy on his early ‘surrealist’ writing at the expense of later essays, fiction, theatre and less classifiable items such as Nuova Enciclopedia. A good place to start is The Tragedy of Childhood, a quasi-memoir that romantically sides with children as the eternally defeated soldiers of imagination and poetry:
If you, an adult, wish to be consistent with the proposition you keep hidden within yourself, you should trace this warning with charcoal on the foreheads of expectant mothers: ‘Attention! Here lies danger!’

Monumento marino ai miei genitori by Alberto Savinio, 1950 Monumento marino ai miei genitori, tempera on masonite, 1950

Didier Massard

I don’t know of a single, ready-made term that satisfactorily describes the art of Didier Massard. His beguiling photographs could be considered works of pictorialism, given their almost painterly style; and they are certainly tableau photographs, given their ‘staged’ execution—but the tableaux Massard constructs are, specifically, miniature ones: models. The only other photographer I’d heard of who worked in anything like a similar manner was Charles Matton, but in Matton’s work the miniatures take on lives of their own as self-contained objects, whereas Massard’s do not. Moreover, Matton’s photographs are all interior scenes, where Massard gives us landscapes…

Detail from 'La Grille' (The Gate), a photograph by Didier Massard, 1997. *
Detail from 'Le Manège' (The Carousel), a photograph by Didier Massard, 1999.

At first glance, Didier Massard’s photographs create a disturbing impression which we quickly realize has been achieved by means of photographic techniques. The photographs play on the ambiguity and confusion which takes hold of us as we try to establish the relationship between what we see and what actually existed. […] We want to believe and yet, cannot quite believe, that this “has really existed.” Explaining how the photographs were made would rob them of part of their mystery, that fine, taut defining line that links the apparent and the impossible—Christian Caujolle.

Detail from 'Arbre en automne' (Tree in Autumn), a photograph by Didier Massard, 2001. *
Detail from 'Arbre en hiver' (Tree in Winter), a photograph by Didier Massard, 2000.
My initial source for the first six of these pictures was a book simply entitled Images, which presented Massard’s œuvre as of 2002. While corresponding with the artist, however, he professed dissatisfaction with the quality of the reproductions in the book, and very kindly offered to send me copies of the works I’d intended to feature, also attaching another four more recent pieces. He writes that a new volume of his photographs, provisionally titled Artifices, is in preparation, to be published in November this year by Gourcuff-Gradenigo, Paris. Anyone intrigued by these photographs who happens to be in the Boston area next month, should check out the upcoming exhibition of Massard’s work at the Robert Klein Gallery, which is due to open on Sept. 7th.

Detail from 'La Pagode' (The Pagoda), a photograph by Didier Massard, 1996. *
Detail from 'La Palais Mogol' (The Moghul Palace), a photograph by Didier Massard, 1997.

[Massard] was born and raised in Paris where he received his Baccalaureate degree in art and archaeology from the University of Paris in 1975. For twenty-five years he executed commercial work as a still photographer for clients in the world of fashion and cosmetics including Chanel, Hermes, and many others. After the completion of his series Imaginary Journeys, executed over almost ten years, his career was launched and he now works exclusively on his personal projects.

Detail from 'La Jardin Obscur' (The Underwater Garden), a photograph by Didier Massard, 2005. *
Detail from 'Le Mangrove' (The Mangrove), a photograph by Didier Massard, 2003.

His series are conceived from his imagination while drawing from our collective romantic and touristic notions of nationality and place. His exotic locales created in his studio have evoked Ireland, China, India, Holland and the cliffs of Normandy. Massard works for long periods on each of these tableaux, and ruminates that “each image is the completion of an inner imaginary journey.” Roberta Smith wrote in The New York Times “color and space combine with fastidious detail to create a sense of illusion and artifice that is more usual to painting, Magic Realist painting in particular…one’s willingness to suspend disbelief is a measure of Massard’s skill.”

Detail from 'Le Marais' (The Marsh), a photograph by Didier Massard, 2006. *
Detail from 'La Grotte' (The Grotto), a photograph by Didier Massard, 2003.
While compiling this post, I have learned of other photographers besides Massard (and Matton) working with miniature tableaux: notably James Casebere, Edwin Zwakman, and Oliver Boberg. In an article about Boberg, I read that he seeks ‘to create unerring representations of the world without relinquishing the satisfaction of craftsmanship:’ a characterization that could similarly apply to Massard, provided we remember there is no way for us to inhabit the world he represents… For these sculptor-photographers, the craftsmanship is twofold, the construction of an image presupposes the construction of a model. In Massard’s case, both are done with the utmost attention to detail, but also with great imaginative flair. The present ten images are copyright © Didier Massard, and have been reproduced here with permission.

House of Rats

Burning Inside, an exhibition of Judith Schaechter’s work in stained glass, opens at the Claire Oliver Gallery in New York tomorrow. I mentioned Judith’s work here once before, and was delighted to hear from her again this summer, announcing both the (then forthcoming) exhibition, and her new website, House of Rats.

Detail from 'Puppets,' a stained glass picture by Judith Schaechter. *
Detail from 'Winter and Spring,' a stained glass picture by Judith Schaechter.

Judith Schaechter’s stained glass windows are composed of flash glass: a thin veneer of brilliant color bonded to paler layers of color underneath. Most of the color is harbored within the glass itself; Schaechter reveals it by sandblasting and engraving the flash and then often layering several pieces together. She models her images in black enamel, fired on the kiln, and sometimes adds silver stain or cold paint. The windows are then assembled with the copper foil technique, and installed in a light box—(source).

Detail from 'Multiplication Table,' a stained glass picture by Judith Schaechter. *
Detail from 'He's Haunted,' a stained glass picture by Judith Schaechter.

When I start a new piece, it’s like I’ve never done anything artwise before. All accumulated knowledge is really useless because I want to make something truly brand-new every time; like reinventing the wheel without the benefit of remembering round shapes. This may seem utterly disingenuous considering my output has a very consistent look to it […] I figure that’s because though I may be reinventing, I “independently” come to similar conclusions all the time. And obviously I can’t really forget what I know. I just don’t rely on it.—(source).

Detail from 'The Floor,' a stained glass picture by Judith Schaechter. *
Detail from 'Monument,' a stained glass picture by Judith Schaechter.
In Alex Baxter’s preface to the book Extra Virgin: The Stained Glass of Judith Schaechter, he quotes the artist thus: ‘My work’s not intended to make comfortable people unhappy, although it may make unhappy people comfortable:’ a just and pithy assessment, I think. The images above are all Copyright © 2000-07 Judith Schaechter: they are details of works pictured at the artist’s website (click to see the images in full), and have been reproduced here with her permission.

Érik Desmazières

A post some weeks ago at John Coulthart’s excellent weblog feuilleton alerted me to a recent exhibition of the graphic works of Érik Desmazières at the Musée Jenisch in Vevey, Switzerland. My thoughts echoed John’s where he wrote that ‘the catalogue for this would certainly be worth ordering:’ a week or so later a copy had found its way to me.

Detail of 'Ville Imaginaire II' (Imaginary City #2), an etching by Érik Demazières, 1999. *
Detail of 'Ville Rocheuse' (Rocky City), an etching by Érik Demazières, 1999.
This catalogue of ‘imaginary places’ contains reproductions of eighty of Demazières’ etchings, sorted into seven thematic sections: Cities, Battles, Explorations, Curiosities, Comedies, Chambers of wonders and Libraries. Under the Cities heading, for example, there are Piranesian perspectives, science-fictional vistas, and invented townscapes in the manner of 17th-Century topographical prints.

Detail of 'Jeronimo et Josephe sous un arbre' (Jeronimo & Josephine Under a Tree), an etching by Érik Demazières, 1987. *
Detail of 'Des Amateurs Perplexes' (Perplexed Connoisseurs), an etching by Érik Demazières, 1993.
Demazières was born in Rabat in 1948, the son of a diplomat. He spent his childhood in Morocco, Portugal and France. Although he showed an aptitude for drawing from an early age, Desmazières first considered a career in the diplomatic service, ‘but after graduating in political science from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris in 1971 he decided to become an artist.’

Detail of 'Die Wunderkammer' (The Cabinet of Wonders), an etching by Érik Demazières, 1998. *
Detail of 'Rembrandts Kunstcaemer' (Rembrandt's Art-chamber), an etching by Érik Demazières, 2007.
Although Demazières attended evening classes in printmaking directed by Jean Delpech (where his classmates included Francois Houtin), he is largely self-taught, having acquired a formidable mastery of etching and aquatint. Andrew Fitch, the print-dealer who represents Desmazieres, has said ‘Like so many great printmakers, he has learned by doing.’

Detail of 'Alphabet Imaginaire I' (Imaginary Alphabet #1), an etching by Érik Demazières, 1997. *
Detail of 'Alphabet Imaginaire II' (Imaginary Alphabet #2), an etching by Érik Demazières, 1997.
The present images are details of scans of illustrations in the catalogue Érik Desmazières: Imaginary Places published by 5 Continents Editions, Milan, in collaboration with the Musée Jenisch. All are copyright © Érik Desmazières, and have been reproduced without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence on this site.

More Odds and Ends


Hand of Buddha, 15th-16th century bronze from Thailand Ivory carving by anonymous artist, 1640
The four Elements by Louis Finson, 1611 Tondo 87-3 by Emilio Vedova
Wildly eclectic and full of surprises, Artempo is the best show I have seen in years. I will direct you to Roberta Smith’s enthusiastic review of Artempo on the New York Times for more information. Let me just say that if you happen to be in Venice before October 7, 2007, I would forgive you for missing a rather unremarkable Biennale, but please do not overlook this gem.
Clockwise from top left:
  • Anonymous (Thailand), Hand of Buddha, bronze, 15th–16th century
  • Anonymous, ivory carving, 1640
  • Louis Finson, The Four Elements, 1611
  • Emilio Vedova, Tondo ’87-3, 1987

Brian Dettmer

Itch with Service Angle, by Brian Dettmer
In a recent Giornale comment thread we mentioned Tom Phillips’s A Humument. I was reminded of that work as I saw Brian Dettmer’s exquisite carved books at Urtopia, a group show curated by Kelly McCray at Toronto’s Edward Day Gallery. In a sense, these works are the opposite of collage. Using surgical tools, Brian Dettmer removes paper like an archeologist releasing a fossil from layers of sediment, thereby unveiling connections between words and images hundreds of pages away from each other. The results are breathtaking: solid and sculptural, with a texture resembling the wood from which the paper pulp once came.

Dairy Nets Soda Angle by Brian Dettmer

The Vanishing City

The Vanishing City by Tiger Tateishi
I just found this page in a pile of old magazine clippings. It is a late seventies wordless comic by Tiger Tateishi. I believe Tiger is currently active as a Manga artist; at the time he painted this, he was working at the Ettore Sottsass architecture and design firm. The city being wiped away, Hiroshima-style, by the emptiness emanating from the homeless guy is unmistakably Milan, although I can’t quite place the neighbourhood. If anyone knows more of Tateishi’s works in this vein, I’d love to see them.

 Butt Johnson
Butt Johnson is the name assumed by (or, perhaps—he doesn’t say—given to) a Brooklyn-based artist whose published œuvre to date comprises twenty-five remarkably intricate drawings done in ballpoint pen, and a single limited-edition print. The minute attention to detail in these works reminds me, if only tangentially, of the similarly meticulous drawings of Laurie Lipton and Paul Noble. The details below link to images copied from the artist’s website: these are all Copyright © Butt Johnson, and have been reproduced here with permission. The text below is quoted from an article about Johnson by Conor Risch.

1. Detail from 'O Quantum in Rebus Inane!,' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson. *
2. Detail from 'Vene Vidi Vici,' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.

Although he studied painting in college, post-graduation Johnson turned to ballpoint pen drawings. ‘Everything changed in ’01,’ he says, ‘I discovered these Victorian securities engravings that were done literally as railroad bonds in the turn of the century, and I started getting really interested in this tradition of engraving.’ […] The bond engravings, with their elaborate borders, backgrounds and ornamentation, were created not only to look impressive but also to prevent counterfeiting, which meant incredible levels of detail. […] According to Johnson, the intense patterns on the bond engravings were created using geometric lathe-work. Johnson managed to create his own patterns with spirographs and rulers, and then folded pop culture imagery into his borders and backgrounds.

3. Detail from 'Another Study for Scientific Creationism (HIV),' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson. *
4. Detail from 'Unrequited Love,' a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.

In addition to the Victorian engravings that first caught Johnson’s eye, he cites as influences Italian architect, archeologist and engraver Giovanni Piranesi, Venitian painter Giandomenico Tiepolo, and the work of German anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus […]. ‘I wish I could say that I studied [these master techniques] formally,’ says Johnson, but it’s just me crapping around the internet mostly, looking up stuff. And trolling around in the Strand looking at all the books.’ […] Johnson says his drawings take him roughly three months to complete, a schedule that makes it difficult to gather enough material for a gallery show.

5. Detail from 'Qualb Tenah Maksour' (Another Broken Heart), a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson. *
6. Detail from 'Laa tishrab min beer o tirmy feeh Hajar' (Don't drink from a well and throw a stone into it), a drawing in ballpoint pen by Butt Johnson.

I suggest to him that our culture might appear unimpressive next to those we’ve grown up studying, but he disagrees. ‘I’m sure they’ll find our little plastic G.I. Joes in two hundred thousand years—and they’re going to last that long—and I’m sure they’re going to be in a lot better shape than the rocks we find from other cultures’ he says as he scrolls through images on his computer. ‘Considering the technology that we have, will they be able to access this stuff? Who knows. But if you’re just talking about remnants they can go to a landfill and find the most incredible things.’

Judith Schaechter

I’m grateful to Judith Schaechter for her e-mail of a few days ago, which led me back to some images of her work (a few of which I’ve reproduced below) at the Philadelphia-based missionCREEP site. Ms Schaechter is an artist whose preferred medium is that of stained glass…

'Dutch Tile Fever', stained glass by Judith Schaechter, 2002. *
'Snakes and Ladders', stained glass by Judith Schaechter, 2002.

I guess it can all be chalked up to phototropism. I took stained glass as an elective in art school (I was a painting major at the time) and haven’t quit yet. […] Ironically, I find my “artistic voice” is liberated only by the severest of technical restrictions. The more monotonous and difficult a process, the more exciting I find it. Incidentally, for this reason I’ve always found the process of painting intolerable. Nothing is more horrible than a blank canvas and nothing more easily filled with meaningless, arty brush strokes. […] Another major reason I stick with stained glass is because I think the raw material is pretty. The uncut sheets of colored glass are really seductive, awesome, and unarguably lovely things. Naturally, the temptation to cut and damage all that pristine beauty is too much for me to resist.

'Cylone and Cyclone Fence', stained glass by Judith Schaechter, 1998. *
'Donkey Ducky Dream', stained glass by Judith Schaechter, 2003.
The foregoing is extracted from Ms Schaechter’s account of her method & motivations at the missionCREEP site. I very much like the look of these works even as smallish JPEGs, but, someday, I’d love to see them close-up in good, natural light. Any of you who will be in Philadelphia next month (between the 4th and the 27th) will be able to get a good look at a few of them at the Nexus gallery, where a missionCREEP group show is to be staged.

'Jazz Funeral for Didi', stained glass by Judith Schaechter, 1994.
Click on the images to see them slightly enlarged. The works pictured are Copyright © Judith Schaechter, and are reproduced here with permission.
Update, July ’07. Judith has informed me that there is a new website devoted to her work: see it here.

Nobson Central

British artist Paul Noble has received widespread international recognition for his monumental eight-year project—the meticulous depiction of a fictional city called Nobson Newtown. Noble is a master draughtsman, whose wall-sized drawings offer aerial perspectives over a fantastical cityscape that echoes the visionary ethos of projects such as the Garden City Movement—source here.

Thumbnail view of the front cover of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'

…Nobson Newtown and its environs might owe something to Dickens’s Coketown, to Viz comics, to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and his graphic work for Monty Python […] Nobson, too, is built on words. Many of Noble’s blocky, modernist-looking houses […] are derived from Nobfont, a geometric typographic font also invented by the artist. […]The 3x4m drawing Nobson Central presents acres of ruination that might belong in bombed-out Baghdad or Kabul or an earthquake zone, row upon row of what appear to be modernist slums, concrete dwellings whose walls are breached and pocked, their flat roofs gone.

Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'

[…] The configuration of the rows upon rows of buildings actually spells out the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. But why board up the windows of a house whose walls are open? Why put out the neatly tied binbags when everywhere is rubbish strewn? The details are terrific: clods of concrete writhe and dangle like bad sculpture on twisted stanchions, a perky satellite dish points skyward, a trellis hangs on a side wall (perhaps waiting for Eliot’s April lilacs), a pipe pumps muck, uselessly, from shell-hole to midden. Whether all this devastation was wrought by friendly bombs, unfriendly builders or enemy mortars we shall never know—source here.

Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'

Nobson is a new town with old customs and beliefs, complete with chemical works, quarry, slums and a palace by the sea. There is also a hospital (Nobspital) and a building called Trev—source here.

Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'

The origins of this ‘exercise in self-portraiture via town planning’ lie in the painstaking design of a special font based on the forms of classic modernist architecture. Variously described as ‘3-D Scrabble tiles’ or ‘Lego blocks’, Noble’s pictograms name the buildings that they depict. From the hospital (Nobspital) to the cemetery (Nobsend) via the town centre (Nobson Central) or the Mall, citations from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, Gerard Winstanley’s letters to Oliver Cromwell or T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland are camouflaged within the fields, the trees or the brickwork. Noble’s project embodies a complex infrastructure of civil planning, social policies and historical perspectives—source here.

Thumbnail view of the back cover of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
I owe my discovery of Noble’s work to a recent entry at Cipango. The images above I took from a book entitled Nobson Central, whose 200 pages are entirely given over to close-up details of this single elaborate drawing. The first and last of the present images are scans of the front and back covers of the book, while the remaining images are a selection of sections of details from its pages. These images are Copyright © 2000 Paul Noble, and have been reproduced without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence here.

Xul Solar

Portrait of Xul Solar by an unknown photographer.Xul Solar (1887-1963) was an Argentine painter, sculptor, writer, and inventor; a visionary utopian; an occultist and astrologer who yet remained catholic; an accomplished musician who was fluent in seven languages, two of which were of his own devising; and a minor character in Borges’s Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. The following images are scans from the catalogue Xul Solar: Visiones y revelaciones, which was published in 2005 to coincide with a major exhibition of his work, staged in Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Mexico City and Houston.

'Palacios en Bría,' watercolour by Xul Solar, 1932. *
'Visión en fin al Camino,' watercolour by Xul Solar, 1934.
Xul’s preferred medium was watercolour, although he also sometimes painted with tempera. Kandinsky and Marc’s Der Blaue Reiter almanac was a powerful early influence on his work, and his mature style is somewhat reminiscent of Paul Klee’s. ‘There are paintings of alternative universes, cities floating in the sky or on lakes, creatures that are half man and half airplane, angels, pyramids and whatever else came to him in his reveries’ (source)

'Vuell villa,' watercolour by Xul Solar, 1936. *
'Ciudá lagui,' watercolour by Xul Solar, 1939.
Xul was driven by a restless zeal for revision and reform: considering the Spanish language to be ‘several centuries out of date,’ and moreover, ‘a cacophonous language composed of words that were overly long,’ he developed Neo-Criollo (Neo-Creole), whose vocabulary was mostly drawn from Spanish and Portuguese, but which also incorporated elements of French, English, Greek and Sanskrit. He composed texts and even conversed in this invented tongue which, however, was continually changing, with each successive elaboration of it being different than the one before.

Ciudá y abismos' tempera and watercolour by Xul Solar, 1946. *
Desarrollo de Yi Ching,' tempera on paper by Xul Solar, 1953.
The most important works in Neo-criollo are the San Signos (Holy Signs), a collection of sixty-four visionary texts based on the hexagrams of the I Ching. These texts were written at the request of Aleister Crowley, after a series of meetings between the two men in Paris in 1924. In a letter he wrote to Xul five years later, Crowley reminded him that ‘you owe me a complete set of visions for the 64 Yi symbols’ and added ‘your record as the best seer I ever tested still stands today.’ Although Xul had completed a first version of the San Signos by 1930, only a few short excerpts from them were ever published.

'Zodiaco,' watercolour by Xul Solar, 1953. *
Pan-tree (front),' mixed media with watercolour by Xul Solar, 1952. Pan-tree (back),' mixed media with watercolour by Xul Solar, 1952.
In the ’40s, Xul devised a second, even more ambitious language-project: Pan-lengua, a proposed universal idiom with numeralogical and astrological underpinnings, utilising an invented script and a duodecimal number-system, whose entire lexicon could be expressed on the board of Panajedrez (Pan-chess), a game meant to be played on a 13x13 board, but which, according to Xul’s friend Jorge Luis Borges, was impossible to learn, owing to frequent and confusing amendments of its rules.

'Proyecto Fachada Delta (#1),' watercolour by Xul Solar, 1954. *
'Proyecto Fachada Delta (#2),' watercolour by Xul Solar, 1954.
Aside from language reform, Xul conceived architectural projects, proposed changes to musical notation, and rebuilt musical instruments after his own idiosyncratic design. His need to remake and ‘improve’ extended beyond the artistic & intellectual. ‘With ingenuity and a sense of humor, […] he proposed changes in football: “Why play with one only ball, and not with three or four, and divide the field into six or twelve parallel sectors, like in rugby, and that each player wear a shirt with different letters so that words and phrases are formed?”’

'Muy Mago,' (portrait of Aleister Crowley); tempera painting by Xul Solar, 1961. *
'San Ignatius,' tempera painting by Xul Solar, 1961. *


Mascaron de Feu,' ('Mask of Fire'), an etching from the album 'Les Quatre Eléments ou La Fête à Versailles' ('The Four Elements, or, the Fête at Versailles') by François Houtin, 1988.The French printmaker François Houtin (1950- ) is an artist whose work has been devoted almost exclusively to the depiction of imaginary gardens. Houtin was born and grew up in Craon, near Mayenne, in the rural Haut-Anjou region. He moved to Paris in 1971, from which time he worked as a gardener and floral designer, while training to become a landscape architect. Finding his horticultural visions at odds with real-world constraints, he sought alternative means of bringing them to life, and began studying etching and engraving at evening-classes under the direction of Jean Delpech, who also trained such notable printmakers as Phillipe Mohlitz and Erik Desmazières.

Detail from 'Entrée Ouest du Jardin des Délices' ('Western Entrance to the Garden of Delights') an etching/drypoint by François Houtin, 1979. Detail from 'Entrée Nord du Jardin des Délices' ('Northern Entrance to the Garden of Delights') an etching/drypoint by François Houtin, 1979.
Detail from 'Passiflore,' an etching by François Houtin, 1980. Detail from 'Jardin de Silence,' an etching by François Houtin, 1980.
Houtin’s first album of etchings, Vie Folle, Folle Vie, Débile was published in 1976. His early prints have an overt surrealism about them which gradually faded as his style evolved and matured. Other publications followed, notably the series of forty etchings Jardins, which appeared in 1978. The year after that, Houtin quit his day-job and became a full-time artist. Since then, there have been many exhibitions of his work in Europe and North America, and several more publications, including: Topiaire (1980); Cinq Jardins, Cinq Sens (1982); Fantaises Romaines (1985); Les Quatre Eléments ou La Fête à Versailles (1988); Les Cabanes de Jardinier (1999) and Nymphées (2002).

Detail from 'Le Goût,' ('Taste') an etching from the album 'Cinq Jardins Cinq Sens' ('Five Gardens Five Senses') by François Houtin, 1981. Detail from 'L'Odorat,' ('Smell') an etching from the album 'Cinq Jardins Cinq Sens' ('Five Gardens Five Senses') by François Houtin, 1981.
Detail from 'Nostalgie Nº 1,' an etching by François Houtin, 1982. Detail from 'Nostalgie Nº 2,' an etching by François Houtin, 1983.
Also in 2002, a complete Catalogue Raisonné of Houtin’s work was published: a joint effort by Richard Reed Armstrong Fine Art (Chicago) and the Galerie Michèle Broutta (Paris). I obtained a copy of this catalogue a few days ago, which has been my source for the images here. I’m grateful to Peacay, of Bibliodyssey renown, for introducing me to the work of this artist, nicely described by his friend and collaborator Gilbert Lascault as ‘the printmaker-gardener, the draughtsman-nurseryman, the demanding dreamer, the landscape artist, and the arboriculturalist-etcher.’ These images are all copyright © François Houtin, and have been reproduced without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence on this site.

Detail from 'La Rêve' ('The Dream'), an etching by François Houtin, 1986. Detail from 'Rêve Nº 2' ('Dream Nº 2'), an etching by François Houtin, 1986.
Detail from '8e Cabane de Jardinier,' ('8th Gardener's Hut'), an etching from the album 'Les Cabanes de Jardinier' ('The Gardener's Huts') by François Houtin, 1999. Detail from '10e Cabane de Jardinier,' ('10th Gardener's Hut'), an etching from the album 'Les Cabanes de Jardinier' ('The Gardener's Huts') by François Houtin, 1999. * * *
Mascaron de la Terre,' ('Mask of the Earth'), an etching from the album 'Les Quatre Eléments ou La Fête à Versailles' ('The Four Elements, or, the Fête at Versailles') by François Houtin, 1988. *

Carlo Maggi’s Voyage

Newly-posted in Curiosities of Literature today, is Isaac D’Israeli’s article, Of a Biography Painted, which describes a curiosity more pictorial than literary: the so-called Codex Maggi, a manuscript tracing the adventures and misfortunes of ‘Charles Magius, a noble Venetian,’ which ‘consisted only of eighteen pages, composed of a series of highly finished miniature paintings on vellum, some executed by the hand of Paul Veronese.’ D’Israeli had never seen the codex himself, and based his article on an account of it written (ca. 1761) by Louis César de La Baume le Blanc, the duke de la Vallière (1708-1780). The codex now belongs to the Bibliothèque National de France. The paintings from its pages were reproduced in a book, Le Voyage de Charles Magius, 1568-1573, published by Anthèse in 1992: the following images are details of scans of the reproductions therein.
Detail from a portrait of Carlo Maggi, from the 'Codex Maggi,' 1570s. *
Detail from a schematic view of Cyprus with symbolic tree motif, etc. from the 'Codex Maggi,' 1570s.
In the summer of 1570, the Ottoman Sultan Selim II ordered an attack on the island of Cyprus, at that time a dependecy of the Venetian Republic. The Ottoman army conquered most of the island in a relatively short time, but were unable to seize the fortified port of Famagusta on its North coast. Carlo Maggi (aka Charles Magius) was charged by the Venetian senate with aiding in the defence of Famagusta, and in this capacity he helped raise troops in the Republic’s territories in Puglia, travelled on diplomatic missions to Egypt and Syria, and visited Rome in an effort to secure Papal assistance. Returning to the beseiged city, Maggi helped its governor Marcantonio Bragadin orchestrate its defence, but their efforts were in vain: while their troops repelled three attacks on the city’s walls, these defences had exhausted their stock of gunpowder, and in August 1571, a surrender was negotiated.
Single panel depicting St. Mark's Square, Venice, from the first of the narrative paintings in the 'Codex Maggi,' 1570s. *
Single panel depicting the port of Candia, from the second of the narrative paintings in the 'Codex Maggi,' 1570s.
The terms of the surrender were favourable to the Famagustans, and many of its erstwhile defenders were allowed to leave in peace. Soon after, however, events took a nastier turn: Maggi and others were captured and sold into slavery, while Bragadin’s fate was yet worse—he was flayed alive, and his skin, stuffed with straw, was sent to Constantinople as a macabre trophy of victory. Maggi’s servitude was relatively short-lived, as ‘his age and infirmities induced his master, at length, to sell him to some Christian merchants,’ who freed him, allowing him to return to his native Venice in 1573. Having been missing—persumed dead, Maggi had been a convenient scapegoat for the defeat at Famagusta by his political opponents, and was obliged to vindicate himself before the Venetian Senate, who, presumably satisfied by his account (or perhaps merely embarrassed by his return) thereafter exonerated, and honoured him.
Single panel depicting Maggi's enslavement, from the sixth of the narrative paintings in the 'Codex Maggi,' 1570s. *
Single panel depicting a naval incident off the coast of Cyprus, from the seventh of the narrative paintings in the 'Codex Maggi,' 1570s.
Rather than write a memoir, Maggi took the unusual step of commissioning a pictorial record of his journeyings, which was completed ca. 1578. The first six paintings in the codex serve as a sort of introduction: (i) an elaborate title-page, (ii) Maggi’s genealogy, (iii) Maggi’s coat of arms, (iv) A portrait of Maggi himself—see the first of the images above, (v) a portrait of his young son, and, (vi) an elevated view of part of Cyprus, with, at its centre, an emblematic motif of a tree, broken by a storm, from which new growth nevertheless issues—see the second image above. The next eight paintings form a narrative of Maggi’s travels. Each of these pictures consists of a central figure, the personification of a particular nation, or virtue, around which are ten smaller scenes illustrating places Maggi visited or incidents he participated in, or was a witness to.
Detail from the left hand side of the 2-page painting in the 'Codex Maggi' attributed to Veronese, 1570s. *
Detail from the right hand side of the 2-page painting in the 'Codex Maggi' attributed to Veronese, 1570s.
The first, second, sixth and seventh of these narrative paintings are represented by the quartet of red-bordered details above. Note especially the third of these, which illustrates the beginning of Maggi’s captivity, where he is shown being presented, stripped, for the purpose of estimating his retail value. Click on these details to see them in the context of the full pages to which they belong. The codex is concluded with three more paintings. The first presents Maggi’s ‘debriefing’ before the Senate. This is followed by the jewel of the book, an exceptionally vivid and rich double-page painting, which, along with the portrait of Maggi’s son, was thought by de la Vallière to be the work of Paolo Veronese. The final pair of details above offer an incomplete view of this painting. At its centre, Maggi is depicted with his son, his father, brothers and sisters-in-law, and to the left of the painting, the same figures are shown seated for a feast in a magnificent outdoor dining-hall, reunited and reconciled. The codex concludes with Maggi and his son shown together at the foot of a mannerist stairway to heaven…


Jean-Jacques Lequeu’s name has come to be linked with those of Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, at least since the publication of Emil Kaufmann’s 1933 book Von Ledoux bis Le Corbusier. The three were all architectural visionaries, who sketched fanciful and often extravagantly unconstructable buildings, and all were active at the advent of the French revolution. Unlike his two contemporaries, however, Lequeu (1757-1825) never belonged to the architectural establishment. He worked as a draughtsman at Rouen, and later, from 1779, in Paris, variously at the Cadastre (Land Registry), the Ecole Polytechnique, and the Interior Ministry.
'Elevation géométrale du temple de la Terre,' drawing by J-J Lequeu from his manuscript 'Architecure Civile,' 1794. *
'Appartement du rez-de-chaussée...' drawing by J-J Lequeu from his manuscript 'Architecure Civile,' between 1777-1814.
During these years he laboured on two substantial and elaborate treatises in manuscript: Architecture Civile and Nouvelle Méthode Appliquée aux Principes Élémentaires du Dessin: ‘New Method Applied to the Elementary Principles of Drawing.’ These, along with other sketches and documents were donated anonymously to the Bibliothèque Royale (now Nationale) in July 1825, a few months after their author’s death. This entire collection has been scanned & is available for on-line perusal at the Gallica website, from where I have lifted the present images.
'Elévation principale du monument...' drawing by J-J Lequeu  about 1793/94. *
'Le vieux château en maçonnerie à la mer,' drawing by J-J Lequeu, from his collection 'Architecture Civile,' between 1777-1814.
While some of Lequeu’s sketches resemble designs of Boullée’s, (as in the first of the images above, for example) it seems plausible that Lequeu envied and resented the older architect’s prestige. According to Kaufmann, between two leaves in Lequeu’s Architecture Civile, there was found an inflammatory pamphlet, dating from the revolution’s second year, which declaimed: ‘You Artists who demand Justice, Awake! A clique has been formed in the Jury of the Arts set up by the National Convention […] A kind of architectural lunatic, the seventy-year-old Boullée is at the centre of it and has arranged everything to his advantage […] and keep an eye on that humbug Ledoux and the smug charlatan Le Roy.’
'Géométral d'un aqueduc...' drawing by J-J Lequeu, from his manuscript 'Architecture Civile,' between 1777-1814. *
'L'île d'amour et repos de pêche en largeur,' drawing by J-J Lequeu, from his manuscript 'Architecture Civile,' between 1777-1814.
Lequeu had tried submitting his work for exhibition in the Salons, but was consistently rejected. He later tried to sell his work by post, by way of advertisements in Paris journals, but these efforts too, it seems, were largely unsuccessful. He retired in 1815, whereupon he apparently placed an advertisement which included (in English) the following: ‘I shall now fly the company of men from whom he has received nothing but injustice and ingratitude: I shall go, and I defy the others.’ Other writings of his also hint at a querulous, prickly temperament in their author.
'Temple de verdure de Cérès situé au milieu de la plaine campagne,' drawing by J-J Lequeu, from his manuscript 'Architecture Civile, between 1777-1814. *
'Tombeau d'Isocrates orateur athenien,' drawing by J-J Lequeu, 1789.
Besides his architectural œuvre, Lequeu also produced a number of striking ‘physiognomical’ studies, such as those below, and numerous pornographic Figures Lascives: examples here. He admitted that he had been reprimanded for drawing such figures while at work… Sexual preoccupations often crop up, more-or-less hidden, in his architectural drawings too. Perhaps most unexpected of all, though, are the peculiar self-portraits that Lequeu made of himself as a woman…
'Le borgne grimacier,' drawing by J-J Lequeu, from between 1777-1824. *
'Le grand baailleur [sic],' drawing by J-J Lequeu, from between 1777-1824.
There is a monograph about Lequeu, subtitled an Architectural Enigma, by one Philippe Duboy, which has the virtue of presenting hundreds of the images from the Lequeu collection (albeit all but a few of them in black & white). Alas, I wouldn’t recommend this volume, as, while Duboy does not omit to present what little is known about Lequeu’s life, he does this confusingly, and uses his discussion of Lequeu’s work as a pretext for a tiresome & pretentious farrago about Marcel Duchamp, Raymond Roussel & Le Corbusier, among others.
'Jean Jacque Le Queu, J.ur, architecte,' drawing by J-J Lequeu, 1792.
The images above are all details, click on them to see them somewhat enlarged, and in full.

A.G. Rizzoli

In 1990, a young woman brought some peculiar architectural drawings she had found several years earlier to San Francisco gallery-owner and collector Bonnie Grossman with a view to selling them. The drawings were highly elaborate, but the buildings they depicted were imaginary. They were signed, but the artist’s name was altogether unknown. Grossman was fascinated: she bought the drawings, and, after doing a little detective-work, tracked down a much larger collection of works by the same artist, one A.G. Rizzoli, which she found in his great-nephew’s garage.
Detail of 'Mother Symbolically Represented/The Kathedral,' ink drawing by A.G. Rizzoli, 1935.
Achilles G. Rizzoli (1896-1981) was the fourth of five children born into a poor, immigrant family. His parents were recent arrivals to California from Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of southern Switzerland. Between 1912 and 1915 Rizzoli studied engineering at a polytechnic college in Oakland, where he formed a particular interest in architecture. These were difficult years for the Rizzoli family: one of his (unmarried) sisters became pregnant, left the family home, was married, but then divorced; his oldest brother left the family home permanently, never to be seen again, and, in the Spring of 1915, his father disappeared, having stolen a gun from his employer.
Detail of 'Shirley Jean Bersie Symbolically Sketched/Shirley's Temple,' ink drawing by A.G. Rizzoli, 1939.
Achilles was an eccentric. In the early ’20s he filed at least two lawsuits on flimsy pretexts concerning perceived injustices he felt had been done to his family. He worked at a variety of low-paying jobs. From about 1927, he began composing short stories and novellas about a group of utopian architects: these literary endeavours culminated in a novel entitled The Colonnade, which Rizzoli had published at his own expense in 1933, under the pseudonym ‘Peter Metermaid.’ Alas, Rizzoli’s prose, we read, was ‘verbose, stiff and boring,’ and his book found no readers. By 1933, Rizzoli was living alone with his mother: he never married, and was a lifelong celibate.
Detail of 'The Primalglimse at Forty,' ink drawing by A.G. Rizzoli, 1938.
It was only in 1935 that Rizzoli began illustrating his utopian visions. Over the next decade he ‘produced a body of spectacular architectural renderings, in grand Beaux-Arts style.’ These were done in coloured ink on rag paper, and followed an inscrutably elaborate plan for a notional locale Rizzoli termed YTTE, an acronym for the phrase ‘Yield To Total Elation.’ In many cases, the drawings were also intended as ‘symbolic portrayals’ of family-members, neighbours, or acqauintances. In 1936, Rizzoli began work as a draughtsman at the offices of a local firm of architects. Later that year came news that his father’s remains had been found at an isolated spot in Marin County: an apparent suicide. Also in 1936, his beloved mother’s health began to deteriorate— she died the following year.
Detail of 'Gerry George Gould Holt/The 'Cadevtr.',' ink drawing by A.G. Rizzoli, 1940.
Rizzoli stayed on in the house he had shared with his mother, where he lived out an austere, friendless life. On a number of occasions in the late ’30s he staged home-made exhibitions of his work, which only a few of his neighbours and colleagues ever came to see. After 1944, Rizzoli began work on a new project, little of which, alas, is known to have survived: ‘an illustrated prose narrative that included sketches for new architectural transfigurations…’ From around this time, he reported experiencing increasing numbers of mystical-religious visions: ‘pageantry in which action and drama and melodies and imagery…are…very much of the substance of air…[and] well nigh as essential.’
Detail of 'Virginia Tamke Symbolically Represented/The Tower of the Hour',' ink drawing by A.G. Rizzoli, 1935.
Rizzoli’s final artistic project commenced in 1958: an on-going record of his visions which combined verse, prose and architectural sketches. This work eventually filled over three hundred 24" x 36" vellum sheets: Rizzoli entitled it the A.C.E., which stood for AMTE’s Celestial Extravaganza. AMTE, in turn, stood for ‘Architecture Made To Entertain,’ which, in Rizzoli’s worldview, was both an underlying architectural principle, and its sacred, virginal, female personification. Rizzoli continued work on the A.C.E. until he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1977.
Detail of 'The Y.T.T.E Plot Plan - Fourth Preliminary Study,' ink drawing by A.G. Rizzoli, 1938.
Click on the details above to see the images in full: the scans are not the best—a little blurred here and there. The images, and the information I have quoted and paraphrased above are all taken from a marvellous book A.G. Rizzoli: Architect of Magnificent Visions, published by Abrams in 1997, in association with the San Diego Museum of Art. Here are a few more related links.

István Orosz

István Orosz (1951-), is a Hungarian graphic artist who has worked as a theatre-designer and an animator, and has produced numerous poster-designs and series of woodcuts and engravings. His smaller-scale graphic works are notable for their optical trickery, and brain-twizzling Escher-like illusory effects.
'Pergola', engraving by István Orosz.
Orosz’s works employing anamorphosis (meaning, in this context, the inclusion of images distorted such that they only become clearly visible when reflected in a suitably-shaped and positioned mirror), are the most satisfying and accomplished of their kind that I have seen.
'Cavalry', engraving by István Orosz, 1995. *
'Crossroads', engraving by István Orosz.
It is difficult—and pointless—for me to say much about the pictures themselves, but if you enjoy having corners pop in and out, if you like labyrinths, endless stairs, columns that are impossible to count, and if you then begin to think about the play between content and form, you will find rich pasture for your mind to graze - Rene Wanner (source).
Engraving by István Orosz. *
'Piranesi in Budapest', coloured engraving by István Orosz.
There are more images of Orosz’s work at the Marlena Agency’s site; at the artist’s own, old Geocities pages; at this Russian ‘Impossible World’ site, and elsewhere. I ‘discovered’ Orosz’s work yesterday, in the course some random googling, only later to realise I had seen some of it almost a year and a half ago, courtesy of Signor Mori’s ever-excellent Cipango.
'The Magic Window', coloured engraving by István Orosz.
Click on the images above to see them ever-so-slightly enlarged. The images are all copyright © István Orosz, and have been reproduced without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence here.


When my wife and I go to Malmö, we will usually make a point of stopping by the Pressbyrån store at the Central Station to pick up an armful of English-language magazines, of which they stock a fine selection. On one of our recentest visits there I bought a copy of Defrag, an Italian publication (but with English text, too) whose focus is on ‘Art [particularly ‘Street’ Art], Music and Urban Culture’. Of all the images therein, my eye was drawn in particular to some black-and-white collages by a Designer and Artist called Lorenzo Petrantoni.
Collage by Lorenzo Petrantoni (2002/03). *
Collage by Lorenzo Petrantoni (2002/03).
Petrantoni is based in Milan, where he works as an Art Director at an advertising agency. Of his collages, he writes:
I am a picture thief […] My search leads me to the past and I scour through old books, magazines and encyclopaedias for iconographic booty - source here.
Collage by Lorenzo Petrantoni (2002/03). *
'Codice', collage by Lorenzo Petrantoni, 2003.
I lifted the present images from Two-Zero and the Wooster Collective. Behind the fourth image (above), and the sixth (below), are larger copies of the same that I scanned from the magazine. For a few more works by Petrantoni, try looking here, here & here.
petrantoni6.jpg *
'Freccia', collage by Lorenzo Petrantoni (2002).
These works are Copyright © 2002-04 Lorenzo Petrantoni, and are reproduced without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence here.

‘Misfortunes of the Immortals’ and ‘The Hundred-Headless Woman’

Une Semaine de Bonté (A Week of Kindness, 1934) is the best-known of Max Ernst’s ‘collage novels’, but was not the first. As early as 1922, Ernst had collaborated with the poet Paul Eluard to produce a small volume of texts illustrated by twenty-one collages, entitled Les Malheurs des Immortelles (‘Misfortunes of the Immortals’). The first two images below belong to this series.
Disparate elements are here brought together in a less complex and more acute form. The man-beast hybrid makes its appearence and transforms an idyllic interior into a demonic stage-set … The twin starting-points of Max Ernst’s expressive impulse are a search for appropriate avenues for working out in visual terms the private obsessions of his childhood, and also his understanding of the Freudian analysis of such obsessions. His relationship with an authoritarian father, the pressures of middle-class family life, are psychoanalytically interpreted … - U.M. Schneede.
'Mon Petit Mont Blanc' ('My Little White Mont Blanc'), collage by Max Ernst from his & Eluard's 'Les Malheurs des Immortelles', 1922. *
'Recontre de Deux Sourires' ('Meeting of Two Smiles'), collage by Max Ernst from his & Eluard's 'Les Malheurs des Immortelles', 1922.
Ernst’s first collage-novel proper was La Femme 100 Têtes (‘The Hundred-Headless Woman’), which comprised nearly 150 collages, and an accompanying text by Ernst himself. The work was published in Paris in 1929, indtroduced with a prefatory note by André Breton. The six images below are a selection of the collages from this work as reproduced in Edward Quinn’s 1977 monograph on Ernst, which was my source for all of the images and quotations in this entry.
'The unsuccessful Immaculate Conception', collage by Max Ernst from 'La Femme 100 Têtes', 1929. *
'The scenery changes three times (III)', collage by Max Ernst from 'La Femme 100 Têtes', 1929.
In contrast to the later Une Semaine de Bonté, La Femme 100 Têtes lacks thematic unity. Max Ernst likes to pounce on taboo subjects. Often the theme of a picture is the Immaculate Conception; on one occasion it is Extreme Unction; then St Nicholas walking on the waters like Christ (and steered by remote control), and finally God the Father involved in an underground railway accident. This anticlerical tendency […] finds expression in the sarcastic distortion of religious rites. Another frequent feature is the exposure of repressed middle-calss notions about sex… - U.M. Schneede.
'...and the third time unsuccessful', collage by Max Ernst from 'La Femme 100 Têtes', 1929. *
'Show me your suitcase, my dear', collage by Max Ernst from 'La Femme 100 Têtes', 1929.
The titles of the four images above are, respectively: The unsuccessful Immaculate Conception, The scenery changes three times (III), …and the third time unsuccessful and Show me your suitcase, my dear. The two images that follow bear the titles The Immaculate Conception and Winter visitors on La Grande Jatte.
'The Immaculate Conception', collage by Max Ernst from 'La Femme 100 Têtes', 1929. *
'Winter visitors on La Grande Jatte', collage by Max Ernst from 'La Femme 100 Têtes', 1929.
Click on the images to see enlarged versions of the same.

Floating Fruit

The engravings in Johann Christoph Volckamer’s 2-volume opus Nürnbergische Hesperides (1708/1714) bring to us a surreal parade of Bavarian and Italian locales above which enormous citrus fruit hover ominously…
First of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'. *
Second of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.
Some of the fruit are intact, whilst others have been neatly sliced in half as though by some vast, unseen blade. One imagines British Naval agents being dispatched to Nuremburg to discover if there could be any way of exploiting these gargantuan floating citrus reservoirs in the fight against scurvy.
Third of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'. *
Fourth of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.
Volckamer’s prints were made during a period in which it was fashionable among the aristocracy in Central Europe to grow these Mediterranean fruits despite the cold winter climate. Wealthy people built tall greenhouses or ‘orangeries’ to shelter the trees during the winter, and had the plants moved outdoors in the summer. […]The prints follow a distinctive format, in which prize varieties of citrus fruits in monumental scale float in the sky above bird’s-eye views, or the plants tower over Lilliputian landscapes of the formal gardens, palazzos and country houses where they were grown. The places shown are in Nuremberg and northern Italy, especially around Verona. Each specimen is decorated with a ribbon bearing its name. The prints were engraved by various artists - source here.
Fifth of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'. *
Last of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.
I lifted the present images from this page. Click on the pictures to see them slightly enlarged. When I look at the second of them, I can’t help but be reminded of a certain painting

James Henry Pullen

Yesterday’s post at the reliably excellent things magazine weblog discussed an on-line project about the Cane Hill Asylum in Surrey. This prompted me to remember that there had been an asylum not far from Redhill, the Surrey town where I lived for most of ’99 and ’00, and I wondered, momentarily, if this were the same asylum. After a few minutes’ rifling through some dusty boxes in my memory I concluded that it was not, when I recalled the name of the place, Royal Earlswood: originally an ‘Idiot Asylum’, it is now a luxury apartment complex.
I had heard it said that Earlswood Asylum had become ‘Royal’ because one of Queen Victoria’s feeble-minded relatives had been confined there. I could find no confirmation of that claim, but did discover that there was one inmate of the asylum who attained a certain celebrity. His name was James Henry Pullen, who earned a reputation as an idiot-savant thanks to his fantastically elaborate carvings and meticulously-built models.
'The State Barge', a model by James Henry Pullen.
This amazing model has been described as the Mystic Representation of the World as a Ship, and was built by Pullen in 1866. He created a half-hemisphere globe, with a central sun through which could be seen the Queen’s cabin with table, writing materials, despatch boxes and ‘other requisites for use and ornamentation’. It is decorated outside by the moon, stars, a rainbow, clouds and flashes of lightning and a comet for a rudder - Freda Knight.
'Dream Boat', a model by James Henry Pullen.
Pullen made highly-detailed models of real ships, too, including his masterpiece, a model of Brunel’s The Great Eastern that took him three years to construct. Pullen also made some striking works in other media, including a pictorial record of what he considered the major events of his life…
Pullen's representation of the main events of his life.
…and a collage made from hundreds of cigar bands, many of which were likely given to him by Edward, Prince of Wales, whom Pullen apparently referred to as‘friend Wales.’
Pullen's cigar band collage.
I was dismayed to learn that I must have passed right by some of these objects many times without ever sparing them a glance, as part of the collection of the Royal Earlswood Museum has, since the hospital’s closure, been on display in ‘The Belfry’ shopping centre in Redhill, a characterless place that I walked through hundreds of times, never once suspecting that there were fascinating treasures close at hand.


I had no idea that Czech animator Jan Švankmajer works in other media too: notably sculpture and graphic art.
Natural History: Tab. 1; etching/aquatint by Jan Švankmajer. *
Natural History: Tab. 2; etching/aquatint by Jan Švankmajer.
All but the last of the present images apparently belong to the ‘Natural History’ section of a series of works collectively entitled Švankmajer’s Encyclopædia, or Švank-Meyer’s Bilderlexicon.
Natural History: Tab. 3; etching/aquatint by Jan Švankmajer. *
Natural History: Tab. 8; etching/aquatint by Jan Švankmajer.
Švankmajer’s art brings together so many of my fascinations that I could kick myself for not having found out about it sooner. I’m grateful to Michael Brooke, for his excellent Švankmajer website, Alchemist of the Surreal, and, once again, to Sig. Mori for posting a link to it at cipango.
Natural History: Tab. 10; etching/aquatint by Jan Švankmajer. *
Arcimboldesque Head; etching/aquatint by Jan Švankmajer. *

Mira Calligraphiæ Monumenta

I felt like adorning thse pages with some scans from my copy of the facsimile edition of the Mira Calligraphiæ Monumenta (a book I’ve mentioned a couple of times before), so, here we are:
Folio 3: Love-in-a-mist; sweet cherry; spanish chestnut.
Folio 10: Damselfly; French rose, pink, semidouble; spanish chestnut, spider.
Folio 13: Medlar; poppy anemone; common pear.
Folio 40: Imaginary butterfly; snakeshead; english walnut; sweet cherry.
Folio 51: Unidentifiable caterpillar; common pear; tulip - pink - bordered white; purple snail.
Folio 60: Pink tulip; imaginary insect; worm.
Folio 64: European wild pansy; artichoke.
Folio 94: Hyacinth - white bud; black mulberry; unidentifiable caterpillar.
On many of the folios the calligraphy begins flush with the left-hand edge of the page, making it difficult to scan the pages’ contents complete without mutilating the book: I settled for scanning pages where the text and image block was more-or-less centred. Click on any of the images above to see a larger-than-lifesize version of the same.

Theatrum Cometicum

From an on-line exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, come the following images, drawn from a coloured copy of Stanislaus Lubinetski’s 1667 treatise Theatrum Cometicum.
First of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.
Lubinetski’s book compiled European accounts of the comets of 1664 and 1665, and provided a general history of cometary phenomena. Counter to the widespread belief that comets were ill-omens, Lubinetski (variously spelled Lubieniecki, Lubienetz, Lubienitzky, etc.) contended that their appearance portended good events as often as evil ones.
Second of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.
Samuel Pepys wrote of his frustrated endeavours to see the 1664 comet:
Mighty talke there is of this Comet that is seen a’nights; and the King and Queene did sit up last night to see it, and did, it seems. And to-night I thought to have done so too; but it is cloudy, and so no stars appear. But I will endeavour it. - Dec. 17th
My Lord Sandwich this day writes me word that he hath seen (at Portsmouth) the Comet, and says it is the most extraordinary thing that ever he saw. - Dec 21st
Third of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.
Pepys finally caught a disappointing glimpse of the Comet larger and duller than any other star on the 24th, the day after a young Isaac Newton recorded his first sight of it in his notebook: a Comet whose rays were round her, yet her tayle extended it selfe a little towards east.
Fourth of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.
The only comet I ever saw was the inelegantly-named Hale-Bopp, which I first caught sight of from the north-facing terrace of my apartment on via di Tor Sapienza on the evening of March 27th 1997. Here are some extracts from my Giornale Vecchio, written that night:
…I’ve been experiencing dreams & seeing images of places elsewhere, maritime places, cool & breezy, distant but present & bright. It’s not a homesick feeling exactly… but almost a lure ‘come away’ I’m trying to tell myself perhaps… I’ve seen the comet! just like predicted, there it was after dusk, to the north-west, tail facing up & to the right, hazy blob at the head… It sounds like there’s a houseful of rejoicing Catholics downstairs. But then it is nearly Easter & they’re probably very devout.
Fifth coloured illustration from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.

Holiday Reading

I like the remark attributed to Robert Proust about his brother's masterpiece: the sad thing is that people have to be very ill or have broken a leg in order to have the opportunity to read 'In Search of Lost Time'. It is true that I've made my best progress through the book on idle vacation days, when empty hours couple together like vacant railway carriages into long, static trains of time yawning to be filled.
Heartened by my rapid progress through the the second half of The Guermantes Way, I opted to plough direcly into Sodom and Gomorrah, which I found very little trouble to get through, enjoying the first half in particular, which continued the narration of Marcel's entry into Parisian high society. By the end of Christmas week, I'd finished that too, and now I find myself fifty pages or so into The Prisoner (aka The Captive), the first part of volume five.
* * *
Amongst my other vacation reading was a heavy art-book I'd bought back in the summer, but which had since been lying at the base of a stack of other volumes: Rudolf II and Prague: the Court and the City. This is a catalogue of a grand exhibition staged in Prague in 1997, part of a broader festival which celebrated 'the reign of this enlightened and eccentric Habsburg ruler (1552-1612), and the kaleidoscope of talents he assembled at his court.' Numerous other books had collectively nudged my interest in the direction of Rudolfine Prague, with the marvellous monograph about Giuseppe Archimboldo I picked up in Rome last February having provided the final shove.
One of the most fascinating, to my eyes, of the artworks discussed in the book is an illustrated manuscript entitled Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, a collaboration of sorts between the Croatian calligrapher Georg Bocksay and the Flemish miniaturist and illustrator Joris Hoefnagel. Bocksay, a virtuoso penman, had been commissioned to compile what amounted to a very elaborate calligraphy sampler by his patron, Emperor Ferdinand I. Thirty years later, Ferdinand's grandson (Rudolf II), asked Hoefnagel to illuminate the manuscript, a task he executed to outstandingly beautiful effect:

Fly, Moth, Caterpillar, Pear

Maltese Cross

Trompe-l'Oeil Stem (reverse of previous page)

Dragonfly, Common Pear

Hoefnagel also appended an abecedarium to the original manuscript, a series of pages on the design, proportion and construction of the alphabetical characters:
The manuscript is now in the possession of the Getty museum, who have also published a complete facsimile of the book with an accompanying commentary.
* * *
My last item of holiday reading, which I've still not quite finished: Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

Linkovi na sve postove:

 Autor bloga o sebi i svom projektu:

"A few weeks before my thirty-fourth birthday, in October 2002, I made up my mind to open a public weblog, journal and scrapbook. Exactly five years later, I closed it. I lived these years with my beautiful wife, our dog and two cats in an apartment in an hotel in the town of Karlskrona on the Baltic coast of southern Sweden, where I worked as an IT consultant for a telecoms company.
I was born and grew up in the South Wales valleys, and attended University in London. I lived in Cardiff and Bristol, before moving to Italy (specifically Rome) for two years. Prior to relocating to Scandinavia, I spent a few years more in the UK, variously in Wales, Warwickshire and Surrey.

Self-portrait, Oct. '06
* * *

About the Giornale

My Giornale Nuovo began some time before I’d heard of weblogs or on-line journals, as a heading I thought up for a tentative collection of notes that I’d begun typing into a Word document on my office PC. In fact, at that time I had no web-access from my work-station at all. The first of these notes was dated August 31st 1999...
Giornale is Italian for journal or diary (or newspaper) and nuovo simply means new. I meant that this was new when compared to the handwritten diaries I’d previously kept. My use of Italian was not entirely pretentious, as my time in Rome was still fresh in my memory, and I’d picked up a smattering of the language during my time there.
My few diary-style entries were interspersed with ideas for stories, essays, etc., and never amounted to more than a few pages in total. Even so, I made sure to bring them with me when we made our move from the UK to Sweden at the end of August 2000. A few months after our arrival here, my curiosity was pricked by an entry about on-line diaries in the memepool web-log (one of the first such I had discovered), which led me to find the Open Diary site. I began my Giornale in earnest there on January 5th 2001. By October of that same year I’d surprised myself by accumulating almost 82,000 words. Another 57,000 followed in a second instalment that kicked off at the end of January 2002.
This public version of my Giornale, began as a continuation of my ‘Open Diary,’ but changed over its first two years such that it became much more a kind of scrapbook and much less a day-by-day diary than before. I came to consider it an accumulation of inconsequential notices in the shape of a web-log. By the end of 2006, my enthusiasm for the whole endeavour had begun to falter, and I resolved to bring it to a close on its fifth anniversary.

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar