Posts filed under “Art”
Dr. Boli is in the habit of leaving no stone unturned when there is information to be sought. Most of the time he finds potato bugs, but now and then he does stumble across the thing he was looking for. In this case, he has found a German translation of the book Regnum Congo, Hoc est Vera descriptio regni Africani, quod tam ab incolis quam Lusitanis Congus appellatur (The Kingdom of Congo; that is, a True Description of the African Kingdom, Which by the Natives as Well as by the Portuguese is Called Congo), from which he took the de Bry brothers’ illustration of a Zebra two days ago. The German translation uses the same cuts, and the owner did in fact have them hand-colored. Unfortunately the text that described the Zebra was in the vernacular language of the colorist, so he was able to follow the description explicitly. Still, the result, you will certainly agree, is striking.
Behold the zebra. No animal is so easily recognized today; every child of four can point out a zebra in a book.
But suppose you had never seen a zebra. Suppose you had only heard a description of it. You have been told that it is a striped horse; that the stripes are black and white and brown; that they are arranged on the side of the animal proceeding from the back down toward the breast in hemicycle fashion; that the head and legs are striped as well. This is not a bad description of the zebra (except, arguably, for the brown stripes; but zebras do come in multiple patterns).
Now you are told to draw a zebra from that description. What will you come up with?
Well, this, of course.
This is how the zebra was imagined by the celebrated de Bry brothers for a book about the Congo in 1598. Given the information they had to work with, it is not at all a bad guess.
Now, many owners of luxury illustrated books in the Renaissance had the engravings hand colored. Suppose you were given the assignment of coloring this engraving. You have only the engraving to work from. The description of the animal is on the same page, but it is in Latin, which is Greek to you. How will you color it?
First, of course, you will shade the landscape with light watercolor washes, like this:
So far the results are typical. But we have avoided the problem. What are we to do with the zebra? We know only what we see in the engraving, and we have to imagine what the colors might be.
Under these conditions, Dr. Boli can imagine only one outcome:
Leaf with miniature of a gathering of poets
(so catalogued by the librarian at McGill University)
Ansel Adams’ style is arguably the most recognized in photography, and Adams himself our most popular photographer. Though he died a quarter-century ago, his photographs still adorn dentists’ waiting rooms and corporate cubicle forests across the length and breadth of North America.
Adams set up his camera in thousands of different places through more than half a century of active work. But regardless of the subject, there is always a certain instantly identifiable je ne sais quoi (which is French for “beats me”) in every Adams photograph.
Here is a small portfolio of some of Adams’ best-known works:
Barren Hillside with Snow, Rocky Mountain National Park
Winter View from the Back Porch of a Cabin in the Adirondacks
Interior, Dining Room, Home of Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Wheatland
Portrait of the Artist’s Cat Minerva, Reclining
UFO Landing Site, Taos, New Mexico, Just After Dawn
Some Kind of Big Mountain or Something
The insoluble paradox of rococo art is well illustrated by this photograph, which was Picture of the Day today on Wikimedia Commons. One enters a space like this and immediately feels that it is about the most magnificent thing the human species is capable of producing. Simultaneously, one feels that the decorations could have been even better rendered on black velvet.