Sunday, April 30, 2006

Buddhist Tantra of Deep Meditation

'The Six Perfections'
"Derived from the Sanskrit Pāramitā, the six perfections literally means crossing over to the other shore. In Buddhism it symbolizes transition of the sentient beings from suffering shore to the other shore of spiritual liberation.

The Six Perfections includes six Buddhist scriptures related to Tibeto-Chinese art dated 14th and 15th centuries collected at the National Palace Museum. With their rich calligraphy, illustrations and description, hopefully you will be able to capture even a little refreshing and joyful wisdom on the shore of liberation."
The images here are taken from a single text among the Six Perfections - The Vajra-Wisdom Tantra of Deep Meditation:

"Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), Hsuan-te period (1426-1435 A.D.), dated 1428 A.D. a manuscript of the Peking (Beijing) area attributed to Shen Tu (1357-1434 A.D., calligraphy) and Shang Hsi (act. 1426-1435 A.D., paintings)".

These very beautiful (probably scroll) manuscript images come from 'Convergence of Radiance: Tibeto-Chinese Buddhist Scripture Illustrations from the Collection of the National Palace Museum' in Taiwan.

I've only seen the Six Perfections section from this website so far. The large images above have been uploaded at full size - you really need to click on them to see them properly I think.

There are 3 volumes in the Vajra-Wisdom scripture with maybe 20 or so images in each. Occasionally below a thumbnail image is a 'detail' icon, which is where all the large images here come from - mostly from volume II. From any standpoint, be it illustrative, religious or historical, these are exceptional Ming dynasty artifacts, in my ignorant and unworthy opinion of course.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


[click the above images for larger versions -
I've touched up the majority: background artifact for the mostpart]

Pinocchio will be 125 years old in July. Carlo Collodi published the first of 36 episodes of La Storia di un Burratino -- 'The Story of a Marionette' -- in a weekly childrens' paper, Il Giornale dei Bambini. The last episode came out 2 years later in 1883 and was compiled into a book shortly afterwards.

Ironically, the story of a wooden puppet who would go on to lead an independent life beyond his creator became reality as Collodi didn't live to see the success of his allegorical writing.

The popularity of the story was assured in 1911 when Attilio Mussino produced a large number of illustrations to animate Pinocchio's life. It was a dream gig for an illustrator. Mussino employed a wide range of illustrating styles and was able to capture the humour, pathos and empathy of the characters and story lines.

Friday, April 28, 2006

18th Century Chinese Garden Architecture

Chinese garden engraving Xushuilou dongmian, east façade of Reservoir

chinese garden book illustration Xieqiqu beimian, north façade of Palace of the Delights of Harmony

Dashuifa nanmian, Great Waters, south side

jardin chinoise Wanhuazhen huayuan, the Maze

book engraving - garden design Haiyantang dongmian, east façade of Palace of Calm Seas

18th cent. chinese garden design engraving Xianfashanmen zhengmian, façade of gate leading to Hill of Perspective

Chinese garden watercolour courtesy Rylands library(watercolour sketch added [via Rylands Library, as below] June 2012)

A Suite of Twenty Engravings of the Yuan Ming-Yuan Summer Palaces and Gardens of the Chinese Emperor Ch'ien Lung. (published 1786) at NYPL Digital Gallery.

Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) received artistic training from Carlo Cornara and Andrea Pozzo in Milan and then took his religious vows. As part of the Jesuit evangelical aspirations in China, Castiglione was sent there as a missionary when he was 27 years old.

He was to serve for 51 years until his death as court painter under his Chinese name of Lang Shih-ning to 3 Emperors during the last Chinese (Quing) dynasty. He introduced the ideas of renaissance perspective, anatomical accuracy and the use of light and shade which had a significant and lasting influence on Chinese art. He himself incorporated Chinese artistic techniques into his own works.

Emperor Quianlong (Ch'ien Lung) contributed to the vast Summer Palace region in Beijing by having Giuseppe Castiglione design buildings for the Yuanmingyuan or Old Summer Palace. Unfortunately, French and English forces plundered Yuanmingyuan in 1860 and only ruins remain. The beautiful illustrations above were published 20 years after Castiglione's death but I'm not sure if the engraving work was by done by him or someone else.
The only reason this post is here is because I heard about NYPL Digital Gallery winning a  horoughly deserved award for the Best Research Site last month and I went wandering in my usual random fashion. The NYPL Digital Gallery now hosts 450,000 images. From my own point of view it is the best digital repository online.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Morgan Library and Museum

Sir John Tenniel's hand-colored proof of
The Mad Tea Party for The Nursery "Alice" [Lewis Carroll] c. 1889

Martha taming the half-animal half-fish Tarasque
from the Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne,
illuminated by Jean Poyet in the late 15th century.

Binding by Paul Bonet 1959 [previously]

Psyche Transported to Olympus
by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo c.1740

Childrens Suite by Joseph Achron 1931

'The Drake Manuscript' - Histoire Naturelle des Indes c.1586
"The Morgan Library & Museum houses one of the world's greatest collections of artistic, literary, musical, and historical works. Included in its holdings are original scores by Mozart and Beethoven, drawings by Rembrandt and Rubens, medieval and Renaissance works, three Gutenberg Bibles, literary manuscripts by Dickens and Twain, and five thousand year-old Near Eastern carvings. Occupying a newly enlarged, midtown Manhattan campus, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan reopens to the public on April 29, 2006."

Johnston's Beasts Part II

These images are all from a 2nd (forgotten) ebay link to John Johnston's Historiæ Naturalis. I don't think I've seen all of these mostly bizarre engravings before. But between the copying and borrowing that went on with the printers etc and my perennial trawling of similar material, it's always hard specifically remembering. To the best of my understanding, these sections of Johnston's book are nowhere else online. Excellent beasties.
[yesterday's Johnston post]
[previous vintage whale engravings]

Addit: I'm happily proved wrong: Loumez tells us that the whole of Historiæ Naturalis is actually online at Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen [search author: 'Jonston']. But these are photocopy quality.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Unicorns and Other Wild Beasts

"THE name of Monoceros, that among the Latines sounds so much, as a one-horned beast, agrees to many creatures; but in a strict sense, is retained to one alone, namely that, who from having but one horn, bears the name of Unicorn.

[H]e is said to resemble in his whole body the Horse: He is tailed like a Boor, grins and snarls like a Lyon, headed like an Hart, footed like an Elephant, furnisht with one onely horn, and that a black one, two cubits long, standing in the midst of his fore-head. J.J."

[click images for larger version]

Beyond the mythical and religious symbolism, the unicorn also had a long run in the non-fiction rather than folklore section of literary history. It features in Pliny's Natural History and the writings of some formidable minds of the middle ages.

To varying degrees, the rhinoceros and narwhal have been cited as the basis for many of these 'factual' descriptions, such as in the introductory quote above. Perhaps it was just a case of misidentity coupled with wishful thinking, in so far as the unicorn has traditionally represented strength and was of course imbued with magical healing properties.
"A dream, if it is no more than that, of such great age and beauty as this of the unicorn, is far more worthy of consideration than the question whether we shall have one species more or less in the earth's fauna."
[Odell Shepherd]
In 1657, physician and naturalist Joannes Jonstonus (John Johnston) published his latin treatise Historiæ Naturalis de Quadrupedibus (later translated and released as 'A description of the nature of four-footed beasts : with their figures engraven in brass'). It includes 80 engraved plates of both real and fanciful beasties and there is obvious influence at times from the likes of Gesner, Dürer and Aldrovani. The illustration work was by Matthäus Merian (the Younger).
{note the webbed feet in the 2nd image above - the acquatic species}

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