Monday, June 30, 2008

Beached Whale

Beached Whale - Jan Saenredam 1602 (1618 Ed.)

shot angel falling from sky

Father Time


The Artist



[There's no little irony attached to finding out that my access to the web was throttled back by the ISP to 64kb/s (!) at exactly the same time as I'm piecing together beached whale images (from screencaps). A further bittersweet edge involves the transfer speeds and monthly broadband allowance for the service having actually increased in the previous month. One leads to the other of course: greater access begats an itchy trigger finger, more prone to click on video links that would ordinarily be avoided. My own 'beached' status is set to continue for the next ten days, so some truncated posts - as this one essentially is - may appear. At least I have a store of locally saved material from which to sample, so it's just the uploading pain that will be the limiting factor. In any event...]

While looking around the new North Holland Archive site, I happened upon the above beached whale engraving, made by Jan Saenredam in 1602 (this particular print was published in 1618). Here is the direct link to the zooming page. The title is recorded as: 'Illustri generoso Ernesti Comiti de Nassau. fortissimo Horoi, et Belgicae vindici acersimo D. suo clementissimo hoc monstrum [...] monstro so ho faculo D.D.D. J. Saenredam'.

This elaborate illustration conveys a profile of allusions beyond the mere narrative of the whale's beach landing. It belongs to a narrow genre of disaster allegories - of which Saenredam's print is perhaps the finest example - that found a receptive audience, chiefly in the 17th century.

Beached whales were regarded as significant phenomena, not because Early Modern proto-environmentalists galvanised a populist empathy for so striking and unusal a loss of life, but because beachings were a part of the folklore, seen as bad omens and associated with disasters and tragedies. Of course, hindsight offers both the superstitious and artist alike an opportunity to indulge in historical revisionism, so that a causal link back from a series of tragedies could be established to the rare appearance of such a great sea 'monster' on land.

Saenredam presents the dominating scene with a journalist's eye for reporting. The main character, our sperm whale, did actually wash ashore in December 1600 in the vicinity of the towns of Beverwijk and Wijk aan Zee* and Saenredam did definitely visit the location. Ernst Casimir, Count of Nassau-Dietz and hero of the war against Spain, appears centre stage with plumed hat in front of the whale, his back to us, armed with a handkerchief to protect his refined sensitivies against the beast's odour (he visited the scene two weeks after the whale became stranded). He is accompanied by an entourage who are recorded in fine detail (the single finger 'hand-hold' between one of the couples is a delicate touch: the last image detail above).

People are inspecting the carcass and the blow hole as the townsfolk understandably stream down to the shoreline from surrounding hills and a large crowd gathers to revel in the momentous occasion. In the foreground, men stride to work carrying whale axes on poles. The artist himself appears in the scene, just below the whale's jaw, where he draws the spectacle behind a cloak windbreak, using a barrel for support. Perhaps the scene has been a little embellished to give prominence to the dignitaries, but otherwise it all appears fairly natural and not out of keeping with what one would expect to see.

The upper third of the print is a different story entirely. In a series of slightly obscure vignettes, Saenredam alludes to other circumstances that are associated with or thought to be attributable to the whale's appearance on the coast. In the far background we have both solar and lunar eclipses which occurred shortly after the whale's appearance and, like comets and other irregularly occurring natural phenomena, were seen by contemporary observers as harbingers of doom. An unhappy face has been caricatured onto the moon(s).

An angel bearing the coat of arms of Amsterdam, watched over by the ominous looking father time, is shot by death and falls from the sky, and may represent the epidemic of plague fatalities in the capital in the first couple of years of the 17th century. In the cartouche below the lion, the cartographic wind symbol can be seen blowing the land away in reference to an earthquake that occurred at the beginning of 1602. The latin verse at foot of the print is by the humanist poet, Dirk Schrevel, and although I can't read it, phrases like 'mortalibus omen' and 'monstro portenditur' appear in keeping with the overall gloom of the imagery.

The print holds a further dimension of interest because Saenredam was a student of the great Haarlem engraver, Hendrick Goltzius, whose 1598 depiction of a beached whale established the form as a legitimate artistic subject. Goltzius misinterpreted the animal's appearance however, believing that the lateral fin was actually an ear, which he sketched as more stunted and closer to the head than is true. That same stylised approach appears in the image immediately below by Jacob Matham, the stepson of Goltzius. Although Saenredam would have seen the Goltzius/Matham engravings, his own original version turned out to be an improvement over his master's approach.

Spaightwood Galleries have a biography and selection of prints by Jan Saenredam.
Otherwise, information for this entry was gleaned from the North Holland Archive, Rijksmuseum, MoMA and British Museum Prints database (origin of the Matham print).

I had hoped to retrieve a few more disaster prints - relating specifically to the omen-like genre - from around the traps but the current bandwidth problem has dampened my enthusiasm. Instead, I've included a few related images from NYPL, who thankfully allow hotlinking to their smaller images these days - click through on those to get to larger versions at the host site. The final print below is particularly odd: a whale entombed in an iceberg!! I looked high and low using all permutations of search terms I could muster without finding any information. I conclude that this is a pre-photoshop hoax or shaggy sea tale.

Beached Whale - Jacob Matham 1602

"The beached sperm whale on the shore near Beverwijk; the whale is surrounded by diminuative figures and there is an encampment near the dunes; a dog stands on the back of the whale and a boy crawls into the gaping mouth; in the foreground a food seller approaches a finely attired couple. 1601." {by Jacob Matham}
[In other words, although this print is meant to be the same beached whale as Saenredam's, it was actually modelled after the inaccurate version by Hendrick Goltzius from 1598.]

Cagelot of Potwalvis - Cornelis van Noorde, 1764

'Cagelot of Potwalvis'
by Cornelis van Noorde, 1764.
[direct link to zooming page]

The spermacæti whale to Greenl... Digital ID: 823818. New York Public Library

'The Spermacæti Whale to Greenland dock 1762'
IN: London Magazine

Whale. Digital ID: 479933. New York Public Library

'Balæna Mysticetus'
IN: 'Interesting Selections from Animated Nature', 1807-1809.

A scene in Greenland - Pot-wha... Digital ID: 823816. New York Public Library

'A scene in Greenland - Pot-whale stranded, and ice-foxes'
IN: 'The Picture Magazine', 1893-1896.
"The pot-whale differs from the ordinary whale inasmuch as it defends itself with much vigour against its assailants, and sometimes succeeds in dangerously damaging and occasionally sinking the boats containing its pursuers. This is not astonishing when we consider that these whales measure from 25 to 35 yards in length, and some 13 to 14 yards around the body. The above illustration shows one of these pot-whales stranded by a storm. Very soon ice-foxes assemble in great numbers and fight for the most delicate portions of the body, until whole monster is totally devoured. These foxes have the peculiarity of being quite brown in summer, whilst they turn grey or white in winter."

Whale stranded at Longniddry, ... Digital ID: 823843. New York Public Library

'Whale stranded at Longniddry, first of forth.'
IN: Illustrated London News, 1842.

Ein Wallfisch in der Schelde. Digital ID: 823820. New York Public Library

'Ein Wallfisch in der Schelde'
"Whale caught by 1603 at Dutch coast" (written in margin)
IN: 'Museum des Wundervollen..' by J Bergk, published 1869.

Sperm Whale. Digital ID: 411894. New York Public Library

Arents Cigarette Card, 1920s

The whale within the iceberg. Digital ID: 834489. New York Public Library

Caption: 'The whale within the iceberg'
by Geo. R Halm, 1884.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Metoposcopy a


Metoposcopy b

Metoposcopy c

Metoposcopy d

Metoposcopy f

Metoposcopy g

Metoposcopy h

Metoposcopy i

Metoposcopy j

Metoposcopy k

No, we aren't seeing a parade of the local parkour* club membership rejections. These images are, rather, attempting to convey the important forehead topography that one ought to be able to recognise to assess a subject's disposition and future.

Metoposcopy is a pseudo-science (being generous about it) that was developed in the 16th century by the Italian Renaissance mathematician, Gerolamo Cardano (Jerome Cardan), although his treatise on the subject wasn't published until 1658.

An individual's specific pattern of forehead wrinkles was used to analyse their character and, when combined with astrological interpretations, helped a clairvoyant make predictions about the person's destiny. There are apparently a number of works devoted to the subject from the 17th century and this sort of foolish personality and divination technique is related, to an extent, to the 18th and 19th century obsessions of physiognomy and phrenology.

The images above come from a 1661 book, 'Centifrons Idolum Iani Hoc est: Metoposcopia Seu Prosopomantia' by Johannes Praetorius, available from the Wolfenbuettel Digital Library. These constitute perhaps half of the illustrations in the book.

The images below, including the frontispiece with a central metoposcopy facial figure, are also from a book by Johannes Praetorius, but it deals more specifically with chiromancy or palm reading. The book, 'Ludicrum Chiromanticum Praetorii' (1661), is online at Wolfenbuettel Digital Library. The frontispiece is definitely the best illustration in the book and there are further woodcut schematics of palms not shown here.

**(previously: Brain Maps)**

Thesaurus Chiromantiae

Thesaurus Chiromantiae a

Thesaurus Chiromantiae b

Thesaurus Chiromantiae c

Thesaurus Chiromantiae d

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lorenzo Homar

Sgt. Everett Gould, Fitchburg, Mass.

Sgt. Everett Gould, Fitchburg, Mass.
Homar 44 New Guinea
"By his looks and playing, I'd say he belongs with Hackett at Nick's"
(Pen and ink, watercolor, pencil on paper)

Convoy to Philippines

Sgt. Homar
Convoy to Philippines
"H" minus "5 or 6". G.I's last shower + shave with (modern conveniences)? before landing
(charcoal on paper)


Sgt Larry Homar
New Guinea / 44
Cpt. Ernest Hughes of Los Angeles, Calif, veteran of Nassau Bay and ?Tambin Beach (?Salamana Campaign) Lae, Finschhaffen(?) and Hollanchia. Still unscathed after four campaigns and yet his loader, Pfc Barnett of Youngstown, Ohio was wounded on this mission, his first.
(charcoal on paper)

Los Renegados - Bats

Los Renegados: Bats
(woodcut, 1963)

Book illustration IN - The three wishes, p. 58 - Perez + Martina - Gouache on paper - 1969

Book illustration IN:
'The Three Wishes; a Collection of Puerto RicanFolktales'
by Ricardo E. Alegria, 1969.[Amazon]

Acrobata Marroqui

Acróbata Marroquí
{Moroccan Acrobats}
(Linocut, 1958)

Cartier brooch design (Platinum setting with diamonds, swordfish motif)

Cartier brooch design [Platinum setting with diamonds, swordfish motif]
(Pencil, gouache on paper, ~1937)

Cartier brooch design (Platinum setting with blue topaz and cascading diamonds)

Cartier brooch design [Platinum setting with blue topaz and cascading diamonds]
(Pencil, gouache on paper, ~1937)

Cartier earring designs (Six designs with sapphires, diamonds, and gold)

Cartier earring designs [Six designs with sapphires, diamonds, and gold]
(Pencil, gouache on paper, 1937)

Más ingle´s, muchachos, más ingle´s!

Inglés, muchachos, más Inglés!
{English, boys, more English}
ITT - Marisol - Culebra - Miami - Miss Universo
(Gouache on board, 1970)

You answer, Mr. Morales

You answer, Mr. Morales
(Pen and ink, gouache on paper. Undated.)

Composición Atonal

Composición Atonal
(Pen and ink on paper, 1962)
John Kennedy, Spanish ?Head of State*, Pablo Casals, Dean Rusk, General Franco
*Almost certainly it is Luis Muñoz Marín, Governor of Puerto Rico.

Festival Casals - Studies for posters, conductor designs (one orange, one red)

Festival Casals [Studies for posters, conductor designs (one orange, one red)]
(Pastel on paper, 1957)

Pablo Casals

Pablo Casals [wikipedia]
(lithograph, 1955)
Inscribed in ink along right margin: Offset lithography BUT: The experiment went like this: I silkscreen black ink over an acetate sheet (clear). Then, over a light table I scratched this head of Don Pablo thus making a negative. When exposed over a sensitized offset zinc plate the positive was created. Therefore it is really an original print being that the transfer was not photographic. I drew with only my own pencil sketch for a model which was done mostly from memory. Casals as yet had not arrived in P.R. No photos available only a small program from Prades. Front view about the size of a dime

Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico, dirección de Victor Tevah

Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico, dirección de Victor Tevah
(Poster, 1965)

Gestalt I

Gestalt I
(screenprint, 1971)
{This is listed as being related to an anniversary; I'm not sure what, specifically, it is meant to commemorate but see: 'On Max Wertheimer and Pablo Picasso: Gestalt Theory, Cubism and Camouflage' by RR Behrens, 1998.}

Marichal dibujos y aguafuertes en el Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena

Marichal dibujos y aguafuertes en el Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña
(Marichal(?) drawings and etchings at the Institute for Puerto Rican Culture)
(poster, 1963)

Alfabeto Espanol

Alfabeto Español
(woodcut, 1969)
Inscribed in pencil, lower margin: Alphabet based on text cut into stone. Somewhat similar to the one in the Museo Mare

Sin nombre convoca certamenes

Sin nombre convoca certamenes
(Poster for the benefit of the Puerto Rican journal, 'Sin Nombre' - 'no name / unnamed', 1976)

475 aniversario del descubrimiento de Puerto Rico (copy 2)

475 aniversario del descubrimiento de Puerto Rico [copy 2]
(Poster for the 475th anniversary since the discovery of Puerto Rico, 1968)

Qué hago yo aquí

Qué hago yo aquí?
{What am I doing here?}
(Gouache on paper, 1972)
Lorenzo Homar receiving a PhD from the InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico

[all images © the Estate of Lorenzo Homar]

Lorenzo Homar (1913-2004) was born in Puerto Rico but moved to New York City with his family when he was fifteen. Financial pressures forced him to leave school early for a textile factory job and he obtained some tutoring for his emerging interest in art. He moonlighted as a vaudeville gymnast.

Homar found a position with Cartier Jewellers in 1936 as an apprentice designer, where his on-the-job training in drawing and engraving was augmented with night classes in typography, painting and graphic design at the Pratt Institute.

In the Second World War Homar enlisted and served in the Pacific in New Guinea and he was awarded a Purple Heart following injuries received in action in the Philippines. His draughtsman skills were put to good use in mapmaking for the Army Intelligence Unit and his military sketches were published in a number of journals in the United States.

After the war, Homar returned to Cartier, took more art classes in Brooklyn and continued his habitual tumbling and acrobatic practice on the beach at Coney Island. There are more than a few prints devoted to athletic pursuits among his portfolio.

He returned to Puerto Rico in 1950 where he co-founded the Puerto Rican Arts Centre with a group of fellow artists. A governmental Directorship of Community Arts Education followed and he also established a graphic arts workshop. Homar excelled at screenprinting in particular and he established his own studio in 1975.
"Homar is credited as the artist most responsible for promoting printmaking in Puerto Rico. He trained other important artists, such as Antonio Martorell, José Rosa and Myrna Báez, and ran workshops at Cali in Colombia and in Havana, Cuba, helping to extend his influence further afield in Latin America. While serving as director of the graphic workshop of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, the most important in Puerto Rico, from 1957 to 1970, he produced more than 500 posters and several portfolios of screenprints, such as Casals Portfolio (1970), which were admired for their distinctive style and sophisticated technique. As many as 30 to 40 manual runs were used in the making of each poster, which were characterized also by an expressive use of typography and textures.

Screenprinted posters, woodcuts, engravings, political cartoons, book illustrations, logos and stage designs all feature in Homar’s prolific production. From 1964 to 1972 he produced a series of monumental woodcuts in which he combined political or poetic texts with highly evocative images and expressive rhythmic incisions. Assimilating aspects of American Realism and German Expressionism, he also continued producing paintings on social realist themes rendered in a neat, meticulous style that suggests a printmaker’s rigour and precision." [Mari Carmen Ramírez from Grove Art Online {via Zen Studio}]

4 Lorenzo Homar posters from Puerto Rico

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