Friday, November 23, 2007

The British Museum Print Database

Anno 1690

"Satire around the four numbers of the year
'1690', each representing a continent at war"

After Pietro de Rossi

"Set of twelve horizontal compositions of comic
figures with large heads and small bodies, engaged in
different group activities" 1686 (After Pietro de Rossi)

Machina del Mondo, ogn'un cerca di star sopra il compagno

'Machina del Mondo, ogn'un cerca di star sopra il compagno'
"A pyramid of ten persons climbing on top of each other,
the poor at the bottom, the king at the top; Death appears to
take them all" - "Titled along the top and with ten
numbered identifications of the persons in the pyramid
and with Death stating 'Et io tutti pareggio'" 1675-1710

Bugia peste e cagion d'ogni gran male - 1680-1710 - Allegorical figure of Lying, a woman with one leg and her dress covered with masks Etching

'Bugia peste e cagion d'ogni gran male'
"Allegorical figure of Lying, a woman with one leg
and her dress covered with masks" 1680-1710

[addit: this text is obviously wrong - the Museum staff have changed it but the correct title won't appear until the site is refreshed in a week]

Caccia Giocosa invenzioni

'Caccia Giocosa invenzioni di Gioseffo Maria Mitelli pittore Bolognese,
da lui effettivamente sperimentate, e dedicate a chi si diletta della caccia'
"'Playful Hunt', consisting of title-page and sheet of explanation in letterpress,
plus fifteen numbered plates showing absurd ways to hunt birds; second edition
(Bologna, nella stamperia di Lelio della Volpe, 1745) of a series first published in 1684"

Genio - Laborem ocio, ocium labore variat

'Genio: Laborem ocio, ocium labore variat'
"Statue of Genius, surrounded by children
devoting themselves to various pastimes" 1691

Il bilanzino giustissimo con due figure d'oro

'Il bilanzino giustissimo con due figure d'oro'
"A Spanish and French soldier weighed in a balance,
with the Frenchman emerging on top" 1692

Il corrier che mai si ferma, si corre per le poste e non si burla

'Il corrier che mai si ferma, si corre per le poste e non si burla'
"Two figures on horseback, the traveller led by Time as the courier,
ride towards the pit that death has dug before him" 1691

La quaresima saggia

'La quaresima saggia'
"Masked dancer playing a guitar representing Carnival" 1680-1710

Mira qui come va senza ritengo la cecitade humana al cieco regno

'Mira qui come va senza ritengo la cecitade humana al cieco regno'
"Series of three plates with a procession of blind-folded humans,
representing the seven deadly sins, being led to death by devils" 1679

Quale di questi tre e più intricato

'Quale di questi tre e più intricato?'
"Three trios, of foxes with a hen, of money-lenders
with a victim, and cats with a mouse" 1675-1710

Se conoscer mi voi mi scoprirai

'Se conoscer mi voi mi scoprirai'
A beautiful woman playing a guitar; a flap
lifts to reveal a skulll beneath the head. 1698
[note: I removed the flap - it was just a blank piece
off the top of the print the way they photographed it]

Secreto sicurissimo per non mai morire

'Secreto sicurissimo per non mai morire'
"Death as a skeleton attacks with his
scythe a man in bed who blows at him" 1706

Semo quattro fantolini della mamma e del papà

'Semo quattro fantolini della mamma e del papà'
"Titled along the bottom; the four types are identified
as 'Messier Papa e Tace', 'Messier Contemplativo',
'Messier Alto e Basso' and 'Messier Puzzolente'" 1680-1710

Va tutto in fuga - Globi di fumo son titoli e vanti - Fumo e Cenere

'Va tutto in fuga: Globi di fumo son titoli e vanti: Fumo e Cenere'
"A large chimney-piece with a fire at the base, up which
people climb, but at the chimney at the top emerge
only broken shreds of their power and authority" 1700


Rebus in nine lines with religious and moral texts designed
to be cut out and pasted onto one side of a fan. 1693

One of the most significant cultural collections of 2-dimensional art (prints, drawings and paintings) in the world made its relatively silent debut online recently. The British Museum has spent more than 15 years gearing up for this moment.

In my opinion this is the equivalent of the commencement of NYPL or the Library of Congress online. Seriously, this is a vast treasure trove and once you've spent any time there you'll never bother returning to poor old BibliOdyssey.

The advanced search page is the best place to start (and bookmark) [there appears to be no real home page as such]. The size of the database is enormous. There are more than 13,000 satirical prints for instance. A free text search on 'London' produces a similar number. There are over one thousand prints by Albrecht Dürer. 'Ornament' returns more than three thousand images. Although the image sizes vary, most are at least close to screen size and there is no watermarking. [See the Guardian Arts article]


Rather than go wandering aimlessly around with my mouth agog, poaching images left, right and centre, I thought I would take a sampling from the Italian graphic artist, Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718) whose novel etchings were first introduced to me by a series of posts made by the esteemed (and now retired) custodian of Giornale Nuovo, Mr H.

To save playing the role of mere regurgitator, go and see the posts Giuseppe Maria Mitelli; More Mitelli and Mitelli's Games for further information about the artist and to see some other examples of his eclectic works. [There are some additional Mitelli alphabet images scattered across a few other posts at Giornale Nuovo]. I'll just be resting in the corner while you're gone.


Atónn said...

"Death as a skeleton attacks with his
scythe a man in bed who blows at him"
It´s very funny what it says in italian:

"Very secure method to never die:
When the death comes to catch you, suddenly you must blow onto his face but avoid very well not to stop doing so, cause if you stop, you die."

Aeron said...

Thanks for the heads up, I'm already off to a good start mining this place for imagery that fits into Monster Brains. Do a search on Kawanabe Kyosai , some really bizarre watercolors!

lotusgreen said...

ooo another homerun--thanks--i've already found at least one thing that i have searched and searched for elsewhere to no avail!

Karla said...

Very exciting! Have to remark, however, that the skull-headed woman is playing a lute rather than a guitar.

peacay said...

Well Karla it is in beta! There are a few bits and bobs around in there that make you raise an eyebrow. I forgive them all.

Karla said...

Quite so. Well, more often lutes are mis-identified as mandolins, but perhaps the labeler knew that lute music is now most often played on guitar, and had a sort of freudian slip.

Or maybe I'm just blathering on in a fit of free-association. We know it often does happen.

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