January, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year♥
Illuminated manuscripts are the ancestors of our illustrated books. Famous examples are the Book of Kells, Les Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, Duc de Berry, and Medieval Bestiaries.
During the Middle Ages, le livre d’images (the picture book) was very popular. If one couldn’t read, the image must have been a delight. The most popular book of the Middle Ages was the Légende dorée (The Golden Legend), by Jacobus de Voragine. It was a hagiography, lives of saints and martyrs, but it outsold the Bible. The first printed Bible is the Gutenberg Bible, which I have not discussed yet.
For the moment, however, we will glimpse the art of British artists, some of whom had been or were members of the Arts and Crafts movement (1890 – 1920) or had benefited from the broadening of objects and styles considered artistic introduced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood conferred acceptability to areas of the visual arts that had seemed marginal in earlier years, such as history painting and the illustration of books, children’s literature especially, and artwork that was reproduced, or prints.
Such movements broke with the constraints of academic painting and introduced a democratization of art. The “beautiful” could be found in a piece of textile or wallpaper, the decoration of a room, or to put it in a nutshell: design. Given the breadth of this subject, I will show art by Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tenniel. This particular post is an illustrated introduction.
Tenniel, White Rabbit, dresses as herald, blowing trumpet (37)
Town mouse and country mouse by Arthur Rackham (Photo credit: Google Images)
Centuries of Childhood
acceptance of childhood
As it flourished, the illustration of children’s literature reflected a major transformation. Childhood was not born until recently, which can be explained, at least in part, by the high mortality rate among children. Too few reached adulthood. Besides, children’s literature had been put into the service of education. It was didactic and moralistic, or so people thought. (See Philippe Ariès and Centuries of Childhood, Wikipedia.) It was as though children were born tainted with the original sin, a condition baptism did not correct fully.
In literature, Æsopic fables flourished long before Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit). There are several illustrators of Æsopic fables who are also, to a large extent, illustrators of Jean de La Fontaine. Jean de La Fontaine retold a large number of Æsopic fables that had been taken away from the realm of oral tradition beginning with Latin author Phædrus (1st century CE) and Greek author Babrius (2nd century CE). (See Phædrus [fabulist], Wikipedia.) These were supposedly didactic, but the Horatian ideal, to inform and to delight, was not always served. Children were delighted and did not necessarily identify with the careless behaviour of a mere grasshopper. The tale was not about the behaviour of children; it was about the behaviour of a grasshopper. Children knew the difference.
Illustrations have solid roots in Western culture. Jean de France, duc de Berry paid a fortune for his illustrated Très Riches Heures. But it could well be that Japonism triggered the British Golden Age of illustration and its large European counterpart. Japan had isolated itself in the 17th century (1633–39). No one could enter or leave Japan under penalty of death. That period of Japan’s history is called the Sakoku period, which ended in 1853 with the forcible entry of the Black Ships of Commodore Matthew Perry.
However, as of 1860, Europe was flooded with Japanese prints. As prints, these were not the unique works of art Europeans created (beginning with the 8th-century Book of Kells). After the invention the printing press, certain books were still illuminated by hand. But, as of 1501, printers no longer left room on a page for an illustrator to illuminate a printed text. The hand-painted printed books produced during the period that spans the invention of printing and the demise of hand-painted books are called incunabula(les incunables).
Contrary to Europeans, the Japanese printed their artwork and these were considered by Europeans to be genuine artwork, despite duplication. Even Vincent van Gogh could afford a Japanese print of which he liked both the style and the subject matter. He did not learn a printing technique, but Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Mary Cassatt did. Art had become affordable and it spread to design, to use a broad term. Moreover, certain artists’ Japonism consisted in including the objects of the Orient in their paintings: white and blue porcelain, fans, screens… Many artists also liked the beau idéal Japan proposed.
Ironically, appreciation of Japan’s beau idéal contributed to the emergence of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and, eventually, modernism. Art Nouveau flourished during the golden years of illustration. However, the most significant element Japonism brought to European art was an acceptance of art reproduced: prints.
Japanese artists reproduced their art, called ukiyo-e, using wood block printing. Consequently, they did not adhere to the notion that a work of art should be unique and original. Apprenticeship consisted in attempting to master the art of one’s master. For Japanese artists, beauty was not a matter of taste. They supported the concept of a beau idéal, which meant that, in their eyes, beauty was one of a kind, but not the artwork.
As it happens, a poster by Toulouse-Lautrec may cost millions. Several copies were made, but few are available and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec is considered beautiful by a large number of art lovers. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is a significant degree of unanimity with respect to the beauty of certain works of art.
Jean de La Fontaine‘s Fables were illustrated from the moment they proved successful. As well, given that many were rewritings of Æsopic fables, the stories they told had the merit of being familiar. La Fontaine had several illustrators, the most famous of whom is Gustave Doré. But Doré’s illustrations are monochrome. Wood engravings and etchings, an intaglio technique, may be coloured, but prints are often monochrome art. (See Wood engravingand Etching, Wikipedia.)
However, we are beginning with John Tenniel, Arthur Rackham, and Walter Crane. Walter Crane illustrated The Baby’s own Æsop. (See Gutenberg [EBook #25433] and Laura Gibbs’ mythfolklore.net.aesopica). Early illustrations were not coloured. Gustave Doré‘s, illustration of La Fontaine are monochrome pieces. Prints, such as the oriental prints that flooded Europe after the Sakoku period, could be coloured, in which they differed substantially from monochrome prints. Both Arthur Rackham and Sir John Tennielproduced monochrome as well as coloured illustrations and both illustrated Lewis Carroll‘sAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
They and Walter Crane are our artists, as space and the nature of weblogs do not allow me to feature Beatrix Potter—who illustrated the books she wrote, the Peter Rabbit stories, Kate Greenaway, and others. All are listed at the foot of this post. Pictures can be found by clicking on the name of the artist. Their work may also be seen at Wikimedia.org. Write the name of the artist and specify Wikimedia.org. However, the art of other illustrators may be shown in future posts.
Sir John Tenniel engaged in nonsense art and Lewis Carroll, in literary nonsense, but Carroll did not write limericks. Nonsense is an umbrella term and, although limericks can be used in children’s literature, they may be not suitable for children. Unlike Walter Crane’s The Baby’s own Æsop, “Hercules and the Waggoner” a fable by Æsop and La Fontaine, and Rudyard Kipling’s “Small boy of Quebec,” which is witty and delightfully naïve, limericks may be crude. But Walter Crane produced Toy Books inspired by Japanese art.
The Little Red Riding Hood by Walter Crane (Gutenberg [EBook #19993])
I must close this very incomplete post, but we have seen a significant expansion of the areas that could be considered legitimate art, from illustrations to design. Japonism played a role in this expansion and it also played a role in the democratization of art as did the Arts and Crafts movement.
When the griffin or other mythical/mythological animal is featured on a crest in a climbing position, he is called “rampant.”
Æsopic, Libystic and Sybaritic fables
Anthropomorphism was defined in my post on Vaux-le-Vicomte. Moreover, Milo Winter’s illustrations for “The North Wind and the Sun” provide examples of elements disguised as human beings. Fabulist Jean de La Fontaine used anthropomorphism: animals, elements, vegetation, mountains. In some fables, he featured humans and who were viewed as morally inferior to animals. TheMan and the Snake(The Man and the Adder or L’Homme et la Couleuvre [X.1]) is an example of the use of an inferior human being in a fable. Fables featuring beasts only are called Æsopic. Those featuring human beings interacting with beasts are called libystic, and those featuring humans only are sybaritic fables.[I]
The Use of Anthropomorphism
a fox is a fox is a fox
The word Æsopian refers to a language that can only be understood by people other than insiders. Nineteenth-century Russian satirist Mikhail YevgrafovichSaltykov-Shchedri was the first to use the term æsopian language. Animals speak and do no speak. In the end, as eloquent as he may be, a fox is a fox is a fox. Gertrude Stein’s “a rose is a rose is a rose” captured the spirit of anthropomorphism. Whether they are used as a carpe diem or a memento mori, roses are roses are roses.
In 1997, in his review of Marc Fumaroli‘s Le Poète et le Roi, Jean de La Fontaine en son temps, Charles Rosen wrote that “[w]ith La Fontaine’s Fables, we do not have to burrow far under the surface to recognize a discreet opposition to the grandeur of style and the servile obedience wanted by the court, an opposition never openly expressed but manifest on every page.” (The New York Review of Books, “The Fabulous La Fontaine,” (18 December 1997.)[II] Fables feature speaking animals, but readers know that animals do not speak just as Louis knows he is not a lion. Therein lies the wizardry of beast fables.
Animals as Types
In the preface to his translation of Aesop’s fable, Townsend writes that
“The Fox should be always cunning, the Hare timid, the Lion bold, the Wolf cruel, the Bull strong, the Horse proud, and the Ass patient” and all of this, “by mutual consent.”
However, certain legendary or mythical animals as well as mythological animals are hybrid creatures who combine the features of humans and those of an animal or combine the features of several animals. Zoomorphic animals are also anthropomorphic, or humans in disguise.
Well-known animals that combine human and animal features are centaurs and the Minotaur. Centaurs have the torso of a man or a woman, but their lower body is that of a horse. The Minotaur, he is the son of Pasiphaë and a bull. He is therefore a hybrid animal that is kept in a labyrinth built by Dædalus. The Minotaur is slain by Theseus who finds his way through the labyrinth using Ariadne‘s thread. Theseus also slays a centaur. Zoomorphic animals may belong to a mythology, in which case they have lineage and ancestors. Interestingly, angels have wings, but they are otherwise identical to human beings.
Usually, mythologies tell a story that explains origins. They are etiological narratives. In children’s literature, etiological narratives are called “pourquoi” (why) stories. Rudyard Kipling‘s Just So Stories (1902) are “pourquoi” narratives. However, some legendary creatures, such as the phoenix, appear to straddle both categories, the mythical and the mythological. The distinguishing factor could be the degree of symbolism attributed to the animal. The more symbolic the animal, the more mythical. By and large, mythical animals are zoomorphic and have no lineage. Relatively few are not featured in etiological narratives, such as the Bible and and many inhabit the medieval bestiary. Bestiaries are allegorical.
The dragon, the griffin, and the unicorn are zoomorphic animals combining the features of many animals. They are legendary or mythical animals, rather than mythological beasts. However, both the griffin and the phoenix do belong to certain mythologies. It may be legitimate to separate the dragon, the griffin, the phoenix and the unicorn from other zoomorphic animals in that all four are likely to appear as symbols, but so do other legendary animals. The phoenix, who rises from his own ashes, is a symbol of rebirth. The unicorn appears in the Bible, but he is not listed in Donald Ray Schwartz’s Noah’s Ark, the Hebrew Bible.[III] The Western unicorn cannot be captured by a person other than a virgin. He is therefore emblematic of chaste love. In children’s literature, he is often described as an animal who missed the boat: Noah’s Ark. (See Unicorn, Wikipedia.)
The dragon‘s characteristics change from culture to culture. He is feared in the West, but not in China.
The griffin, shown at the top of this post, a lion mostly, with the head of an eagle, is a guardian. In antiquity, he was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of the divine.
The unicorn has one horn and plays various roles from culture to culture. In Western culture, he is, as mentioned above, “emblematic of chaste love and faithful marriage.”
Given that he rises from his own ashes, the phoenix is a symbol of rebirth and very popular.
Other relatively well-known zoomorphic animals, combining animal features only, are Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology, or Cerberus/Kerberos, the three-headed dog who guards the entrance to the underworld. In The Tale of Cupid and Psyche, Psyche is told how to avoid him, which enables her to fetch beauty from Persephone without dying. Locksmiths and businesses that provide alarm systems often name their store or company Cerberus/Kerberos.
Therianthropic animals, humans that transform themselves into beast and vice versa can be looked upon as zoomorphic creatures. There are therianthropic beings in fairy tales, which is usually the result of a curse. A fine example is Beauty and the Beast. Enchantment is central to fairy tales. But shapeshifting animals bring to mind the werewolf (le loup-garou), a lycanthrope, rather than fairy tales.
Beast literature is not an animal counterpart of fairy-tales.
The above shows, among other factors, to what extent humans see commonality with animals, but not as in Darwinism.
_________________________ [I] Jan M. Ziolkowski, Talking Animals: Medieval Latin Beast Poetry, 750 – 1150(The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), p. 18.[II] Marc Fumaroli, Le Poète et le Roi, Jean de La Fontaine en son siècle (Éditions de Fallois, 1997).[III]Donald Ray Schwartz, Noah’s Ark, an Annotated Encyclopedia of every Animal Species in the Hebrew Bible (Jason Aron Inc.: Northvale, New Jersey, Jerusalem, 2000).
One of the key moments in the history of education is the publication, in 1658, of Johann Comenius’s (28 March 1592 – 4 November 1670) Orbis Sensualium Pictus.
Johann Amos Comenius (Latin for John Ámos Komenský) was born in what is now the Czech Republic. He is often referred to as the “father” of education. It could also be argued that he “discovered” the child. However, his fames rests mainly in the publication of the first illustrated textbook, the above-mentioned Orbis Pictus. Comenius knew that
[a] picture is worth a thousand words.
There is so much truth to this old adage that, since the publication of the Orbis Sensualium Pictus, writers and publishers of textbooks, fables, fairy tales, and various other books have made a point of inserting pictures.
Touching the senses: music and pictures
The concept underlying the importance of illustrations resembles the notion of Affektenlehre (doctrine of the affections) in music, a doctrine of which Johann Mattheson was the chief proponent. In compliance with this doctrine, composers attempted to touch the Affeckte or senses, claiming that music would thereby be morally uplifting. For instance, Haydn used contrast to touch the Affeckte.
Here, the operative word is senses. Note that the very title of Comenius’s epochal book, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, indicates that the senses play a role in teaching and learning. However, unlike Johann Mattheson, Comenius’s advocacy of the use of illustrations was not an explicit attempt to make the subject matter morally uplifting. Comenius’s goal was simply to make the subject matter more accessible and the subject matter was mainly Latin. As the title indicates, his Janua LinguarumReserata (The Gate of Tongues Unlocked, 1632) was a textbook used to teach Latin in a simplified and more effective manner. Comenius wanted to teach “about things and not about grammar.” He described “useful facts” in both Latin and Czech, side by side.[i]
The Great Didactic
Comenius’s Janua Linguarum Reserata was an extremely popular textbook. However, Comenius’s first concern was the reform of the educational system, which he described in his Didactica Magna (The Great Didactic). He also advocated universal education.
By and large, the reforms he introduced have endured. The path is mostly unchanged. Children still begin their schooling by attending a kindergarten. Pupils then attend elementary and secondary school and, upon successful completion of secondary school, young adults may enter college or a university. Moreover, the path starts with the education of infants. Comenius wrote a book for mothers entitled The School of Infancy. It is because of his books that I have stated that Comenius discovered children or childhood.
However, what I want to praise above all is his introduction of illustrations in textbooks and other books. Comenius realized that explaining a subject using words only was ineffective. He therefore stressed the importance of illustrations, or pictures. For instance, in the case of an illustrated fable, it is easier to remember the morality because it is exemplified in two ways: by a text, called exemplum, and by a picture.
Simplicity and the picture “worth a thousand words”
Other than his Great Didactic, i.e. the system, Comenius’s contribution to education is therefore twofold.
With respect to the teaching of a second language, he advocated simplicity and usefulness. He realized that one taught a language by teaching the language and not about the language.
As for teaching in general, he advocated the support of illustrations.
Drawings, paintings, prints and photographs can be an end in themselves. But illustrations are both an end in themselves and a means to an end. Most of us will gladly accept an unwrapped present, but there is so much pleasure in the traditional unwrapping of a gift.
The same is true of illustrations. Just imagine learning about Cupid and Psychewithout seeing at least one of the beautiful illustrations inspired by that lovely story.
Illustrations existed long before the publication of Orbis Pictus. In fact, they existed long before the invention of the printing-press (c. 1440). They were the illuminations of illuminated manuscripts and very expensive. However, even after the invention of the printing-press, publishing an illustrated book was a long and costly process. Distribution was limited. Only the few had access to books.
Before the invention of printing, books were copied by hand and then decorated with illuminations. Illuminations were just what the word says: illuminations. They enlightened the text.
Comenius’s books could not possibly be as beautiful as an illustrated Bestiary or Book of Hours, but many copies could be made and they could be made quickly, which means that universal education was a realistic goal.
So let us praise Comenius, the senses, and our illustrators.
An illustration from a Syrian edition dated 1354. The rabbit fools the elephant king by showing him the reflection of the moon.
When he published his Caractères (1688), portraits, seventeenth-century French author, Jean de La Bruyère (16 August 1645 – 10 May 1696) was using Theophrastus (371 – c. 287 BCE) as his main source. He noted that the Athenians (Theophrastus) depicted life two thousand years ago, but we would admire seeing ourselves.
…il y a deux mille ans accomplis que vivait ce peuple d’Athènes dont il fait la peinture, [mais] nous admirerons de nous y reconnaître nous-mêmes[.]
The link, in this regard, is human nature. We invent new technologies, but human nature does not change, except that there is variety among human beings. There is constant newness in texts as old as Nivardus of Ghent’s Ysengrimus, a literary masterpiece and the birthplace of Reynard the Fox, and newness in stories told in the Pañchatantra and retold in Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa’s Tales of Kalila wa Dimna.
We know that La Fontaine drew content for the second volume his Fables (1678) in a seventeenth-century book, Le Livre des lumières (1644), a translation of stories or fables told by a Dr Pilpay, the sage featured in the Pañchatrantra and in Kalila wa Dimna. This translation may well find its origins in Kashefi’s fifteenth-century Persian Lights of Canopus.
From the ancient texts, also stem parables, proverbs, exempla (plural for exemplum), Buddhist Jātaka Tales, etc. In fact, in the Preface to the first volume of his Fables (1668), La Fontaine wrote that Christ spoke in “parables.” Parables do indeed resemble and fables. These I will not discuss.
Animals inhabit fables and beast epics, but they may also inhabitBestiaries, medieval and modern Bestiaries. Medieval Bestiaries belong, at times, to the
courtly love tradition. I believe that Richard de Fournival’s (1201- ?1260) Bestiaired’amour is our finest example. In the anthropomorphic and allegorical Bestiaire d’amour women are looked upon as objects of worship.