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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Art still isn't easy

Cat. Apparently.

Today I am happy to share some animals from Conrad Gesner's "Icones Animalium". This delight from 1553 (reprinted in 1560 by popular demand) shows how far publishing art had advanced since "Hortus Sanitatis" in 1491 (see previous blog post here). Still working with woodcuts (which the Australian Museum describes as "crude" - which tells me that they really haven't looked at my previous blog post), I would say these wood cuts are magnificent... in comparison to earlier works.

Okay, so their accuracy isn't quite photographic. I mean, even the drawing of a cat looks - somehow un-cat-like. But the emotion they convey is magnificent. That cat is not happy being illustrated, and you just know it is wagging its tail in displeasure at being drawn.

Meanwhile the fox is definitely a bouncy springy creature, and the badger is not to be messed with.

The fox. Bouncy, hairy day dreamer

A woodcut image of a badger on the go, looking angry

But what I really wanted to share were the aquatic animals. Being less familiar with these more exotoc creatures, the artistic interpretation of character really fills in the gaps in any know of, say, what a whale might look like. As a bonus, some helpful person has coloured in the sea. They coloured it a sort of mauve, but it adds something.

Badly drawn whales.

There are pictures of other aquatic animals too. The ever popular monkfish makes an appearance. As does a mermaid. Or at least I think that is a mermaid? And a ... lionfish? Horned-Cat-Armed-Web-footed-tailed-thing.

All with labels in four or five languages (none of which I speak). Do check out your own page by page guide of this indispensable spotters guide to the natural world.

Mermaids? Lionfish?

And finally - a bird, thinking "what the hell am I doing here?"

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