Le Phallus phénoménal

denon.jpg

Le Phallus phénoménal (1793–1794).

This blurred and discoloured picture arrives following a discussion with Paul Rumsey in the comments for an earlier post about engravings of monstrous whales. The pictures there were by engraver Hieronymus Cock whose surname gives us an additional resonance when discussing Moby Dick and sperm whales. The picture I posted of Jan Saenredam’s stranded whale showed the dead creature’s considerable penis (another engraving does the same) which led Paul to alert me to Dominique Vivant’s mischievous play on these pictures, where the artist exchanges the whale for a Brobdingnagian phallus. Or perhaps it’s merely a Gulliverian phallus and those people are Lilliputians… Whatever the case, I then mentioned to Paul JG Ballard’s story ‘The Drowned Giant’ from Ballard’s Terminal Beach collection which concerns the body of an enormous human found washed on a beach and subject to similar scrutiny by townspeople as in the stranded whale pictures. The body is eventually dissected and sold off. Paul reminded me of the end of the piece where Ballard writes:

As for the immense pizzle, this ends its days in the freak museum of a circus which travels up and down the north-west. This monumental apparatus, stunning in its proportions and sometime potency, occupies a complete booth to itself. The irony is that it is wrongly identified as that of a whale…

…which brings us full circle. Perhaps fittingly, Ballard’s story was published in Playboy magazine in 1965 under the title ‘Souvenir’.

As for Dominique Vivant (1747–1825), aka the Baron de Denon, his prestigious career besides engraving included, among other things, the directorship of the Louvre. We’re told he also wrote an erotic novel, Point de lendemain, and produced a selection of pornographic etchings, of which Le Phallus phénoménal would seem to be a part. Let no one accuse the French of being prudes; the picture above is from a site where you can order framed prints should you have a sudden urge to hang a phenomenal phallus on your wall.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales
Jan Saenredam’s whale
The Whale again
Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick
Phallic bibelots
Phallic worship
The art of ejaculation

Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales

whale1.jpg

When Herman Melville complains in chapter 55 of Moby Dick about erroneous representations of whales, this is the kind of thing he had in mind. Among those he takes to task, however, I don’t recall any of them having two blow-holes like the creature above.

whale2.jpg

The coat of arms of Portugal.

These fanciful beasts are the work of (no sniggering, please) Hieronymus Cock (1510–1570), an Antwerp engraver, and they populate the seas as part of his marvellous map of America created with the assistance of Spanish cartographer Diego Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez’s magnificent 1562 map of America was not intended to be a scientifically or navigationally exacting document, although it was of large scale and remained the largest map of America for a century. It was, rather, a ceremonial map, a diplomatic map, as identified by the coats of arms proclaiming possession. Through the map, Spain proclaimed to the nations of Western Europe its American territory, clearly outlining its sphere of control, not by degrees, but with the appearance of a very broad line for the Tropic of Cancer clearly drawn on the map.

The map is described in detail here while another part of the Library of Congress Map Collections site has an incredible high-resolution copy which is a delight to pore over. This is a really big image (10492 x 11908 pixels) but the huge size is just what I love to see. You can not only zoom into the myriad details—cannibals cooking a human feast in Brazil—but also admire the precision of the cross-hatching. Less than forty years separate these generic creatures from Jan Saenredam’s far more accurate rendering of a beached sperm whale.

whale3.jpg

A dolphin (Melville classed dolphins and porpoises as small whales).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Jan Saenredam’s whale
The Whale again
Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick

Jan Saenredam’s whale

saenredam.jpg

Still reading Moby Dick at a leisurely pace. After finishing Melville’s chapters on the representations of whales I thought I’d see if the pictures he most prefers are online anywhere. A vain search, as it turns out, but I did discover this splendid depiction, Stranded Sperm Whale, by Dutch artist Jan Saenredam (1565–1607).

On 19 December 1601, a sperm whale washed up near Beverwijk. Crowds of people came to see the sight. Among them Jan Saenredam, who made this print. He has depicted himself drawing on the left.

The description continues at the Rijksmuseum site from which this copy originates. Mr Peacay of BibliOdyssey has a very large copy on his Flickr pages which shows more of the fine detail. Melville is highly critical of poor depictions of whales but I suspect he would have liked this one. As well as the local colour and allegorical border elements, Saenredam faithfully renders his dead whale, even leaving space for the drooping scape of cetacean penis. In a similar, if more mundane manner, there’s this engraving by Jacob Matham.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Whale again
Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick

The Whale again

kent.jpg

Reading Moby Dick at the moment, and thoroughly enjoying it, so I felt the need to look again at Rockwell Kent’s tremendous illustrations. The Rockwell Kent Gallery at the Plattsburgh State Art Museum doesn’t have a complete set of these, unfortunately, but there’s more of them than in the Flickr set I pointed to earlier. The thing to do, of course, is to order an illustrated edition of the book…

Meanwhile, Philip Hoare’s non-fiction account of his whale obsession, Leviathan, or The Whale, is receiving renewed attention now it’s out in paperback. I love this description of a humpback whale “breaching”:

For a split second the animal appeared like some vast and improbable whale-angel against the sky, its huge, gnarled flippers outstretched like wings. Every detail was visible. I saw its great ribbed belly, the rorqual pleats that expand when feeding. I saw the barnacles on its skin, the parasites that hold fast to the animal, making it a travelling colony of its own. Then, as if someone had taken their finger off the pause button, the animal bowed to gravity and fell back into the sea, creating a splash that resounded for miles.

Forgetting that I was surrounded by schoolchildren, I blurted out an inadvertent, “Fuck!” Hardly an erudite response, but I challenge anyone to be indifferent to a close encounter with a whale. I have seen grown men cry at their first sight of a cetacean. They simply exist in another universe; aliens occupying vast oceans of which we have less knowledge than we do of the surface of the moon. To see a whale is a privilege. But it can also become an obsession. This spring, I succeeded in a long-held ambition: to watch right whales from the shore.

Read more of that here.

More whale art by Ivan Chermayeff and another whale feature at the NYT

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick

Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick

kent1.jpg

From Rockwell Kent’s masterful 1930 edition. Would be nice to point to a complete online set of these illustrations but there doesn’t seem to be one. The black and white pictures are from this Flickr set which has a couple more examples.

Update: A (near) complete set of illustrations!

kent2.jpg

kent3.jpg

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive