Monday, 2 November 2009


"Viewpoints: a selection from the Pictorial Collections of the Library of Congress” was published in 1974 to offer an overview of the American library’s collection of images. From a varied selection of historic photographs, modern and ancient prints and drawings, two images caught my attention.

This first is an engraving by Giuseppe Maria Mitelli, a Bolognese artist of 17th century: it is headed in rebus form “il [mondo] e’[per] lo piu’ [gabbia] di [matti]”- the world is, for the most part, a cage for madmen.
Clockwise from the top we find Fortune sitting, then the Artist, near the top and outside the cage, absorbed with his palette and sketchbook, the Astronomer, gluttons in the middle, musician and merrymakers at the bottom. Lying on the floor with glasses, and reading the Cabala, there’s an old Jew. On the left a man with a book under his arm is looking through a magnifying glass (maybe a Scientist?). Others are trying to catch coins that are being thrown down from the top of the cage.

The second image is a drawing from 1910 by Charles Dana Gibson and it looks to me as a tribute to beauty and art. This drawing is simply wonderful: for the technique (pencil and pen-and-ink on paper), the subject, the inspired aesthetic pleasure represented. No wonder it’s called: “The sweetest story ever told”.

These two images seem to capture the two main purposes of art: showing the human condition with all its pain and trouble, and offering a consolation, through the beauty and grace of the artistic creation.