WEIRD BOOK WEDNESDAY: Morbid Curiosities by Paul Gambino, which is featured on the Cult of Weird fall reading list, is out now. The photos are beautiful, the collectors are fascinating, and the collections are extraordinary.
Maintaining cabinets of curiosities evolved during Renaissance and Baroque. In these collectors’ rooms precious artworks (artificialia), rare phenomena of nature (naturalia), scientific instruments (scientifica), objects from strange worlds (exotica), and inexplicable items (mirabilia) were preserved. They reflected the standard of knowledge and view of the world at that time.
The Church of Saint Michael in Hallstatt, Austria, is home to over 700 painted skulls in its chapel basement known as the Bone House. The Karner (charnel house) houses an additional 500 unpainted skulls, as well as the rest of the bones. The collection represents all the families of the community, dating back to at least the 17th century.
Here are some still images to follow yesterday’s video of us opening our newest rare book. The bottom image is a folded engraving of Calzolari’s museum or cabinet of curiosity, which he used as a learning tool for local physicians, pharmacists and botanists to observe and experiment with objects first hand.
Snakes intertwined, from the engravings created of Albertus Seba’s collections in the late 17th & early 18th century. Seba was an apothecary and naturalist whose immense & renowned wunderkammer was purchased by Peter the Great after his death in 1736.
“The tall masts are the pillars supporting the balanced planes that, motionless and silent, catch from the air the ship’s motive-power, as it were a gift from Heaven vouchsafed to the audacity of man; and it is the ship’s tall spars, stripped and shorn of their white glory, that incline themselves before the anger of the clouded heaven. … No doubt a fair amount of climbing up iron ladders can be achieved by an active man in a ship’s engine-room, but I remember moments when even to my supple limbs and pride of nimbleness the sailing-ship’s machinery seemed to reach up to the very stars. For machinery it is, doing its work in perfect silence and with a motionless grace, that seems to hide a capricious and not always governable power, taking nothing away from the material stores of the earth. Not for it the unerring precision of steel moved by white steam and living by red fire and fed with black coal. The other seems to draw its strength from the very soul of the world, its formidable ally, held to obedience by the frailest bonds, like a fierce ghost captured in a snare of something even finer than spun silk. For what is the array of the strongest ropes, the tallest spars and the stoutest canvas against the mighty breath of the infinite, but thistle stalks, cobwebs and gossamer?” (Joseph Conrad, “The Mirror of the Sea”)
There is a gap in genres, between #clockpunk elaborating on the fantastical ideas of Leonardo during the Renaissance and the renowned phantasmagoria of #steampunk conjecturing about what might have been if only in the days of Queen Victoria. There is even a niche for #cowpunk in a fictional wild, wild west. But few fancied so far what #sailpunk might look like – the Californian artist Ron Pippin made, maybe unwittingly, a decent attempt, called “All Night Long He Sailed Upon It“ after a line from Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha”.
Ron Pippin made the model of a battleship-of-the-line from the days of Nelson’s Navy into a thing of artistic wonder and even if many of her endearing little details elude their immediate nautical usefulness, she gets a place of honour in the #wunderkammer for sheer inspiring creativity, and who knows, as soon as she’s running off the slip, sails may be rigged on the long spars on her sides and she might even fly into strange new worlds.
More about Ron Pippin and his inspiring creations can be found on his homepage, again, a #wunderkammer in its own right:
I spent a good while making my own little tattoo inspired sheet of surreal collages.
This one features animals, insects, and plants, and the next one I’m working on features organic and human made objects.