Wednesday, May 27, 2015

There be dragons...

"Carta Marina" by Olaus Magnus Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

What to do at the edge of known territory, or how to demark the gaps in data in any sort of data visualization - geographical maps in particular - has long been an issue we grapple with. Medieval and even Renaissance mapmakers famously decorated the unmapped regions of their maps with fanciful creatures. These creatures would not fit with our modern conceptions of science, but in fairness, were not necessarily complete fabrications, but actual attempts to document animals which had been described by early explorers, but unseen by the mapmakers, rather than simple mythological ornaments. It's also been argued that they intended to scare foreign fishermen away from certain waters and reflected the idea land creatures had a marine equivalent (sea dogs, sea cows, even sea chickens apparently - see the Tetrapod Zoology review of Sea Monsters of Medieval and Renaissance Maps). The early map of Scandinavia, the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus (1490–1557), is a prime example of the sorts of fabulous creatures of the maps. You can find the same creatures, including the ziphius (a whale sized creature) porcus marinus (like it sounds, essentially a pig mermaid, or boar-whale perhaps an attempt to depict a sea lion), and the rosmarine (or boar-whale, a tusked creature perhaps derived from the walrus) on many other maps, often appearing to be copied or inspired by previous maps.
A ziphius sea monster eats a seal, while attacked by another monster
(detail of the 1575 edition of the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus)

Toronto artist Bailey Henderson has done a magical thing. She's created a series of bronze sculptures, Monstorum Marines, depicting these creatures in full textured 3D. Each is coloured with pigments and acrylics. The texture both micmics the lines of woodcut maps, like the Carta Marina, and enhances further, creating a naturalistic yet fantastic creature.

A ziphius eats a seal while biten by another creature in naturalist Conrad Gesner's 1560 Icones Animalium 

Famous cartographer Abraham Ortelius's 1603 edition of his well-known Theatrum Orbis Terrarum map includes this tame whale with fearsome teeth, he calls the Steipereidur, explaining that it "fights other whales on behalf of fishermen."
Bailey Henderson,
Ziphius et Orca
Cold cast bronze, acrylic paint, powdered pigment
17 3/4 x 11 1/4 x 7 inches

Henderson writes,
Ziphius is based on a sea monster commonly depicted on renaissance and medieval maps. It was believed to cut boats in half with its sharp dorsal fin. Here sculpted in a life-like form. Creatures like Orca are based on whales, and were commonly depicted on maps in various forms.

I see a little Ortelius and Gesner, by way of Magnus in this sculpture.

Rosmarine, or boar-whale by Gesner, 1555
detail, Carta Marina (1575) by Olaus Magnus, including the rosmarine or pinniped with his tusks
Bailey Henderson, Pinniped,
Cast Resin, acrylic paint
11 x 4.75 x 4.75

Sea pig, detail from Olaus Magnus' 1539 Carta Marina. This purported creature was compared to heretics that "distorted truth and lived like swine" (according to Hanah Waters, "The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps" on
Of the sea pig, or hog, Olaus Magnus wrote, "Now I shall revive the memory of a monstrous Hog that was found afterwards, Anno 1537, in the same German Ocean, and it was a Monster in every part of it. For it had a Hog's head, and a quarter of a Circle, like the Moon, in the hinder part of its head, four feet like a Dragon's, two eyes on both sides of his Loyns, and a third in his belly inkling toward his Navel; behind he had a Forked-Tail, like to other Fish commonly."(via strange science)

Bailey Henderson, Porcus Marinus
Cold cast bronze, powdered pigment, acrylic paint
16 x 8 1/2 x 7 inches

Be sure to the rest of her portfolio, for other sculpture creatures and illustrations.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails