November 27, 2012

Five Figures in a Building

        Here's an oddity.  This woodcut by Erhard Schön was published in 1538 in a book about the principles of proportion.  Presumably this funny image was not intended to be Art in its own right, but was rather intended to assist others in the creation of the Real Art.  And yet I get such a kick out of it.  These five people - are they robots perhaps?  or constructed from cardboard boxes? - look so disgruntled with their lot.  Are they just waking up?  Or was there an earthquake that knocked them all over?  And what sort of room are they in, anyway, with two walls smooth and precise but one looking bumpy?  And with that rich molding and curved ceiling it must be a fairly elegant building, despite being unfurnished and windowless.
        As for the carving, it was clearly not done with the same precision or care that might be lavished on a proper piece.  You can see a number of places where the lines got cut away by mistake, especially along the bottom frame of the piece.  This is definitely a reproduction of a sketch, and intended to represent a sketch, rather than a finished piece.  After all, this might be the sort of framework an artist would draw to start a scene.  Myself, I always sketch "sausage people" rather than "cardboard box people" when I'm getting started on a picture, but I have to admit that these rectangular figures are a lot more fun in their own right than my sausage people.  I especially like their feet!

[Picture: Five figures in a building, woodcut by Erhard Schön in Underweissung der proportzion, 1538 (image from Universalmuseum Joanneum.)]

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