VLOG: Europe is a whale - a despatch from Zeeland

#3 Wk 08-21

Hi. Thanks for checking into this sub-1 minute video briefing. It’s short, but on this occasion particularly mighty: the story of the whale.

Coming this week

On Thursday February 25, I’ll post on an extraordinary encounter between British writer Philip Hoare, winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction, and the renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer in the waves at Zeeland. A meeting of minds, if not quite in the flesh, since they’re separated by about 500 years.

Here’s my sub-1 minute update:

Why it matters…

In renaissance art, whales were always males - generally sperm whales. When they strand, their organs extrude. “These animals already are a phallic shape. Then they have these disgorged organs, symbols of potency,” explains Hoare. “It’s really evident in Dutch culture, and in how the whale was commemorated by artists. These are the images which end up on Delft china, co-opted into the domestic economy.” 

Renaissance pop art…

Prints from Dürer’s woodcuts sold like posters. Five centuries later, Andy Warhol had Dürer’s praying hands carved on his gravestone. But Dürer’s significance is very much about Europe: he forged a European aesthetic. He was the first artist to harness the printing press as a means to achieve huge power through art. To Hoare, the sense of Europe is powered by images of animals made by humans.

Keep well. Met vriendelijke groet!

Mark

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