Enter, the Chimaera

Fri 13 December 2013

In addition to grinding my way through the innards of Maya, I spent a large part of my (sadly wasted) youth in graduate school studying ancient history with a sideline in the Italian Renaissance. Even though I don’t get to use much of this information on a regular basis, I do occasionally get nostalgic for the random bits of weird and wonderful information you can only find in the dim recesses of a big research university library.

One of the greatest treasures in my personal museum of useless information is the genre of Wunderzeichenbücher. The German means “wonder sign books,” and it refers to 16th and 17th century genre of illustrated guide to fantastic creatures and strange occurrences. The Wonder Books are a fascinating mix of early scientific investigations, second hand traveller’s tales, and just plain wacky stuff that is hard to explain as anything other than as the Renaissance equivalent of a SomethingAwful Photoshop Friday.

My particular favorite is the _Monstrorum Historia _ (1642) of Aldovandrus, which is chock full of amazing woodcut drawings of every kind of crazy hybrid creature the Renaissance could dream up, from chimaeras to hippogriffs to monopods and blemmyes.

Besides the awesome graphics (how’s that for retro, pixel kiddies!) I’ve always found these images compelling because Tech Art is the domain of crazy hybrids. We’re artist/programmers, animator/logicians, scultpor/scripters and graphics-nerd/visionaries. So adding dogs heads or chicken feet to our other attributes doesn’t seem like too big a stretch.

So, with that an excuse I give you the Chimaera, my personal totem animal

As an aside I will point out that this one is not exactly pulled out of some Renaissance dude’s posteriore. The artist must have seen this amazing Etruscan bronze:

You can even see how the woodcut artist included the stump of the tail. When the 2000 year original was dug up in 1553 the tail was missing. It was restored in the 1800s. Bug fix!

tags: techart