Wednesday, 5 October 2016

In Which I Enjoy a New Word by Joan Lennon

And the word is ...

This may be a term you use on a daily basis, but it was completely new to me.  It refers to that peculiar habit of the human brain to see faces, patterns, or meaning where they do not really exist.  Like the man in the moon, or a dragon in a cloud, or Madeline's "crack on the ceiling that had the habit of sometimes looking like a rabbit."  I came across it by a roundabout route.  It happened like this ...

A friend introduced me to The Public Domain Review - like the National Library of Scotland chapbook archive I warned you about, these are dangerous waters.  Almost immediately, I was sucked in by an article on anthropomorphic landscapes.

Athanasius Kircher (1645-6)

Flemish School (early 17th century)

Herman Saftleven the Younger (1650)

Which made me think of what Juan Sanchez Cotan did with vegetables at the beginning of the 17th century (I've raved about him here) which made me half-remember paintings of people made out of plants, so I wandered off in search of "17th century portraits of people made out of vegetables" and came to Guiseppe Arcimboldo, who turns the finding a face where one shouldn't really exist into finding vegetables/fish/books where they shouldn't really exist.  He fascinated his contemporaries with these insane portraits, and he fascinates us still.  (Interestingly he started out working with stained glass - I think you can see the influence of building with units.)

Summer (1653)

The Jurist (1566)

I also love the amazingly modern-looking Librarian which you can see here (I couldn't get a jpg image to copy over).

And it was while I was hanging out with Arcimboldo and vegetable paintings generally that I stumbled across my new word.  And did I then call a halt?  Did I completely refrain from checking out modern pareidolic images and the various humorous things one can do with a set of stick-on googly eyes?  Of course I did.  I am, after all, a History Girl. 

Do you have a favourite (historical, of course) pareidolic image, anthropomorphic landscape or portrait made out of vegetables?  If so, share a link to it in the Comments, and let the wandering continue.  And here's to new words and the delightful strangeness of the human mind!  

P.S.  This has nothing to do with anything pareidolic, but if this self-portrait is anything to go on, wasn't Guiseppe gorgeous!

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Silver Skin.


Penny Dolan said...

Really interesting, Joan. Always good to be told about delightful new links that will eat up one's time. (I think?)

Mavis said...

Interesting, Joan. I see faces all over he place and recall one when my mum ordered a bureau when I was about 8 years old. It arrived with a hideous devil face complete with horns on the front of the drop down part. When she sent it back the shopkeeper groaned 'not again'. It was so obvious that it had been returned three times previously.