1793: Cards for Equality

Egalite de Devoirs   Egalite de Droits

Egalite de Rangs   Egalite de Couleurs

Following the French Revolution and its toppling of the French monarchy, Urbain Jaume and Jean-Démosthène Dugourc conceived the idea of a new deck of playing cards that, like the revolutionaries, would toss out its “aristocracy” of Aces, Kings, Queens, and Jacksand replace them with emblems of the new society. Citizens of the new France did not need reminders of “despotism and inequality” when playing a game of cards.

Aces became “Law” cards, Kings became “Spirit” cards, Queens became “Liberty” cards, and the Jacks (above) became “Equality” cards. In a pamphlet advertising the cards, the description of Jacks reads as follows:

Jack of Hearts:  The Equality of Heartsor Equality of Dutiesis a National Guardsman whose devotion to the Country results in pubic security. This word is written near him.

Jack of Clubs: The Equality of Clubsor Equality of Rights: A Judge dressed in the costume of a Republican (presumably) holds in one hand a balanced scale and the other hand he places on the altar of the Law, showing that it is equal for all. He tramples underfoot the hydra of bickering, whose heads lie on the ground. Next to him is written “Justice.”

Jack of Spades: The Equality of Spadesor Equality of Classesis represented by a man of July 14, 1789 and of August 10, 1792 who, armed and trampling underfoot the coats of arms and titles of the nobility, points to ripped-up feudal rights and to the stone from the Bastille upon which he sits. Next to him is the word “Strength.”

Jack of Diamonds: The Equality of Diamondsor Equality of Colors:  The black man, rid of his shackles, treads underfoot a broken yoke. Seated on a bale of coffee, he seems to enjoy the new pleasure of liberty and of being armed. On one side one sees a camp and on the other some sugar cane; and in the word “Courage” one sees that the Man of Color has at long last avenged himself for the scornful injustices of his oppressors.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1821: In Life the Firmest Friend

Clifton Tomson - Boatswain (1808)

From a letter written by Percy Bysshe Shelley to Thomas Love Peacock, August 1821:

Lord Byron gets up at two. I get up, quite contrary to my usual custom…at twelve. After breakfast, we sit talking till six. From six till eight we gallop through the pine forests which divide Ravenna from the sea; we then come home and dine, and sit up gossiping till six in the morning. I don’t suppose this will kill me in a week or fortnight, but I shall not try it longer. Lord B.’s establishment consists, besides servants, of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon; and all these, except the horses, walk about the house, which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were the masters of it.

Byron had the portrait above painted of his favorite dog, Boatswain. He wrote this poem for the dog’s grave:

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808.

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below:
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonour’d falls, unnotic’d all his worth,
Deny’d in heaven the Soul he held on earth:
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.
Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debas’d by slavery, or corrupt by power,
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye! who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on, it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one—and here he lies.

The painting is by Clifton Tomson and was done in 1808.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12th Century: Monster

Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine Kamakura period (1185–1333)

This illustration comes from a series of handscrolls telling the legends of the Shinto Kitano Tenjin Shrine, located in Kamakura, Japan. The shrine is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a 9th century scholar, poet, and statesman who came to be deified as Tenjin,  the Shinto god of learning. Kamakura period (1185–1333).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1957: Carburetor

Walter Tandy Murch - Carburetor (1957)

Walter Tandy Murch: Carburetor (1957)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1878: Dream

Carl Gustav Jung (c1870)

I had the earliest dream I can remember, a dream which was to preoccupy me all my life. I was then between three and four years old.

The vicarage stood quite alone near Laufen castle, and there was a big meadow stretching back from the sexton’s farm. In the dream I was in this meadow. Suddenly I discovered a dark, rectangular, stone-lined hole in the ground. I had never seen it before. I ran forward curiously and peered down into it. Then I saw a stone stairway leading down. Hesitantly and fearfully I descended. At the bottom was a doorway with a round arch, closed off by a green curtain. It was a big heavy curtain of worked stuff like brocade, and it looked very sumptuous. Curious to see what might be hidden behind, I pushed it aside. I saw before me in the dim light a rectangular chamber about thirty feet long. The ceiling was arched and of hewn stone. The floor was laid with flagstones, and in the centre a red carpet ran from the entrance to a low platform. On this platform stood a wonderfully rich golden throne. I am not certain, but perhaps a red cushion lay on the seat. It was a magnificent throne, a red king’s throne in a fairy tale. Something was standing on it which I thought at first was a tree trunk twelve to fifteen feet high and about one and a half to two feet thick. It was a huge thing, reaching almost to the ceiling. But it was of a curious composition: it was made of skin and naked flesh, and on top there was something like a rounded head with no face and no hair. On the very top of the head was a single eye, gazing motionlessly upward.

It was fairly light in the room, although there were no windows and no apparent source of light. Above the head, however, was an aura of brightness. The thing did not move, yet I had the feeling that it might at any moment crawl off the throne like a worm and creep toward me. I was paralysed with terror. At the moment I heard from outside and above me my mother’s voice. She called out, “Yes, just look at him. That is the man-eater” That intensified my terror still more, and I awoke sweating and scared to death. For many nights afterward I was afraid to go to sleep, because I feared I might have another dream like this.

Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1989: Walking House

Laurie Simmons - Walking House (1989)

Laurie Simmons: Walking House (1989)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1660: Theory

Johan Picardt - A Short Description of Some Forgotten and Hidden Antiquities (1660)

The 17th century Dutch minister Johan Picard spent several years in Drenthe, where he became interested in the ancient stone structures that could still be seen in the area.  His research eventually led to the publication of his book A Short Description of Some Forgotten and Hidden Antiquities. One theory in the book, illustrated above, is that the megalithic Stonehenge-like structures had been built by giants as humans looked on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment