The House that Jo Built, una caricatura della moglie Josephine fatta da Edward Hopper
Photograph of a very young Franz Kafka.
Walter Benjamin writes:There is a childhood photograph of Kafka, a supremely touching portrayal of his “poor, brief childhood.” It was probably made in one of those nineteenth-century studios whose draperies and palm trees, tapestries and easels, placed them somewhere between a torture chamber and a throne room. At the age of about six the boy is presented in a sort of greenhouse setting, wearing a tight, heavily lace-trimmed, almost embarrassing child’s suit. Palm branches loom in the background. And as if to make these upholstered tropics still more sultry and sticky, the subject holds in his left hand an oversized, wide-brimmed hat of the type worn by Spaniards. Immensely sad eyes dominate the landscape arranged for them, and the auricle of a large ear seems to be listening for its sounds (Walter Benjamin, “Franz Kafka”, trans Harry Zohn, in Selected Writings Volume Two (Part Two) (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p 800).
ricordati che esiste.
A love story hidden in a hat
You are looking at a medieval book from c. 1270, but it has a most unusual shape - and a most ironic story. In fact, you are looking at fragments of a such a book, which form a research passion of mine. In the early-modern period bookbinders cut up medieval manuscripts because the handwritten objects had become old-fashioned after the invention of printing. As a result, we encounter snippets of manuscripts on the inside of bookbindings, as I explain in this blog about such beautiful destruction - a more recent discovery is presented in this blog.
Occasionally the recycled parchment sheets were used for other purposes: the pages in this image form the lining of a bishop’s mitre - onto which the cloth was subsequently pasted. What’s remarkable about the hat is not just that the poor bishop had a bunch of hidden medieval pages on his head, but that they were cut from a Norwegian translation of Old French love poetry (so-called lais). Lovers were chasing each other through dark corridors, maidens were frolicking in the fields, knights were butchering each other over nothing. All the while the oblivious bishop was performing the rites of the Holy Mass. It’s a wonderful historical clash; as well as the mother of all irony.
Pic: Copenhagen, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 666 b 4to (c. 1270, Strengleikar, Norse translation of Old French love poems). More information about this wicked item here.