Friday, December 01, 2006

An early drawing of Stonehenge

I don't have anything, really, to say about this, but I thought our readers would be interested. This drawing is from a 15th-century manuscript of the Scala Mundi, a world chronicle. There are two earlier drawings of Stonehenge, but as the Guardian explains, "the Douai drawing is unique in attempting to show how the monument was built."

I suppose because I think of the Middle Ages as a time in which hermetic imaginative constructions were the prevalent mode of thought--i.e., come up with an idea (the Host is the actual body of Christ, bears lick their cubs into shape, &c) and run it to the ground, scorning any empirical intrusion--I'm always a bit surprised when something like this turns up: other such surprises include Frederick II's expedition into the North to determine the truth about barnacle geese (conclusion: barnacles don't actually turn into geese) and Matthew Paris's drawing of an elephant, surely the first realistic drawing of an elephant in Western Europe since the Romans. Here's the elephant, which belonged to Henry III:

That's all I have in me on Stonehenge, folks. Run with it, and see what you come up with.


Anonymous said...

I heard it was only supposed to be 18" tall, but the scale was misinterpreted (due to the fact that AutoCAD hadn't been invented yet) and it came out hu-mon-go-gatuan in size.

N50 said...

Looks more like Henry III belonged to the elephant.

That's it - stonehenge was a super- in- post-carpentered cage for the elephant.

OK - so I am being annoyingly silly - lots of serious stuff re increasing value placed on realism/verisimilitude, professionalism/skill/merit, etc etc - but that is plain boring.

Karl Steel said...

n50, I'm reminded of a bit from Robert Benchley that just sticks with me:

From "Isn't It Remarkable?"

On a recent page of colored reproductions of tomb-paintings and assorted excavations from holes in ancient Egypt there appears a picture of a goose with the following rather condescending caption:

Remarkably Accurate and Artistic Painting of a Goose from Pharaoh Akhenaten's Palace, Drawn 3300 Years Ago.

What I want to know is--why "remarkable"? Why is it any more remarkable that someone drew a goose accurately 3300 years ago than that someone should do it today? Why should we be surprised that the people who build the Pyramids could also draw a goose so that it looked like a goose?

(Robert Benchley, My Ten Years in a Quandary and How They Grew, 46: and, yes, I know it's no "What--No Budapest?" but nonetheless it stuck with me)


I also watched an Eddie Izzard bit last night about the two previous hedges, Strawhenge and Woodhenge, and what happened to them.