The Splendor Solis

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The Splendor Solis is one of the most beautifully illuminated alchemical manuscripts. The original manuscript of this facsimile is in the British Museum, and dated 1582. The earliest version of this text is considered to be the manuscript in the Kupferstichkabinett in the Prussian State Museum in Berlin, which is dated 1532-35. The Splendor Solis manuscript, which is illuminated on vellum, with decorative borders, beautifully painted and heightened with gold, is perhaps the most visually stunning.

The work itself consists of a sequence of twenty two images, set within highly ornamental borders. The symbolic images depict alchemical death and rebirth, and incorporate a series of seven flasks, each associated with one of the planets. Within the flasks a process is shown involving the transformation of bird and animal symbols into figures of a Queen and King, symbolizing the white and the red tincture. The imagery appears to have been influenced by the earlier Pretiosissimum Donum Dei or The Most Precious Gift of God, an earlier work consisting of twelve images depicting the transformation of white & red stones, often represented by the figures of a queen and a king. This work is thought to have first been appeared as a manuscript in 1475

The Splendor Solis has been associated with the legendary alchemist Salomon Trismosin, allegedly the teacher of Paracelsus, the great renaissance physician, astrologer, botanist and alchemist, although many scholars refute this attribution. The manuscript text was later published with woodcut illustrations, in the Aureum Vellus oder Guldin Schatz und Kunst-kammer, 1598, which was reprinted a number of times. Rauner Special Collections has a French translation, entitled La Toyson d’or, ou la fleur des thresors [QD25 .T751 1612] published in Paris in 1612, with a number of very fine engravings, some of which were hand-colored.
The original manuscript in the British Library can be viewed at the link below
http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=harley_ms_3469_fs001r

The facsimile is in the Sherman Art Library Special Collection, ND3399 .T75 2010

El Hueso de la Tierra

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This small book is handset and letter press printed, bound with the traditional woven indigo skirt fabric of Mayan women in Guatemala. It is a book of poetry by Caly Domitila Kanek, an indigenous author, who wrote the dark and powerful poems about the internal war in Guatemala. When the book was published in 1996, few were ready to read about the war, especially from an indigenous woman’s perspective. Printed in Spanish, Cachikel, and English, the publisher Libros San Cristobal in Guatemala was brave to print this important, and beautiful book.

From the Sherman Art Library Special Collection, PQ7499.2.G214 H8 1996

The Armory Show

The Armory Show was the first, and, ultimately, the only exhibition organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors.  Officially titled The International Exhibition of Modern Art, the exhibition started in New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory, on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, from February 17 until March 15, 1913. The exhibition went on to show at the Art Institute of Chicago and then to the Copley Art Society in Boston.Armory Show  New York  1913  cover (3)

The show became perhaps the most important event in the history of American art.  American audiences who were accustomed to more realistic or sentimental art, were introduced to cutting edge European artists work, including Fauvists, Cubists, and Futurists.   Reviews of the exhibition accused the art of inciting everything from anarchy to insanity.  Works like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, created a shock among viewers, and caused many American artists to question the boundaries of what art could be.  Many art historians consider the exhibition to have been the turning point that encouraged American artists to become more avant-garde.

The Art Special Collection holds a fine copy of the original catalog of the show, made more interesting by the discreet comments penciled by some of the American art entries by “Abbot”, the original owner of the catalog.  You can view the catalog, N6448.A74 A3 1913, as well as the Association’s published response to the exhibition, For and Against: Views on the International Exhibition held in New York & Chicago, N5015.A8 A8 1913, in the Sherman Art Library.

The American Art Union

The American Art-Union was founded in 1844 in New York City, with the aim of promoting the fine arts through its publication, which was available as membership subscription, and eventually through its art gallery, which was free and open to everyone.

Inspired by European models, the membership subscription entitled members to receive the annals and transactions, including prints and engravings of famous works, as well as an opportunity to participate in an annual lottery for a painting by a well-known American artist.  

The original aim was to focus on art that had an American character or appeal, and images of the American landscape and country life predominated. The American Art-Union also endeavored to provide artwork that represented all of America without a regional bias.  As this was the era of abolition, a politically charged atmosphere reigned over all public spheres, and it seems as though their aim to be unbiased created a bias.  Eventually, the union became embroiled in anti-abolitionist politics and was accused of running an illegal lottery, which led to its downfall.

However, the union had inspired other American cities to develop their own art unions, and the free and open to the public art gallery changed the greater public perception of art for the masses.  Few scholarly monographs have been published on the American Art-Union until Perfectly American was published in 2011, presenting new scholarship on this important aspect of American art history.  This volume can be found in the Sherman Art Library, N6510 .P47 2011.book  

In addition, an original volume of the Transactions of the American Art-Union is available in the Sherman Art Library Special Collection, 700.51 A5122T  1845; 1849.   All issues of the Transactions of the American Art-Union, as well as the Bulletin of the American Art-Union, are freely available from JSTOR’s Early Journal Content:

http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublication?journalCode=tranamerartunio

http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublication?journalCode=bullamerartunio

Flying Horses

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This beautiful handmade artist’s book, created by artist Jill Timm, is illustrated with exquisite Chinese rice paper cutouts of horses, attached to thick, paper covered boards. The boards are hinged to create a double sided, accordion fold book, accompanied with a poem by Bonnie Lewis.

Jill resides in Washington state, and her books can be found in libraries and art collections around the world. This book was a special limited edition of 6, and you can find it and more examples of Jill’s work in the Sherman Art Library Special Collection: http://bit.ly/14V2YFP