Sunday, February 21, 2010

Steinlyptingar (Forecastles of stone)

To each hilltop its castle, and to each man his own.
Wars are long gone, now remains a labyrinth
Of ridges, of vales, of a sea of woodlands,
Of mountains undisturbed, and precious rare stonewalls.
No more kingdom in Arnor but for striders,
No more duchies in the Vosges but in dreams.

* * *

À chaque sommet son château, et à chacun le sien.
Les guerres sont depuis longtemps disparues, demeure un labyrinthe
De crêtes, de vaux, d'une mer de forêts,
De montagnes impassibles, et de rares, précieux murs.
Plus de royaume en Arnor sinon pour les rôdeurs,
Plus de duchés dans les Vosges sinon en rêve.

Albrecht Altdorfer again. But this time, the style is different, closer to medieval-style miniatures. As you can see, the picture (a "Triumph of emperor Maximilian during the Swiss war") has three "planes", and of course, only the smallest, furthest away one interests us minute wonderworkers.

Below is a wider gaze at the sea of hills and trees in which these steinlyptingar sail.

(Again, really unsubtle retouching, but the only goal is to avoid having things so ugly they distract the viewer.)

Afdölum (Hidden valleys)

The hill is climbed, the forest ended -
Is there no more, is it all done ?
No, for there stands a house on the hill beyond,
And walk towards it, I will.
And a valley, and another, and a valley once more -
Should I hear a voice saying, "This is the end, I'll settle here",
I will stifle it, stifle it with the infinite void of the valleys beyond.

La colline passée, la forêt traversée -
Est-ce tout, est-ce achevé ?
Non, car voici un toit sur la colline au loin,
Et vers ce toit, je marcherai.
Et une vallée, et une autre, et une vallée encore -
Si j'entends une voix disant, "Voici la fin, ici je m'établis",
Je l'étoufferai, je l'étoufferai avec le vide infini des vallées au loin.

Click me to read spoilers

Now this is true, orthodox marginalism, of the strict minutiaephile kind. The minute wonder above is from "The Appearance of Christ before the People" by Alexander Andreievitch Ivanov, and as you can see here, it is indeed a very, very minute wonder in the whole picture.

So much that one wonders (you should pardon the pun) why master Alexander thought and bothered with including it. But apparently, this good man took twenty years to complete this piece, so he probably had lots of time to think about adding minutiae here and there. Why he did, thought, I'd be curious to know.

Below is a less minute, but still very endearing minutia - the scattered buildings in the first valley. Perhaps it was the initial goal of our restless traveller ?

(Yes, I know - the retouching is not professional. That's because I'm not a professional.)

Stig fyrir stig (step for step)

To climb, to gaze, step for step...
The Tower. The Rooftop Bush.
To climb, to watch, step for step...
The Slippery Tiles.
To climb, to look out and away, step for step...
The Light-Punctured Forest of beams. The Cloud Kingdom.
Even without a throne, to climb is to be king.

* * *

Monter, observer, pas à pas...
La Tour. Le Buisson du Toit.
Monter, regarder, pas à pas...
Les Tuiles Glissantes.
Monter, embrasser les dehors lointains, pas à pas...
La Forêt Ajourée des poutres. Le Royaume des Nuages.
Même sans trône, monter c'est être roi.

Click me to read spoilers

Ancient battles and christs are not the only ones that can be ignored. Plain factories have that right, too. Now we're headed for the 19th century, with Alfred Rethel's "Die Harkortsche Fabrik auf Burg Wetter". Again, it's from Commons.
One could argue that this is not true Marginalism, as there is no real "main subject" in this picture, and thus, no true margin. I cannot argue with that logic, but I would respond that this is Escapist Partialism, a sister ideology of Marginalism, a schism, if you will, in the great religion of Phantasmatic Deconstructionism and Minute Wonderworking.
You know a religion is good when at the third meeting, its founder announces that he has created a schismatic current distinct from his own, original mainstream. Adhere today.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taka úkunna stiga (to walk unknown paths)

First stop, a neglected barn.
Second stop, a small village near an aristocratic castle.
Third stop, an abandoned tower.
Fourth stop, the trees, the rocks, the snow. The cold, sprawling gap...
There and never back again.

* * *

Première étape, une grange négligée.
Deuxième étape, un petit village au pied d'un aristocratique château.
Troisième étape, une tour abandonnée.
Quatrième étape, les arbres, les pierres, la neige. La trouée froide et ouverte...
Histoire d'un aller, sans jamais de retour.

Click me to read spoilers

Another picture by Albrecht Altdorfer, who indeed carries us far away. This time it is a side element from a crucifixion (see here on Commons). Perhaps the path is provided so the viewer can escape at will from this dreary (and done a billion times over) subject. And an alluring escape it is... the trees, the mountains... the lonely tower as a last stop before the wilderness...

Fjalarnir ok sjárinn (the Mountains and the Sea)

Beneath jagged mountains, cities sit...
Sous des montagnes dentelées, des villes s'étendent...

...towers rise, ships sail... A black tower looms in the East...
...des tours s'élèvent, des navires passent... Une tour noire menace à l'Est... endless sea beyond...
...une mer sans fin au-delà...

Is it my hometown of Konungahella, in the fjords of Norway, in the past days of Sigurth Jerusalemfarer ?

Is it the havens of Gondor, sprawling in the bay of Belfalas, whence the sails of the Ship-Kings depart to explore and conquer ?

Est-ce ma ville natale de Konungahella, dans les fjords de Norvège, aux jours anciens de Sigurth qui Alla à Jérusalem ?

Sont-ce les ports du Gondor, s'ouvrant sur la Baie de Belfalas, d'où les voiles des Rois-Navigateurs partent pour explorer et conquérir ?

Click me to read spoilers

It is in fact part of the background of "The Battle of Alexander at Issus" by Albrecht Altdorfer. It is the subject of today's featured article on Wikipedia (thanks again, WP !). The article will tell you what sea this is, and what each features are. It's less wildly imaginative... but very interesting. Guess what the Black Tower in the East is supposed to be ?