Saturday, October 31, 2009


Metamorphoses and Jesse Trees

Anent Illustrations of the Heliades, a correspondent drew my attention to a couple of unusual pictures of metamorphoses. The first, by Charles Jameson Grant, is titled Singular Effects of the Universal Vegetable Pills on a Green Grocer:

The second is from Miscellanea d'alchimia (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana di Firenze, Codex Ashburnham 1166, folio 16):

The second picture, depicting the alchemical or philosophical tree, is supposed to have a mystical meaning, but to my irreverent eye the supine gentleman appears to have a massive "woody" (cf. Catullus 32.10-11: nam pransus iaceo et satur supinus / pertundo tunicamque palliumque).

The second picture also calls to mind certain representations of the Jesse Tree inspired by Isaiah 11.1 (et egredietur virga de radice Iesse et flos de radice eius ascendet), e.g. one in the Winchester Psalter (British Museum, MS. Cotton Nero C.IV, folio 9, color photo here):

and this illustration from a French bible (Bibliothèque nationale, Français 3, folio 180):

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