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Posts Tagged ‘Hernán Cortés

“What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things”*…

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471 – 1528 ), Saint Eustace, c. 1500/1501, engraving

Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer was on a constant hunt for inspiration– and found novelty everywhere on his travels…

In 1520 Albrecht Dürer was in Brussels when the contents of a treasure ship sent back from the Americas by Hernán Cortés were put on display to celebrate the coronation of Charles V. The cache contained, among other items, obsidian weapons, jaguar pelts, feathered shields, gemstones and mosaic pieces, and gold wrought in innumerable inventive ways. Dürer, the son of a Nuremberg goldsmith, was flabbergasted. “All the days of my life I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things,” he wrote, “for I saw amongst them wonderful works of art.” But then, for him, everything was a work of art – either God-made or man-made. His well-known watercolours of a piece of turf and the iridescent wing of a blue roller bird are themselves marvels of creation that show marvels of creation.

For Dürer, even more than for most artists, the world was a place of wonder. If Leonardo da Vinci, his senior by 19 years, looked longest and deepest at natural phenomena – from the flow of water to the action of veins and sinews – Dürer (1471-1528) was in thrall to materiality, where sight became an extension of touch…

How a Renaissance master and inveterate traveler journeyed in a permanent state of fascination: “The wonders of Albrecht Dürer’s world,” from Michael Prodger in @NewStatesman.

* Albrecht Dürer

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As we wonder, we might spare a thought for Ludwig Emil Grimm; he died on this date in 1863. A painter, art professor, etcher, and copper engraver, his subjects included his two brothers, the folklorists Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

self-portrait, 1813

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Fables that have been agreed upon*…

From College Humor.  Click on the image above, or here

* “All the ancient histories, as one of our wits says, are just fables that have been agreed upon. ”  – Voltaire, Jeannot et Colin

As we try to find alternatives to Arthur on the afternoon television schedule, we might recall that it was on this date in 1542 that Portuguese explorer João Rodrigues Cabrilho discovered Santa Catalina Island, while exploring the coast of California for the Spanish, for whom he was sailing.  Cabrilho (“Juan Rodriguez Cabillo,” as he was known in Spanish) had made his fortune with Hernán Cortés in Mexico (then called New Spain) and later, mining gold in Guatemala. But as enough is never enough,  when the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, tapped him to lead an expedition up the Pacific Coast, he leapt at the opportunity to search for a way to China (the full extent of the northern Pacific was still unknown) and to find the mythical Strait of Anián (the Northwest Passage) connecting the Pacific Ocean with Hudson Bay.  While he found neither of those, he did discover familiar landmarks up the Golden Coast (San Diego Bay, San Pedro, San Clemente), all the way to the Russian River– though he sailed unawares past San Francisco Bay, making for Point Reyes…

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The Riddle of the Sands…

With thanks to reader MK for the lead, a look at the Sand Sculpture at Harrison Hot Springs.  For 19 years, proprietors Karen and Bob Bell hosted the World Championships of Sand Sculpture.  For reasons obscure, there was no competition last year; still, the accomplishments of the 157 artists who worked there are nifty to behold.  Consider, e.g., this piece by Carl Jara:

or this one, by Brett Terry:

 

More at the Harrisand gallery.

As we brush off our feet, we might recall that on this date in 1519, Hernán Cortés entered Tenochtitlán (roughly where Mexico City stands today).  Aztec ruler Moctezuma welcomed him with great ceremony, as might befit a returning god…  little did the Aztec chief know…

Criss-crossed with canals, laced with aqueducts and markets, and set beside a grand lake, with floating gardens, Tenochtitlán was “the Venice of the New World”… or, rather, Venice was the mini-Tenochtitlán of Europe– the Mexican city was much larger and grander than that Italian town.

Indeed, according to early Spanish accounts,  Tenochtitlán was unlike the European cities they knew, but more like the ones they had seen in romantic books, as it was neither crowded nor dirty.  Indeed, Tenochtitlán was larger, more beautiful and more complex than any European city at the time. The population of the lake city was 200,000 – 300,000, at a time when London’s numbered about 40,000 and only 65,000 people lived in Paris.  Tenochtitlán’s craftsmen (for instance, its extraordinary goldsmiths) were a match for those in Europe, and the grandeur of the city’s pyramids rivalled that of the Egyptian “wonders of the world.”

Tenochtitlán

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