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I am going to indecently
add to my “foot of god” series with this metal engraving from the accomplished
Joachim Camerarius1’ Symbolorum et
Emblematum…(published in four volumes at
The engravings, executed by Hans Sibmacher, were among the first executed in metal, and the book itself was the first of its kind to present botanical emblems. (The other three volumes contained emblems for animals of land-sea-air.) They are splendid and concise, and filled with soft detail. And still I’m left with the foot.
The legend is mostly a
mystery and doesn’t help me with the foot—it says something about beauty and
growth and madness and reward—and the saffron crocus. This plant has been a commodity for
thousands of years, used for therapeutics and dyeing and spice. It takes quite a lot of these plants to
produce a gram of powder—about 150. 60,000 plants are necessary to produce a
pound of saffron, which is getting to be quite pricey. Given this, saffron was very often imitated
and counterfeited—a crime taken quite seriously in many places, and perhaps
none more so in Bavaria where (in 1444) a conviction meant death.
And as long as we’re talking about odd antiquarian images the sky, I’d like to point out the work by the Jesuit Franciscus Nerrincq (1638-1712), De goddelycke voorsienigheydt2, in which there are several odd eyes that burn their way through the atmosphere. Eyes/eye of the creator occur frequently in religious presentations and emblems, but not so very often as hands holding a pair of eyes. I know all of this is very heavy stuff in the history of Christian iconography and the progression of emblemata, but I’d rather deal with the images out of context here and have them stand on their own without interpretation.
1.From the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th
edition, volume 5: JOACHIM CAMERARIUS (1534-1598), German botanist and physician, son of the
classical scholar of the same name, was born at Nuremberg on the 6th of November 1534. After finishing his studies in Germany he visited Italy, where he graduated as doctor of medicine. On his return he was invited to reside
at the courts of several princes, but preferred to settle in his native town of
2. De goddelycke voorsienigheydt uytgebeeldt in Joseph onder-coninck van Egypten : verciert met sinne-beelden ende sede-leeringen. The entire book can be seen here.