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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Zodiac in the Night Sky and Diogenes' Lantern

These Lights
Inside water, a waterwheel turns,
A star circulates with the moon.

We live in the night ocean wondering,
what are these lights?

Reading Rumi's poem  above made me want to revisit the images I'd culled from the letter Z, because I'd wanted to combine images of ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS with a turning ferris wheel in the night sky created from ZODIACs.

I started with the zoo from Barrackpore and a renaissance Zodiac:

But then remembered that I'd wanted a night sky and planned to include the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, so I revised it a bit:

(You can see more of the source material for the letter Z in this earlier post.)

Thinking about images of light, I was reminded of  Diogenes, the Cynic philosopher who was famous for going around with a lantern in his hand in broad daylight, looking for an honest man.
An engraving of Diogenes included in  a book on the history of hairstyles. (source code 15,218)
Undated image

1865 illustration

1946 William Gropper image.

1907 Harper's Magazine Illustration

My friend Sohrab Sadaat Ladjevardi, a great sax player who has a band called the Tehran Dakar Brothers, mentioned Diogenes to me recently, and that's why I went looking for his image. I found it in a folder marked PERSONALITIES: DIO. The PERSONALITIES folders are one of the largest categories in the Picture Collection and line most of one wall. Arranged alphabetically, like most everything else in the collection, the famous people in PERSONALITIES: DIO ran the gamut of trades and historical eras.  A few of the folks sharing that folder with Diogenes include:
Christian Dior NYT, 1953
The Dionne Quints from a 1979 NYT Magazine cover
And all grown up in Life Magazine, 1952
Dioscorides, a Greek physician at the court of Nero pictured here in a 13th century Arab manuscript.

Ronny James Dio was inexplicably absent. Diogenes, however, took up the lion's share of the folder. His insistence on living in a tub (essentially a trash bin), his rigorous rejection of material possessions, and his playful cynicism have inspired artists for thousand  of years. There are myriad representations of him from varied sources and eras. A few of my favorites include:

1979  Ad for insurance, which insists you can still be wise, even if you don't choose to live like Diogenes...  


There are also quite a few images of the story my friend Sohrab had reminded me of. It seems Diogenes was a celebrities celebrity, and one of his "fans" was Alexander the Great, who stopped by Diogenes' tub one day. Alexander purportedly asked if there was anything he could do for Diogenes. "Yes," the crusty cynic replied sardonically, "You can get out of my light. You are blocking the sun."

1799 Atelier LeGrand

1895 London Illustrated News

15th Century French manuscript

1923 magazine illustration

National Geographic illustration, 1949
I love the shifting historical representations of Alexander, Diogenes, and the tub, and the way their characteristics change, especially Diogenes, who sometimes appears as an irascible crank and other times as appears as a respected sage.

I'm not sure how or whether I will use these images in the film. Perhaps, it occurred to me, I could place a series of  "PERSONALITIES"  in a playground?

I went to look at the PLAYGROUNDS folders, and the first thing I found was a strangely misfiled image from PUNISHMENTS. I decided it was time to call it a day, but I leave you  with that image, which depicts a very adult playground...

(Thanks to Chris Arnold for German translation help.)

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