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DESCRIPTION: While some earlier scholars would have labeled these maps as a€?the epitome of medieval European cartographya€?, due to the very ecclesiastical form and content, they were, indeed, an exception in this perioda€™s mapmaking. In his recent book, Body-Worlds, Opinicus de Canistris and the Medieval Cartographic Imagination, Karl Whittington writes that on the 31st of March, 1334, this Italian priest named Opinicus de Canistris fell sick.
As mentioned above, Opicinusa€™ drawings survive in two manuscripts, both kept in the Vatican Library in Rome. There is no way of knowing how many other drawings Opicinus completed, and certainly no reason to believe that all or even a majority of his works have survived. Victoria Morsea€™s 1996 doctoral dissertation for the first time performed a large-scale study in order to demonstrate the logic of Opicinusa€™ works. It was not unusual during the later Middle Ages to bring together the body and the earth in pictorial representations. The relationship on the page between texts, diagrams, and pictures throughout Opicinusa€™ work is an especially important issue. According to Whittington the captions on most of the drawings seem to interact with them in the following way: Opicinus created the visual material first, usually to address a particular theological question or theme. The elaborate, complex, and beautiful drawings that Opicinus created in the years following his illness and vision are the subject of this monograph. What we see, then, is an embodied map a€” a picture of the eartha€™s surface that is also a depiction of human bodies. Opicinusa€™ beliefs and hypotheses about the earthly, the heavenly, and the human are encoded in the very structures of his drawings. Over half of Opicinusa€™ 80 drawings in the Vaticanus and Palatinus manuscripts include at least part of a portolan chart. Opicinusa€™ body-maps are far more complicated than any of the examples above, and the question of what they mean is more difficult to answer. In a number of drawings, Opicinus used the most basic form of the body-worlds - presumably the one that he describes having received in his 1334 vision. As in all of Opicinusa€™ drawings of the body-worlds, each figure takes on a specific identity, though in this example these identities are complex.
It seems most likely that the figure depicts a sort of hybrid a€” a personification of Christianity, with Christ at its head and its heart, surrounded by elements of the cosmic order.
Its chest is bare (we can see the cloak falling away from the shoulder on the northern coast of France), but the lower roundel covers the place where a breast is often revealed in Opicinusa€™ female European figures. In three folios near the end of the Vaticanus manuscript, Opicinusa€™ cartographic drawings add one more layer of meaning on top of the basic arrangement outlined above: he superimposes a gridded local map of Pavia, his hometown, on top of a single portolan chart. According to Whittington the precise placement and scale of the two maps is certainly not accidental; the maps have been placed in a precise relation to one another in order to create and explain correspondences between them.
In contrast to this relatively simple correspondence, another caption shows how complicated his spatial interpretations could become. As a final word on this drawing, I want to return to one more visual feature: the form of the local city grid. In the two previous examples, Opicinus constructed a drawing using only one portolan chart; on fol. This doubling and mirroring of the portolan chart served a specific purpose: as Victoria Morse has argued, it allowed Opicinus to contrast the world as it was seen and known with the possibility of an alternate world converted to a state of grace.
Each of the four land-figures bears an emblem on its chest a€” these signify the intention or motivation of each character. On the bottom half of the page, however, similar captions placed on the white chart actually point to cities on that chart, rather than on the one below. Even after all of the figures in the drawing have been identified, its meaning remains elusive. There is one caption on the page that offers a tantalizing comment on its form and content.
This quoted caption outlines the general principle that Opicinus follows in these drawings that employ mirroring or correspondence a€” that the multiplied forms are generators of multiple truths and realities.
Many Vaticanus drawings contain more explicit imagery of birth and reproduction; metaphors of birth and rebirth seem to have been one of Opicinusa€™ primary ways of expressing the spiritual transformation that he underwent following his illness of 1334.
The interest in the local ramifications of the pregnancy of the European figure is explored even more closely in two drawings in which Europe is actually pregnant with a tiny map a€” fols. DESCRIPTION: A good example of Protestant theologian Heinrich Buntinga€™s Europa, Europe as a Queen. Opicinus was a minor functionary and scribe at the papal court, which had moved to Avignon some thirty years earlier, and luckily for us he kept a kind of day-book that still survives. Numerous scholars such as Camille, Kris and Salomon point to Opicinusa€™ a€?frequenta€? self-representation in the drawings.
Medieval mappaemundi often organized the land-forms of the earth around the shape of a crucifix (sometimes even a cruciform body), medieval astrological drawings commonly showed human figures at the center of cosmic and planetary networks, and the concepts of macrocosm and microcosm had been fully developed for a millennium. It is possible, and productive, to partially separate Opicinusa€™ texts from his diagrams and pictures, especially those that represent his body-worlds vision. Opicinusa€™ works present a conundrum when it comes to audience and reception, since there is no textual or visual evidence that anyone ever actually saw the drawings.
Their unusual forms complicate our most basic assumptions about what and how medieval artists could represent. These structures form the core of the drawingsa€™ disorientation and strangeness a€” maps are piled on top of other maps, sometimes transparent and sometimes opaque, in a seemingly endless play of permeability and superimposition. Some drawings contain one chart, others up to four; sometimes the continents and seas are embodied, while other times they are left plain. His drawings are so diverse and disorienting that generalizations about their design or meaning are difficult and often misleading. These drawings depict a single Africa and a single Europe, separated by the Mediterranean Sea. The figure of Africa appears to be a woman; she is labeled Babilon maledicta [cursed Babylon] by the small caption above her forehead. Captions suggest various identities: Christ, Opicinus, and a female personification of prudence are all indicated. The face is smooth and beardless (many male figures in Opicinusa€™ work wear beards), and has long, flowing hair.
According to Whittington it is mainly a confrontation between two figures: a figure of Babylon (probably representing Islam) and a figure of Christianity. This interplay between the local and the global is not unusual within Opicinusa€™ texts and captions on other drawings, which often comment on the everyday world of his youth and family (we must remember that he made these drawings in Avignon, not Pavia), but the specific visual alignment of parts of Pavia with parts of the Mediterranean region is unique in these three drawings. In the bottom right corner of the page is a caption that reads, a€?Just as the islands of purgatory pay a tax to the Roman Church, so too the Chapel of St.
Opicinus seems to say that when any two maps are placed in relation to each other, if they are true empirical representations of Goda€™s created earth, one will find correspondences between them.
One interprets the significance of the placement of Opicinusa€™ home parish district, around the Chapel of Saint Mary, delineated with a red outline near Tunisia and Sicily on the lower map.
84v each part of Opicinusa€™ hometown is given multiple interpretations, usually based on its placement on the portolan chart, but other times simply based on etymological connections, family stories, dreams, or coincidence. Certainly the drawing contains multiple levels of reality: it is an allegorical depiction of three body-world characters in contact and dialogue, a depiction of the structural connections between local and regional realities, and a series of interpretive musings about the significance of these connections for Opicinusa€™ own life and family. As the reader may already have noticed, this grid strongly evokes the rhumb-line grids that were placed over contemporary portolan charts. 61r he uses the skeletons of two portolan charts of the Mediterranean region, which have been rotated and overlapped to form one image. 61r, parts of each of the charts remain intact, while others are distorted or hidden by the overlapping forms.
In this particular example, the map shows the natural world at the bottom and the spiritual world at the top: labels on the drawing indicate that Affrica naturalis ypocrita and Europa naturalis occupy the continents of the smaller chart while Affrica spiritualis and Europa spiritualis talk to each other in the larger chart above. Europa naturalis bears a tarasque (a river demon from the Rhone) and Europa spiritualis contains an image of Christ showing his wounds, his side-wound situated suggestively close to Avignon, where Opicinus was living when he made the drawing.
The message itself is simple enough: one must abandon the external senses that lead to sin in order to follow the internal senses to redemption.
58r of the Vaticanus Opicinus combines four small embodied portolan charts to create juxtapositions between the four seasons, the four cardinal directions, and the four states of the soul. 82r, we see many of the principles and techniques of the other drawings pushed to the limits of recognition and interpretability.
On its surface lie two complete portolan outlines that retain the white color of the paper. On the upper half of the page, the brown labels all point out the location of cities on the colored chart, even though all lie on the space of the white chart; they indicate the continued presence of the map below, even when it is obscured by the upper chart.
At the precise center of the drawing, a cruciform shape is formed by the two mirrored shapes of Asia Minor and the Holy Land; Asia Minor forms the two arms, and the land below forms the body of a cruciform vestment. While other drawings seem designed to convey a single allegory or a primary confrontation between figures (which are often reinforced by the particular cartographic forms that Opicinus chose for the drawing), this drawing resists this type of analysis. According to the letter, this is a heretical position, since one species cannot be transformed into another.
84v, there are several depictions (or suggestions) of male genitalia in the Vaticanus manuscript, each of which is unique. 1350), a Pavian who worked at the papal court in Avignon, drew a series of imaginative maps, while acknowledging in a text written between 1334 and 1338 his use of nautical charts.
In a passage that describes what sounds like a stroke, Opicinus details how his body slowly became paralyzed; he temporarily lost his ability to speak, and much of his memory. Opicinus almost always dated the Vaticanus drawings, which were composed between June and November of 1337.
The passage describes a visionary experience: through oculus meis interioribus, Opicinus is granted a new view of the earth, one in which the land and the sea take on human attributes. Most examples, however, lie in the realm of the theoretical, the academic, or the theological. A significant problem with many previous studies of Opicinusa€™ drawings is that they take a few lines of text, from folios of the Palatinus, or from distant pages of text in the Vaticanus, and use them to a€?explaina€? the content of Opicinusa€™ strangest imagery. The captions (and some of the texts), then, are often the evidence of Opicinusa€™ self-analysis a€” he uses himself as a case study, personalizing the drawings through the text.
Simply put, we do not know if they were ever viewed as more than a curiosity by those who encountered them. Visual parallels to these drawings certainly exist: body-maps have been produced in numerous periods, including such famous examples as the Ebstorf Map (#224, Book II, a medieval world map that placed Christa€™s body in the corners of the earth), the Leo Belgicus (a map of the Netherlands and Belgium formed into the shape of a lion, the earliest example of which dates from 1583), or the Europa Regina, a depiction of Europe as a royal female (see below). In these drawings, Opicinus was not trying to express a single concept or doctrine, but rather to visualize the possibilities raised by an entire new way of looking at the world, based on what he had seen during his visionary experience of 1334. The varied formats of these diagrams cannot be taken for granted a€” their arrangements form a crucial and underexplored aspect of their meaning. But looking at them as a group, perhaps the first thing one notices is that the map itself is incredibly accurate. The drawings in this first a€?categorya€? are not all alike, and there is no evidence that Opicinus thought of them as a group, but finding language to describe and categorize their forms is a critical first step in their interpretation. This folio includes a cartographic picture in the upper two-thirds of the page, and text at the bottom.
She is a rare example of a figure with a distinct racial identity: Opicinus darkened her skin with a grey-brown wash, in a clear reference to an African or Middle-Eastern skin tone. One could even identify Europe in this drawing as a kind of conglomerate figure of Christianity. The strongest indicator that the figure is female is the small child lying over Lombardy a€” the area always associated with the womb of the European figure. The simplicity of this contrast stands out despite the extensive texts and interpretations written around it. Binary themes in similar drawings include a contrast between the mouth of hell and the temple of the Lord (fol.
Opicinus played with this arrangement differently in each of the three drawings, changing the scales and position of the two maps, presumably seeking different correspondences.
On the page we see the body-worlds with which we are now familiar: here, a female Europe confronts a female Africa, and the Mediterranean devil lies between them, his head to the east. 84r, in which the scale of the portolan chart is completely different (much smaller in comparison to the grid of Pavia); here, Opicinus identifies different correspondences and comes to different conclusions as a result of the change in scale.
Yet the drawing is all about experimentation, layering, and play; to claim that creating or interpreting a drawing like this is a burden or struggle may be a modern misperception. But Opicinus piles on meanings, multiplies forms, and plays with realities seemingly as a form of experimentation. The grid may offer a clue to Opicinusa€™ working process, or the way he was inspired to create these drawings.
Each of the two charts is rendered in a different scale, with a larger one oriented toward the top of the page and a smaller one pointed toward the bottom. On each map, the western Mediterranean retains its integrity a€” France, Spain, and the northwestern coast of Africa are clearly visible both at the top and the bottom of the page. In the Italian peninsula of the upper map, for example, which is overlapped by the eastern Mediterranean of the lower map, we see the word Roma written over the sea (on the sea-mana€™s forehead), signaling where the city would have been on the map below.
Both figures of the a€?natural worlda€? are male (a bearded, older figure in Europe and a tonsured monk in Africa), while both of the a€?spirituala€? figures are female (Africa is a robed nun and Europe is a younger woman with long, flowing hair).
The question, just as in the previous examples, is how its meaning is changed, activated, complicated, or simplified by its construction within the doubled and overlapped forms of the portolan charts. Within the drawing, small lines suggest points of correspondence between elements in each of the four quadrants.
The three previous drawings were characteristic of a particular type; in contrast, this drawing is unique in Opicinusa€™ oeuvre. At the top of the page are two labels for Europe and Africa: Europe is the aduena rector novus, the strange new priest, and Africa is the parrochia aliena, the parish of another.
This is labeled in a caption on the right side of the page, which reads a€?behold the vestment of the Church soaked in blood.a€? Opicinus accentuated the form of the vestment by adding a small cutout for the neck. The longer captions on this folio do not always contain a single focus, and many make no comment at all on the drawing. But spiritually there is truth in this mirror [i.e., in this drawing], since no heresy, fiction or allegory can be found that in this mirror does not give birth, at least in part, to a certain truth? Here, Opicinus seems to say that men do not transition literally into angels of light or darkness a€” the figures of the priest and parish at the top of the page do not actually become the figures at the bottom of the page. Even as Opicinusa€™ drawings make use of the natural world and empirical science, the arrangement of their forms expresses the detachment from reality that characterizes a dream. At first, we would not identify these as genitalia a€” they are simply two small, robed bodies that stand within the genital region of the European body. Four of these drawings depict the body-worlds, and the reproduction always takes place within the body of the European figure.
In each of these drawings, Opicinus drew a small copy of the body-worlds over the area of Lombardy, even extending it slightly into the sea near Genoa.
He returned to these folios frequently in the years that followed a€” many include changes, graphic additions, or new captions, which he dated individually (we find dates from the years 1338-1341, especially).
Morsea€™s other crucial innovation, in addition to asserting the rational and intentional basis of Opicinusa€™ thought, was to place the Vaticanus manuscript at the heart of her research.
Salomon and others characterize the themes of the Vaticanus manuscript as just an extension of those in the Palatinus. The shapes of Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea each contain (or form) a human figure; these are the forms that Whittington calls a€?body-worlds,a€? and they constitute Opicinusa€™ most original and perplexing contribution to 14th century visual culture. One of the things that makes Opicinusa€™ drawings so unusual is that they also incorporate a visual tradition that was practical, empirical, and scientific a€” medieval sea charts, usually called portolan charts.
He often kept adding to the drawings over many years, including new details or textual explanations, and dating them to a specific day. As mentioned above, it seems possible that the Vaticanus was never meant to be viewed by others; much of it is arranged chronologically (like a diary), rather than thematically, and the subject matter of the texts and images suggests a private function. The meaning of such imagery obviously depends on context, but these diverse examples demonstrate how a land, country, or region has often been embodied within a human figure, to show the potential power of that space, or even the dominion of a figure over it.
The images of Africa and Europe as human figures were the core of this experience, but the interpretation of the vision was left up to him. According to Whittington the formats of Opicinusa€™ body-world drawings can be grouped into four categories: (1) single portolan charts, (2) portolan charts overlapping with local maps, (3) multiple portolan charts overlapping with each other, and (4) multiple, mirrored portolan charts. The coastlines of the Mediterranean and the relative scale and position of the landforms are almost exactly the same as we know them to be today. The figure appears to be bare-chested, although no breasts are visible (perhaps they are covered by her long hair). But the label above the head of the figure seems to identify it as Opicinus assuming the identity of a€?the house of God.a€? Another caption in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of France labels the figure as an Ymago Prudentie. The fact that the face is labeled as Christa€™s would indicate on the surface that the figure is male. Yet beyond the basic characters and the captions, the drawinga€™s meaning is clearly activated or shifted by the placement of the two personifications within the geographical forms of the portolan chart; after all, it is not difficult to imagine a much simpler way to express this confrontation, using only pictures and no maps.
The scene is full of interesting and surprisingly graphic details, many of them interpreted in the marginal texts.
Such interpretations are, I think, meant as models; as Morse demonstrated, Opicinus hoped that the drawings could be used by others to probe their own consciences and personal histories. Many parts of it must have been intentionally humorous, such as the basket for collecting the sea-mana€™s excrement, the graphic sexual organs, the interpretation of the Europe womana€™s pearl earrings, or the depiction of the Africa womana€™s cloak as a green river. Even when texts in the Vaticanus indicated the stressors in Opicinusa€™ life a€”spiritual, moral, legal a€” the drawings remain exploratory and even lighthearted.
Without any words from him on the subject it is impossible to know where such an idea comes from, but perhaps the grids on the portolan chart(s) from which Opicinus was working reminded him of a gridded map of Pavia that he had seen, or perhaps even made. The mapsa€™ superimposition encourages the viewer to seek correlations between them, and Opicinus reinforces these correspondences by drawing actual lines and lines of text to connect various parts.
He grafts a spiritual system of correspondences and coordinations onto this new representation of the physical world, but specifically includes details that undermine both systems, seeking instead a negotiation between the two.
The rota on the breast of Affrica naturalis shows the mental processes that lead to sin: thinking, imagining, deciding, and delighting in (cogitatio, ymaginatio, electio, delectatio) lead the sinner to consent to sin (consensus peccati). These can either connect the same geographical location between two separate maps (as in the line drawn between the two Carthages on the upper left map and the lower left map), or establish a point of contact between the same physiological parts of two body-worlds on the same map (as in the line drawn between the reproductive areas of the Europe-woman and the Africa-woman in the upper-right map). It contains four complete portolan charts, all the exact same size, placed in careful relation to one another through overlapping and mirroring.
This is different from the numerous drawings in the previous category, in which the two charts overlapped one another; here, the two white charts on the surface of the page are both complete diagrams of the region, reflecting one another along an invisible horizontal line in the Holy Land and Asia Minor. The figures seem to present the encounter between a new priest and his new parish (a situation that Opicinus underwent several times in his early career).
The role of this form in the drawing is ambiguous a€” its cruciform shape and its a€?soaking in blooda€? certainly evoke Christa€™s sacrifice, and its position at the heart of the drawing, precisely where the two white maps are mirrored, suggests that it may be significant in the transition between the two.
One caption on the left side of the page is a short rant about the mosquitoes that were bothering Opicinus while he made the drawing, while another, longer text at the lower left is an extended metaphorical description of the penis, describing how, like a heretic disobeying the Church, the penis disobeys the orders of the body. It is the caption that tells us something different; over their heads are written the words a€?matrixa€? and a€?virgaa€? a€” womb and penis. Representing pregnancy and birth inside of Europe was a way for Opicinus to convey how both good and evil tendencies enter the world.
Some researchers have convincingly explained this positioning of the tiny body-world figures as indicating a Caesarian birth; as Opicinus explains, the two figures are born through Genoa, the a€?forced porta€? in the stomach of the European figure, rather than through Venice, the a€?natural porta€? of the figurea€™s vaginal canal (Opicinus makes the pun about Venetian a€?canalsa€? several times).
The earliest depiction of Europe as a woman is believed to be by the 14th century Pavian cleric Opicinus de Canistris for the papal court, then at Avignon. The dating of the Palatinus is more complicated a€” the large autobiographical calendar on fol.
The Vaticanus was often mentioned by earlier authors, but had never been the object of extensive study, perhaps because its visual material is smaller and less elaborate than the large Palatinus folios. These and other claims are refuted by Whittington with a basic statistical analysis of the manuscriptsa€™ subject matter. Their enigmatic forms, expressions, and arrangements have the power to arrest the attention of modern viewers, reversing expectations about what sorts of imagery were possible in the early 14th century. The a€?world,a€? in Opicinusa€™ drawings, is always represented using these charts; they form the drawingsa€™ structural basis and frame their meanings. Still, crucially, this does not make the drawings, in their inception, a€?abouta€? Opicinus.
The large size of the Palatinus folios suggests a more public function, given their physical similarity to large medieval wall maps and portolan charts. Here one sees before a map of the Mediterranean world a€” Europe, North Africa, Anatolia and part of the Near East are left the white color of the paper, and the seas around them are tinted with a reddish-brown wash. The incredibly diverse drawings that he created in the years that followed were his way of exploring the meaning of this vision and experimenting with different strategies for representing its shape and scope, searching for the arrangements and combinations that would lead him to the deepest meaning. Opicinusa€™ maps were based on the most modern and technically accomplished cartography of his day a€” marinersa€™ sea-charts, which we call portolan charts. Several folios depict only the western portion of the standard Mediterranean portolan chart, limiting their view to the area between Gibraltar and the boot of Italy. The geographic range of the depicted portolan outline is narrow - we see Gibraltar, Tunisia, France, Spain, and Italy, but none of the eastern Mediterranean, which is cut off by the drawinga€™s lower edge. Little is visible of her lower body, but she wears some kind of cloth wrapped around her waist. However, the most prominent indicator of the figurea€™s identity is the large rota around the face in the Iberian peninsula, which seems to label the figure as Christ.
The drawing thus suggests a combination of male and female elements: a pregnant female personification of Christendom, with Christ at the head and heart. In this first example, where the contrast between the two figures is simple and direct, we can more easily explore two ways that the form of the drawing a€” its geographical frame a€”may change the meaning of these figures. For example, the Mediterranean figure appears to have two sexual organs a€” one massive penis that seems to be ejaculating onto the southern coast of Spain, and another that he clutches in his fist (presumably in an act of masturbation) near Venice. 84v, numerous captions explore the moral, theological, quotidian, and incidental correspondences created by the overlay of the city grid on the portolan chart.
In addition, the monastery with which they were both associated fell near Rome on the portolan chart. The revelation and the experiment were meant to be used by anyone a€” Opicinus is using himself as a test case, taking examples from his own life, family history, and childhood, and using them to interpret the correspondence between the two charts. These are all examples of Akbaria€™s horizontal allegory, or of allegory as a primarily interpretive act; Opicinus creates the structure (which may or may not have an intrinsic meaning a€” in this case, it seems not to), but the primary work is put into interpretation, play, and the creative exploration of his visual construction. Opicinus created, an over-determined world because of its opportunities and flexibility, not to build a burdensome system that would collapse on top of him. This basic format is repeated on at least eight other pages in the Vaticanus; again, there are variations in the size and placement of the two maps, but all of these examples include two portolan charts that are laid on top of one another. In the smaller, lower image, the negative space of the chart a€” the sea a€” is tinted with a light brown wash, delineating the body of the so-called a€?Mediterranean Man,a€? often labeled a€?Lucifera€? His head and beard occupy the eastern Mediterranean (his ear tucked against the Nile delta and curving beard shaping the coast of the Anatolian peninsula), his arms gesture near Italy (one fist plunging violently east of Italy, forming the Adriatic), and his feet poke out near Gibraltar, between the faces of Europe and Africa. On this page he connects the two representations of the Adriatic with a diagonal line that slices through the center of the image, running from Venice on one chart to Venice on the other. Morse also points out that different renderings of the sea in the two charts likely correspond to their content; the embodied a€?devil seaa€? lies between the natural worlds, while the a€?spiritual seaa€? is left empty, perhaps to indicate its purity. Small lines connect the first four concepts to the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth of the Africa-figure, indicating the complicity of the exterior senses in this pathway to sin. 74v how Opicinus, by framing his allegories within the portolan charts, solidified their meaning into measured form, aligning the worlda€™s shapes with the truths and figures they revealed. The meaning of such lines remains ambiguous, but they do suggest points of contact and interconnection between elements that are otherwise set in opposition to one another. All four of these portolan charts are embodied, creating eight distinct characters: four male figures of Europe, and four figures of Africa (two angels and two male figures). Rather than containing the figure of the diabolical sea, the spaces of the Mediterranean and Black Seas on these two charts are left as windows through which the viewer can see the other maps in the drawing. The colored worlds below are not labeled, but the figures seem to be a precise mirror of those on top, in both gender and physical appearance. Opicinusa€™ statement about the generation of meaning seems to apply both to this drawing and to many others that depict multiple levels of reality (usually through multiple iterations of the body-worlds).
82r becomes overwhelming, Opicinus provides the viewer with visual cues to make sense of the drawinga€™s disorienting forms.
This drawing contrasts two complete sets of body-worlds, one overlapping and partially obscuring the other, and two very different depictions of genitalia are found in the area around Venice on both depictions of Europe.
In a passage early in the Vaticanus, Opicinus describes how the a€?diabolical seaa€? inseminates an already-pregnant Europe, splitting the child unnaturally into two figures a€” Europe and Africa.
Victoria Morse shows the way that Opicinus read meaning even into the precise position of these two tiny body-worlds over Lombardy below, determining which local cities fell under Africa and Europe. The first 48 contain little visual material besides a few marginalia, while the second half of the book includes some text-only pages, some full-page drawings, and some smaller drawings with extensive text on or around them.
11r, which provides the most complete information about his life, ends with June 1336, suggesting that this drawing was finished by that date.
In contrast, Morse demonstrated that the Vaticanus holds the key to understanding Opicinusa€™ thought: its drawings are more intimate and revealing, and it contains over a hundred pages of text. Portolan charts were modern, cutting-edge diagrammatic maps of the Mediterranean region, and Opicinusa€™ use of them transforms what would otherwise have been old-fashioned, theoretical, and primarily textual drawings into a completely new type of representation. Interpreting the vision with relation to his own body and life was only one of the tactics that he used. The drawings in both manuscripts could have been preparatory studies for some larger-scale project or commission that was never carried out. According to Whittington, to explain what the body-worlds a€?mean,a€? one must explore how and why Opicinus harnessed these maritime maps to a completely different purpose from that for which they were created.
Others include the entire range of the chart, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea and the Holy Land. Small captions and rotae are positioned at various points on the map; some of these are placed to comment specifically on a geographical feature, while others remark more generally on the drawing and its characters.
A worm or snake emerges from an otherwise empty circle on her stomach, twisting along the North African coast, its mouth gnawing on the figurea€™s thumb near Carthage.
Large red capital letters spell out C-R-I-S-T-U-S, with each letter also being the first letter of one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Opicinus uses the portolan chart to construct a binary system in which values can be opposed, and also to place these allegories or personifications within a space that is, in the broadest sense, real. On the southern coast of France, a basket-woven pattern is explained in a caption as a basket to catch the excrement of the sea-figure.
For example, in a short passage in the upper left corner of the page, Opicinus mentions that the body of the sea-devil extends beyond the inner city wall of the Pavian map, which he interprets as a sign that malice and mischief are spread out in the city; beyond the old city walls. An over-determined world allowed him to make visible to himself and his potential readers the primary concerns, impulses, histories, and spaces of his world and his body in a way that led to potentially productive connections and revelations.
In contrast, the sea of the larger top map is not embodied, and retains the color of the paper. This line could help the viewer perceive the imagea€™s orientation, by providing a reference point for the location of the same city on each map at this crucial juncture at the center.
The sea-figure takes control of the pagea€™s center, superimposing his twisting body over the eastern half of the upper, spiritual chart a€” his a€?negativea€? space dominates the positive space of the other chart. In contrast, a caption on the rota for Affrica spiritualis points to the interior senses (sensus interiores) that indicate spiritual progress: meditation, contemplation, discernment, and rumination (meditatio, contemplatio, discretio, degustatio). They also establish that the body-worldsa€™ identities as both bodies and maps remain significant on their own; because connections rely on their status as both maps and bodies, one is not emphasized over the other.
This window or outline a€” the negative space of the upper drawing a€” provides a view onto a world of color. The mirror of any of his creations, which he acknowledges are fabrications (in the sense that they are imaginary and exploratory), will always contain some new level of meaning.
The two red lines indicate the precise point where worlds are mirrored, and the differentiation in color a€” white, brown, and red a€” brings the forms of the body-worlds into a near-sculptural relief. In the overlapped body-worlds, which are tinted with red and brown wash, we see a small penis depicted inside the figure of Europe, just past the fist of the Mediterranean figure. It must be acknowledged that both figures are shaped like small penises, but it is also true that in medieval anatomical texts the female genitalia are often described as an interiorized mirror image of a male penis, so perhaps we should not be surprised that the two are a€?personified,a€? if we want to use that term, in similar ways. According to Victoria Morse, Europea€™s pregnancy was also related to local political situations, visualizing the (sexual) corruption of Lombardy within an otherwise holy European body. She then contrasts this a€?violenta€? delivery of the figures with the small baby depicted on fol.
In 1537 the Tirolese cartographer Johann Putsch celebrated the Hapsburg rule over Europe by presenting a placid a€?Europa Reginaa€? wearing Charles Va€™s Spain as a crown and Ferdinanda€™s Austria as a medal at her waist, representing the triumph of the Hapsburgs.
The representation and interpretation of this divine image of the earth would occupy much of the rest of his life. Other dates in the manuscript are scarce; most scholars agree that the bulk of the drawings were completed between February 1335 and June 1336, with later additions stretching all the way to 1350. Opicinus was working during a crucial moment in the history of cartography, when numerous artists and mapmakers sought to combine old and new forms.
Most of the drawings suggest other interpretive avenues, through personifications, allegorical confrontations, or superimposition; one does not have to turn to Opicinusa€™ biography to explain them. It is also possible that these works were intended, like several of Opicinusa€™ earlier treatises, for the Pope. In this example, Europe is embodied as a man a€” his head occupies the Iberian Peninsula, his chest and stomach lie in France (where some kind of beast in the ocean tries to bite at his shoulder), his arm arches up through the lowlands and Germany, and his legs occupy the Italian peninsula and the Dalmatian coast.
He used this technical, practical, scientific cartography to probe deeper into the nature of God and the created world. But all of the drawings in this category share a single feature: they include only one map, one level of cartographic reality on the page. The two figures that constitute, lie within, or coexist with Africa and Europe are classic examples of Opicinusa€™ body-worlds (the third figure that often appears in the Mediterranean is not included, in this particular drawing).
In two outer concentric rings Opicinus places the names of the seven planets and the days of the week. Yet their placement within a map, particularly an empirical one which was actually used for travelling, emphasizes the tenuousness of such binary oppositions. Despite these and other details on the figures, the actual bodies seem less important to Opicinus in these three drawings; the commentary focuses more on the physical interplay and connections between the two overlapping maps. It is not that he thinks that this image of the two maps placed in this particular arrangement is necessarily a€?correcta€? or a€?truea€? a€” on fol. 84v offers further evidence that Opicinus viewed the portolan charts as empirical representations.
At the centre of the page the embodied eastern Mediterranean of the lower map (including the Black Sea) overlaps both the land and the sea of the upper map, so that its eastern half (part of Italy and all of Greece, Egypt, and Turkey) is obscured. Or, given the opposing genders of the two Europes in the maps, and the fact that the area at the top of the Adriatic was understood as the erogenous zone of the European body, the line could suggest a sexual point of contact a€” even intercourse a€” between the two figures.
It is necessary first to describe and explain the drawinga€™s complex structure, before discussing its content in relation to several captions that surround it.
In the space below, the continents are shaded a brick red, while the seas are painted a soft brown-grey. The interpretive paradigm for this drawing must be one of experimentation; it is the only image in the manuscript with this particular arrangement of forms, and through it Opicinus only seems to have arrived at fragments of meaning. The small caption nearby simply reads Venetie [Venice] and without further explanation it is unclear whether the penis belongs to the European body, depicted lying back against his stomach, or whether he is somehow being penetrated by a small penis belonging to the sea-figure. Here, reproductive sexuality is a sign of corruption; elsewhere, as we will see, it is a marker of generative spirituality.
74v, which is positioned for a normal delivery through Venice, with its head down and its arms folded peacefully in prayer.
The queena€™s crown (Spain), orb (Sicily), and heart (Bohemia) from a triangle that directs the viewera€™s eye away from Eastern Europe toward the West. In over eighty surviving drawings, now kept in the Vatican Library and referred to by scholars as the Vaticanus and Palatinus manuscripts, he experimented with how he could uncover the meaning that he was sure God had planted in the vision he saw, in the hope that his drawings would help to renew the faith of all Christians. Far more drawings in the Vaticanus portray body-worlds (23), while few in the Palatinus do so (6).
This encounter between the scientific and the spiritual is best explored by looking at the structures that Opicinus used to create the drawings. Another rota lies inside France, near the location that Opicinus usually associates with the a€?hearta€? of the Europe figure a€” Avignon. On a map you can literally sail by sea from one a€?placea€? or a€?bodya€? to the other a€” each place is accessible to the other. Here, the grid structures the space of the local map, but also shapes the way we view the portolan below.
It looks like a kind of symbolic twin to the spatio-indexical rhumb lines of the original portolan charts. 61r demonstrates that Opicinus was also aware of the dangers of aligning appearance with truth; appearances could just as easily deceive as reveal. The arrangement of these colored maps beneath the surface of the white ones is the most complicated aspect of the drawing. The angels are labeled angelus lucis and angelus tenebrarum a€” an angel of light and an angel of darkness. Given the penises in this region that we discussed above, this latter proposition is not without basis, but it seems more likely that it belongs to the European figure, since it is tinted the same color. Nearly all of the drawings in the Palatinus feature what Whittington calls an a€?overarching containing structurea€? a€” a geometrical framework that contains all of the drawinga€™s content.
Her face is to the west, shown in profile as she seems to whisper into the ear of the European figure across the Straits of Gibraltar. She seems to speak directly into the ear of the European figure, depicted partly in profile and partly from the front. At the center of the roundel is a seated figure of Christ showing his wounds; around this are the names of seven episcopal seats, and the seven planets and their positions. In these simplest drawings, though, such a possibility is only hinted at; a much fuller manipulation of the metaphor of travel and movement between binaries, and indeed a subversion of the very concept of binary opposition, is found in Opicinusa€™ more complicated images, discussed below. This grid, eight squares by ten, is oriented in the same way as the map below, with east at the top of the page (the street grid of Pavia was, and still is, slightly off-axis from the cardinal points because of its alignment with the river, which is reflected in its positioning at a slight angle on the page). Opicinus just seems to be testing each possible arrangement on either side of the folio, turning it back and forth to see which parts of it align with things he believes to be true. Any resident or visitor familiar with the city would recognize that the local map of Pavia was a measured, accurate representation, and the fundamental hypothesis of this image and its interpretation is that correspondences can be deduced through the alignment of one measured map with another. One complete map lies below the upper white map, and one complete map lies below the lower white map, but each is placed in a different relation to its chart above. The angel of light in the surface map whispers into the ear of the upper male Europe, labeled homo spiritualis, while the angel of darkness whispers to homo carnalis.
61v, where two tiny figures with the same labels hold between them a baby, its head positioned downward, pointing toward the area near Venice through which we presume it would be born.
The danger of any study of Opicinus is that in seeking out the contexts in which one may understand Opicinusa€™ work as logical and coherent, one risks losing sight of what makes them so exceptional. But he also used this idea in order to create images unrivalled in their complexity and interpretive difficulty, multiplying maps and figures across the page in kaleidoscopic networks.
The local grid is filled in with detail; the numerous small labels in brown indicate churches, city gates, bridges, and monasteries in Pavia, while the few red captions refer to cities or regions on the portolan below (here, like elsewhere, Opicinus uses color to clarify his content for the reader).
Once again, a grid serves two functions, measuring the space of one reality and indicating the measurability of another. On the top half of the page, the tinted map below is a precise mirror image of the upper map, reflected from it along a red horizontal line that bisects the upper, white body-worlds. The arrangement recalls nothing so much as the angel and devil of the human conscience that perch on the shoulders of cartoon figures in modern movies and comics, offering advice and urging the character towards good or bad decisions; in the drawing, the heads of the angels seem to rest directly on the shoulders of the figures below them. Here, the two a€?personificationsa€? of the penis and the womb have produced a tiny child and are preparing it for birth. Later editions of Europe as a queen were issued by Sebastian Munster, Heinrich Bunting and Matthias Quad. This a€?manuscripta€? is a collection of 27 huge unbound parchment sheets, averaging about two by three feet, although some are significantly larger. This observation prompts the next a€” that the Palatinus drawings almost always include calendars (usually as part of the overarching containing structure), while few of the Vaticanus drawings do. Looking at the drawings as a whole, there can be no doubt that there are distinct threads running through them a€” themes, problems, and possibilities that Opicinus set out to explore. And just as the drawingsa€™ forms combine simplicity and complexity, their content also veers from the straightforward to the impenetrable.
The relationship between these human figures and the landforms is, as is always the case in Opicinusa€™ drawings, very difficult to describe. The huge green swath at the right of the page indicates the Ticino River, which is coextensive with the long veil or cloak worn by the Africa woman.
The white body-worlds in the top layer always overlap the lower, colored ones, which are only visible in the negative space of the sea.
These personificationsa€™ sexuality is normative and non-transgressive a€” male and female members come together inside of the female body. Depending on the individual viewera€™s perception, the figures can seem to be lying on top of the land, growing out of it, or somehow placed under it a€” as if the landforms are windows through which we are looking. The green lines at the top and bottom of the page show the path of several Pavian canals, and the three concentric red boundaries drawn around the page indicate the city walls. The same system is repeated in the lower half of the drawing, except that the lower tinted map is reflected along a vertical line, also colored red. From these observations, Whittington generalizes some of the basic differences between the two manuscripts. Most of all, however, these enigmatic forms seem to depict the earth and the bodies as coextensive, and of the same material a€” bodies made out of the earth. The two maps on the bottom half of the page are also mirror images of one another, but along a different axis. The Vaticanus seems to be more of a personal manuscript, perhaps never intended for a wider audience. The more one looks at these body-worlds, the more one sees the human figures as figures a€” the stranger parts of their bodies, where the landforms do not align so easily with a normative human shape, become less and less noticeable. The two red axes are thus crucial to understanding the drawing: they must have been used to construct it and also intended to aid in its decoding. Its drawings are less structured and presentational, contain more sexual imagery, and include more personal themes, all of which we might associate with a private, rather than public function (although such distinctions were perhaps more fluid in 14th century Italy than they are today). Secondly, the drawings in the Vaticanus and Palatinus have very different structures; the Vaticanus uses the form of the portolan [nautical] chart to structure meaning and representations of bodies, while the Palatinus drawings use larger geometric, ecclesiastical, and temporal frames, which in turn often contain representations of the earth. Finally, the Palatinus drawings contain a temporal, cyclical element (numerous calendars and representations of the zodiac) that the Vaticanus drawings usually lack.
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