Tuesday, June 14, 2011

18th C. Mezzotints Provide Moral to Rep. Weiner's Twitter Fiasco

by Stephen J. Gertz

If Congressman Anthony Weiner had, at the very least,  used this:

LADMIRAL, Jan. Brain of an Unborn Child (1738).

...he would not have caused inflammation and molto agita for all concerned in this:

LADMIRAL, Jan. Muscularis mucosae of the intestine (1736).

...by Tweeting this:

LADMIRAL, Jan. Human penis (1741).

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Jan Ladmiral (1698 - 1773) was a pupil and assistant to the great anatomical illustrator Jacob Christoph Le Blon (1670 - 1741). Afterward, Ladmiral, apparently, presumed ownership of Le Blon's secret invention for coloring mezzotint engravings, a process using three different impressions of primary colors (blue, yellow, and red) for one image and thus able to produce different color values without the use of black.

"Ladmiral offered his services in the making of colored anatomical representations to the famous anatomist, Albinus in Leyden. This anatomist put his (Ladmiral's] invention to the test and even permitted him to use two posthumous drawings by Ruysch…" (Choulant and Streeter, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration, p. 267).

Between 1736 and 1741 Ladmiral created six colored mezzotints of anatomical subjects that made his reputation and remain highly regarded as amongst the finest examples ever produced. Three of those mezzotints are seen here. The initial print in the series, Muscularis mucosae of the intestine, from 1736, is a milestone, the first use of color printing in a medical or scientific book.

Of Ladmiral's colored mezzotint of the human intestine's lining, Albinus wrote:

"It happened that that excellent and industrious painter John Ladmiral came to me and offered his services for making pictures colored after life in a sort of short-hand kind of painting. To see what he could do in this line I have had a picture made which I have added to the dissertation…words fail me to express the incredible variety of twisting of these branches, as the artist had rendered it on the plate" (as  cited by Choulant and Streeter).

And, so, too, words failed Rep. Weiner to adequately express the incredible variety of twisting that ultimately had himself and his libido splayed-out and pinned-down as an anatomical specimen laid bare for public dissection in the media theater.

Recent news, however, suggests interesting possibilities. The Congressman is seeking professional help. His problem is generally considered to be intractable and unresponsive to treatment, so it appears that he is in the vanguard for a new modality, one that heralds a golden age in psychotherapy and the potential for a hit reality-TV show that, with an endless supply of qualified participants, promises to run forever: Rehab For Putzes, the Yiddish epithet appropriate whether used in its strict or casual sense.
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LADMIRAL, Jan and Frederik RUYSCH. Icon Durae Matris in concave Superfice visae, ex capite foetus humani… Leiden: Dirk Haak; Amsterdam: Jacob Graal and Hendrik de Leth, 1738. Quarto. Franklin, Color Printing pp. 41-42. Lanwehr, Color Plates 108. Lilly 101. Wellcome II, p. 428.


[LADMIRAL, Jan]. ALBINI, Bernardi Siegfried. Dissertatio de arteriis et venis intestinorum hominis. Leiden: Dirk Haak; Amsterdam: Jacob Graal and Hendrik de Leth, 1736. Quarto. Franklin, Color Printing pp. 41-42. Lanwehr, Color Plates 3. Lilly 101. Wellcome I, p. 26.



LADMIRAL, Jan. Effigies penis humani. Leiden: Cornelis Haak; Amsterdam: Jacob Graal and Hendrik de Leth, 1741. Quarto. Franklin, Color Printing pp. 41-42. Lanwehr, Color Plates 109. Lilly 101. Wellcome II, p. 428.
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Mezzotint images courtesy of Asher Rare Books/Antiquariat Forum. Title pages courtesy of University of Iowa Digital Library. Our thanks to both.
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View Ladmiral's other three extraordinary anatomical mezzotints here.
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