Le Corbeau Volant, 1875
While in NYC last weekend, I squeezed in an hour at the MoMA to see their exhibition Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities (July 30-Nov 10, 2008). It’s really phenomenal. The main criticism I heard as I wandered the gallery was that the collection was perhaps a bit incoherent and scattered, and that may be true, but order barely imposed on a chaotic diversity of specimens is the essence of a wonder cabinet – isn’t it?
This was one of the specimens that caught my eye: a simple, fluid lithograph of a flying raven by Edouard Manet. It’s from the illustrated French edition of “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. Apparently Stephane Mallarme, the poet who translated “The Raven” into French, was friends with Manet, and they collaborated on this edition.
I fully agree with the curator who chose the ex libris image above for inclusion in the MoMA collection: it’s timeless and graceful, and a little bit sinister. Unfortunately, the other lithographs Manet did strike me as boring. Ultimately, the book was not very popular, perhaps because Poe, Manet, and Mallarme were not yet well-known – or perhaps because (in my opinion, at least) the bookplate was the best thing about it!
I’ll post my review of the MoMA exhibition in a few days.