Conjonction orbiculaire

In one of his two speeches on castrati (controversial figures, apparently ideal lovers for women who did not want to get pregnant, and the subject of an injunction of 1619 issued by the Parisian law-courts as a result…), the comedian known as Bruscambille makes the following observation about Spring:

‘In this pleasing season, the pilgrim starts planting his staff while the shepherd starts playing on nature’s flute and the mute bagpipe in the shade of the shepherdess’s mossy mound. In short, at this time, everything lives, everything dances, and breathes only orbicular conjunction.’

[En ceste agreeable saison, le Pelerin commence à planter son bourdon, le berger à jouer du flageolet de nature, et de la cornemuse sourde à l’ombre du tertre moussu de la bergere. Bref, en ce temps tout vit, tout dance, et ne respire que la conjunction orbiculaire.]

He goes on to comment how sad it is that castrati cannot ‘chime and ring their bells’ to celebrate the arrival of sweet Spring.

The ornately Latinate phrase ‘orbicular conjunction’ / ‘conjonction orbiculaire’ has inspired Dominic Hills’s latest and similarly ornate print:

Conjonction orbiculaire © Dominic Hills

Conjonction orbiculaire
© Dominic Hills

Bending nature’s crossbow

In his speech on the rare and remarkable objects he has brought from Mexico, which he intends to gift to the French nation so it may be seen as the greatest for the sumptuousness of the dresses ladies wear to ballets, the comedian known as Bruscambille (see previous posts, passim) lists, among other things:

  • a pair of underpants of the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca that are full of moral sayings worthy of profound consideration;
  • Jupas’s lute, which produces such harmonies that whoever hears them isn’t deaf;
  • a pair of marvellous glasses that allowed Saturn to choose a white cloth with which to wipe his bottom.

For his latest print, Dominic Hills was naturally inspired by one of these Mexican objets d’art, namely:

The chamber pot used by Mars and Venus, to Vulcan’s great displeasure, of such size and perfect proportion that it inflames the hearts of its viewers with unbearable lust, and makes nature’s crossbow bend back, to fire at the deer with no nose.

[L’urinal duquel se servoient Mars et Venus, avec un grand desplaisir de Vulcan, de telle mesure et juste proportion qu’il enflamme les cœurs des regardans de luxure insupportable, et faict bander l’arbalestre de nature, pour tirer après la beste fauve qui n’a point de nez.]

Bander l’arbalestre de nature © Dominic Hills

Bander l’arbalestre de nature
© Dominic Hills

Anyone in any doubt as to what the ‘deer with no nose’ refers only needs to consult one of Bruscambille’s speeches on noses, where he establishes in Latin that while men have two noses ‘primum capiti, secundus jacet in braguibus’ [‘this first on the head, the second in the codpiece’], women on the other hand only have one nose ‘ad est capitale, sed abest bragale’ [‘one on the head, but the one in the codpiece is missing’].

 

Umbilical pistol

In his speech in praise of the number three, the comedian known as Bruscambille (see other posts, passim) asserts that the umbilical pistol (‘pistolet umbilicaire’) needs three things:

1. To be well cocked and full of gunpowder;

2. To be charged with a couple of bullets;

3. To have a new holster, for if you put it in a old rotten holster covered in cobwebs, your pistol will be ruined.

Things have changed since Bruscambille’s day, of course, and Dominic Hill’s animated print of the umbilical pistol takes inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard’s observation that all you need to make a film is a gun and a girl:

Pistolet umbilicaire © Dominic Hills

Pistolet umbilicaire
© Dominic Hills

 

 

 

 

Souffler au cul

In the nonsensical court case between the lords of Baisecul (Kissarse) and Humevesne (Sniff-fart) in Rabelais’s Pantagruel, Humevesne observes that among all good bagpipes, when hunting for birds and swinging a broom around the chimney three times, one only blows into the arse (‘souffler au cul’), but as soon as we see the letters, the cows will be returned to him.

Blowing into the arse is of course a waste of time for there is no point breathing into something that is perfectly capable of producing its own wind power. It’s so much hot air, like the court case, which drones on like the bagpipes Humevesne mentions, full of wind but empty of substance.

Dominic Hills’s animated illustration of this expression gives it an industrial feel, like a poster from the Soviet Union, exhorting us to Stakhanovist levels of bottom blowing:

Souffler au cul © Dominic Hills

Souffler au cul
© Dominic Hills

 

Shake the feminine tree

In his speech on the pleasure of defecation (‘En faveur de la felicité chiatique’ – see previous post, ‘Hang four hams from a peg’), the early seventeenth-century comedian known as Bruscambille claims that the joy of crapping is greater than that of sex because:

‘one can breathe the air easily for a month, a year, even to the very brink of the tomb, without it being necessary to shake the feminine tree, to get fruit, but it’s entirely impossible to stop oneself going for a crap, because it is such a pleasure that if we are deprived of it for five or six days, we may as well put our boots on to travel speedily to the other side, for it is in such harmony with life, that the one cannot survive without the other.’

One of the main jokes of a speech like this, an ancient genre technically known as a mock encomium, or praise of something normally deemed unworthy of praise, is to use the most elaborate language and argument for the most ignoble of subjects. Dominic Hills’s print of this image, ‘Locher l’arbre fœminin pour en avoir du fruict’ (‘To shake the feminine tree to get fruit’), is similarly elaborate, a three-dimensional animated woodprint with moving parts:

Locher l’arbre féminin © Dominic Hills

Locher l’arbre féminin
© Dominic Hills

Other recent examples of such prints are in the gallery and may well be appearing as a dedicated, indeed unique, art app in the not too distant future.

Hang four hams from a peg

In his speech on the pleasure of taking a crap (‘En faveur de la felicité chiatique’), the early seventeenth-century comedian known as Bruscambille (see previous posts), compares the delight of defecation with the joy of sex:

‘When men, while night has its black nightcap on, imitate carpenters and amuse themselves pegging the mortise while their wives, like good housekeepers, hang four hams from a peg, and get busy with a Cyclops in their furnace, who more often than not works so hard that he seems enraged, given how much he spits, I would concede that then they receive the greatest contentment you can have here on earth…’

Pendre quatre jambons en une cheville © Dominic Hills

Pendre quatre jambons en une cheville
© Dominic Hills

One of the remarkable images in this extraordinary speech has inspired Dominic Hills’s latest print, ‘Pendre quatre jambons en une cheville’ (‘Hang four hams from a peg’), which takes its cue not only from metaphors involving pork products, but also from Jean-Édouard Vuillard.

Incidentally, Bruscambille argues that while you can live for many years without ever hanging hams from a peg or indeed shaking the feminine tree to get the fruit, if you are deprived of faecal felicity for even a few days, you will surely leave this vale of tears behind. The delight of defecation is more vital than that of ham-hanging. QED.

Ben Jonson’s churnd bollock

On a recent trip to the British Library, I took an idle look at Ben Jonson’s copy of Rabelais’s complete works, in which he made copious notes, in the hope that he would have tried to decipher the nonsensical ‘Antidoted Fanfreluches’, which contain the giant Gargantua’s genealogy and that were discovered in an ancient tomb, in a ‘big, fat, great, gray, pretty, small, mouldy, little pamphlet, smelling stronger, but no better than roses’. While Jonson had dutifully glossed the opening chapters to the book, the ‘Antidoted Fanfreluches’ were understandably left untouched by his hand.

NPG 2752; Benjamin Jonson by Abraham van BlyenberchI did however identify some of Jonson’s notes that other scholars had not spotted before, especially to Rabelais’s catalogue of the Library of Saint-Victor, which contains such learned tomes as The Codpiece of Law and the Art of Farting Politely in Public. Jonson’s marginalia include ‘churnd bollock’, actually a mistranslation of La Couille barine des preux [The Elephantine Penis of the Valiant], and ‘bridle champer’, the latter meaning a lawyer, ‘from his mule, which attending while her master is in court, hath leisure enough to champ on the bridle’ (this from Randle Cotgrave’s Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), which Jonson clearly had by his side as he took his notes).

Other gems can be consulted in a note on Jonson’s notes:

Previously Unnoticed Annotations to Jonson’s Copy of Rabelais

Ad te levavi

In Rabelais’s Gargantua (1534) the characters discuss ‘Why monks are the outcasts of the world; and wherefore some have bigger noses than others’. On the latter issue, Friar John argues that his own large nose is the result of his wet nurse having had large, soft breasts, enabling the growth of said organ, whereas a wet nurse with smaller and harder breasts would have impeded its expansion (this, incidentally, seems to have been an entirely respectable medical view of the time, since the royal surgeon Ambroise Paré cites it in all apparent seriousness in his complete works).

Friar John concludes ‘ad formam nasi cognoscitur ad te levavi‘ (‘from the shape of the nose one can see that of “to you I rose up”‘). The last three words come from Psalm 123 (or 122 depending on your Bible): ‘canticum graduum ad te levavi oculos meos qui habitas in caelis’ (‘To thee have I lifted up my eyes, who dwellest in heaven’). It might seem surprising for even a fictional friar to use Scripture to joke about the age-old association between the size of the nose and that of the penis. Such humour was however apparently widespread in monastic communities and especially among Franciscan friars who would also preach in the market place and thereby need some ready wit at their disposal to engage their audience.

Friar John’s theory has had quite a considerable afterlife, and doubtless the most recent adaptation is to be found in Dominic Hills’s illustration (best viewed in Chrome, Firefox or Safari, since Internet Explorer struggles to convey the enormous nose in all its animated excess):

Ad te levavi

Perhaps the fullest discussion of the saying is in the learned doctor Laurent Joubert’s Erreurs populaires au fait de la medecine (Popular Errors Concerning Medicine) (1578):

‘Et quoy qu’on dise Ad formam nasi cognoscitur ad te levavi, d’autant que la proportion des membres n’est observée en tous, plusieurs ont une belle trompe de nez qui sont camus du reste et plusieurs camus du nez sont bien apointés du membre principal.’

[‘And although one says Ad formam nasi cognoscitur ad te levavi, yet the proportion of parts of the body is not seen in everyone, several have a fine elephantine nose who are snubbed elsewhere and several snub-nosed men are well appointed as far as their principal member is concerned’]

Rabelais’s joke also found its way into two of Bruscambille’s speeches (see previous posts). In one devoted to recounting the genealogy of his underpants, he comments that he does not want women to judge his essence by his codpiece but rather to say of him ‘Ad formam nasi cognoscitur ad te levavi‘ (presumably the comedian was graced with a large nose) and, in a speech in praise of large noses, he cites the same saying as proof that the nose is ‘the true mould of the codpiece’ (‘le vray moule de la braguette’).

Gossip and Nonsense in Basel

Following fly-posting in Berlin, Savannah, and London (see gallery and previous posts), Dominic Hills’s prints have now been propagated in Basel by our friend and colleague Dominique Brancher.

Dominique chose strategic locations for the art-work, including ‘Milchhüssli’, a bar of ill repute that had recently been shut down, and the University Hospital on Spitalstrasse, as settings for ‘Forger sur l’enclume de nature’ [‘To forge on nature’s anvil’]:

Basel

Basel

The Rathaus (town hall) and a fountain on Missionstrasse for the ‘Jeu du bilboquet sans chandelle’ [‘Cup-and-ball game with the lights off’]: Basel

BaselThe ‘Donjon d’amour’ [‘Dungeon of Love’] found its way to Mittlere Brücke, overlooking the Rhine, and to Hans Holbein’s house:

Basel

Basel

There are other examples in the Gallery.

Dominique reports that a passer-by told her that she should be afraid of the police but we are pleased to report that her posting of Dominic Hills’s prints has not yet led to her incarceration in a Swiss dungeon.

Gossip and Nonsense on the Streets of London

Following fly-posting and Berlin and Savannah, GA (see previous posts), the time had come to take Dominic Hills’s prints inspired by French Renaissance obscenities and ‘excessive language’ to the streets of London, including Brick Lane, which has become a mecca of sorts for street art.

gossip_and_nonsense_flyposting

Here we see an old favourite, the ‘donjon d’amour’ (dungeon of love) next to a couple of heads of state.

‘Forger sur l’enclume de nature’ (to forge on nature’s anvil) made its first appearance:

close_up

The street as art gallery allows for all kinds of happy connections between the street and the art (the picture to the left reminds us of Montaigne’s criticism of sixteenth-century graffiti: ‘those enormous pictures that boys spread about the passages and staircases of palces. From these, women acquire a cruel contempt for our natural capacity’ [‘ces enormes pourtraicts que les enfans vont semant aux passages et escalliers des maisons Royalles. De là leur vient un cruel mespris de nostre portée naturelle’, ed. Villey/Saulnier, III, 5, 860]):

There are lots of other examples in the Gallery.

On the same day as the fly-posting we had a project outing to the terrific exhibition at the British Museum, ‘Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art’. Shunga are variously explicit, beautiful, erotic, pornographic, humorous and irreverent, and they thereby form a perfect if unexpected combination with similarly comic yet highly elaborate obscenities of the French Renaissance. These worlds come together in Dominic Hills’s prints, to produce street art like no other.