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Toadstool (Emblemata)

This week we had a slight change in terms of our displayed works. A number of works in Room 1 were returned to the depot and in their place, a series of works can now be enjoyed: nine woodcuts from the Emblemata series that Escher produced in 1931. A unique opportunity to see this many so-called ‘images with adages’, prints accompanied by a motto and a poem.

These Latin mottoes and Dutch poems were written by art historian G.J. Hoogewerff, director of the Dutch Historical Institute in Rome. He sang the praises of Escher’s work and when the artist was short on inspiration, Hoogewerff suggested to him that he might produce some emblems, traditionally consisting of three elements: image, motto and poem. A partnership was born. Hoogewerff provided the texts (under the pseudonym A.E. Drijfhout) and Escher created the woodcuts. One of the woodcuts on display is Toadstool, which is fitting considering the fact that they can be spotted in abundance already. A beautiful Amanita muscaria (fly agaric), the widespread but poisonous red-capped mushroom with white spots.

The Latin text reads: ‘Dissolutionis ex humore speciose praefloresco‘, which Hoogewerff translated into a poem. In English it would read something like this:

I begin to blossom gorgeously out of the fluids of disintegration.’

A translation of the Dutch poem:

‘Secret growth,
legacy of the night,
spongily I rise,
a serene beauty’

Read more about this collaborative effort and about emblemata in this story by our former curator Dunja Hak.

More Escher today