Le Corbeau Volant

Le Corbeau Volant, 1875
Edouard Manet

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.

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Interesting ... when I first opened this post and saw the raven, my mind said, "Roadkill!"

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I think it's funny how people say MoMA, as if their regular conversations include such copious references to The Museum of Modern Art that it necessitates skipping even a first use of the compound term.

Actually, John, I'm talking about the MoMA all the time. I don't know what *you* talk about - science? NASCAR? ;-)

Scott: and if it was a really BIG book that snapped closed on a really small raven, it could be bookkill!

Scott: and if it was a really BIG book that snapped closed on a really small raven, it could be bookkill!

You have broadened my horizons! I've pressed leaves and flowers using a large book, but have never considered birds. :-)

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Sorry, John - I meant Mario Kart. Or did you include that in the "auto racing sports you hate" list?

Dr. - No one told me it was the hypothetical "Raven Fortnight" either - I guess I was just lucky, but I'll go wherever Curious Expeditions lead! :-)

Super Mario Kart was most definitely not included in the auto racing umbrella. Speaking of Super Mario Kart, I am quite upset that you haven't devoted a weekly series to explaining to your readers how they are in the company of a World Record holder like myself.

Aw, thanks Bioephemera! Likewise! Great minds think alike and all that. Sorry I haven't commented in awhile, but I'm still reading faithfully.

Say, how much longer will you be in our fair city? D and I would love to meet up with you for coffee if you find yourself with any free time (although I'm sure you have a million things to do. Lots to see!)

I've been meaning to go to the Wunderkammer exhibit. Looking forward to the full review!

Can't wait to see your review of the rest of it! I've been talking about what a great exhibit it was all week. Mmmm, delicious wunderkammer.