15 July 2011

Acosta's Cubist Woodcuts

I've been looking at a lot of sixteenth-century herbals (loosely defined) lately. To me, this is one of the most beautiful: Cristobal Acosta's Tractado de las Drogas, y medicinas de las Indias Orientales ... (1578). The images transform the typical leafy, full-bloom plants of contemporaneous herbals into cubist woodcuts, bizarrely static and yet vibrating with unexpected, emergent patterns.

I've grabbed a few of my favorites here from the Biblioteca Digital del Real Jardin Botanico. Enjoy.


John McVey said...

cubist, as in analytical, yes.

Whitney said...

living forms as geometry -- these strike me as unusual woodcuts for sixteenth-century Europe!

John McVey said...

don't know enough to make contemporary comparisons, but the geometry seems to emphasize structure, to exclusion of other qualities. one senses that Acosta actually counted those seeds, too. cubism to me is a "look," but also an analytical strategy, which IMHO is what's at work here.