Medieval Iconography and Science Fiction/Fantasy

Discussion in 'Other Media' started by Elvira, Dec 4, 2016.

  1. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    I love medieval iconography. I’m not by any means an expert but a keen follower of some particular themes within this art.
    I was wondering about the possible connection between medieval iconography and Science Fiction, purely because the most logical link wold be with Fantasy, in particulate referring to the bestiary and mythology. However, I have come across some images which one might think closer to the concept of cosmology, technology and wonders of the past with a vision into the future. These are some images, which apart from finding them aesthetically beautiful, I thought they were somehow relevant to SF.
    It would be great if you could share whatever images you like from past times but with a vision into a future, whatever that might be… Enjoy them!

    A fish and two arms. A Spatterjay creature…? Der Naturen Bloeme, Flandes, 1350 Koninklijke


    Salterio de Luttrell, circa 1300 or could it be by Julio Verne?


    De Astronomica (About Astros) 1475 by Gaio Julio Higino

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  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    You're right, they definitely have an SF feel. I'm afraid, I don't know much about mediaeval iconography, although I do find it very beautiful.

    As you say, I would expect most mediaeval iconography to be religiously inclined, rather than focusing on naturalism, so that does segue more easily to fantasy literature. But I've always felt that science fiction at its best also deals with the ineffable and the quest for transcendent truth (which beyond a certain point necessarily takes on mystical characteristics), so those same images can in certain cases be applied to SF if taken as metaphors.

    And anyway, Clarke's third law states that all fantasy is science fiction.
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  3. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    Well, I know iconography is a bit of an oddity but time flies when I'm looking at these images.
    Just to finish 2016.... Happy New Year to you and everyone else!

    Space bees?!
    Aberdeen Bestiary, England ca. 1200 (Aberdeen University Library, MS 24, fol. 63r)


    Regensburg ca. 1472 (Universitätsbibliothek Augsburg, Oettingen-Wallersteinsche Bibliothek, Cod.I.3.2.IV, fol. 116r)


    Facing this evening New Year dinner...

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  4. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Happy New Year to you and everyone else, too!
    The resemblance to Keech is uncanny! And it even looks like he's on Spatterjay!
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  5. TomTB

    TomTB Administrator Staff Member

    That last one! That's how I look each time before I go to my mother in law's for Sunday dinner!
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  6. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Okay, I've got one, though not European.

    This is an illustration from the 750 AD Arabic book Kalīlah wa Dimnah by Persian scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa. It's a translation of a previous Syriac edition called Kalilag and Damnag (as translated by Ion Keith Falconer, 1885), which was a translation of a 570 AD middle Persian text by Borzūya, which was itself a translation of the Indian/Sanskrit collection of interrelated animal fables arranged within a frame story known as the Panchatantra from the 3rd century BC. The Panchatantra stories are as popular today as they would have been over 2,000 years ago and you'll find them all over India as children's books and comics.

    Here's a fascinating overview on the genealogy of the work and its dissemination from east to west:

    This image reminds me of a fantastic scene from Iain M. Banks' non-Culture science fiction novel Feersum Endjinn, when the character Bascule (one of my favourite Banks characters) takes on the form of a crow (or raven) and witnesses a 'parliament of crows'. I think that's how Banks described it, but it's the wrong adjective for a grouping of crows or for ravens. Wonderful scene.

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  7. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    I love it!
    It reminds me of one of Aesop's Fables The Crow and The Pitcher.
    By the way, could it be any connection with Aesop?
  8. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    A 500 year old Batman?!
    Hans Vintler, Die Pluemen der Tugent, Vienna 1450 (Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod. s. n. 12819, fol. 129r)

    Not now my dear. Terrible headache...!
    "Devil and Virgin". Histoire de Merlin and other Arthurian Romances. Poitiers ca. 1450(BnF, Français 96)

    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
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  9. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    With bat-double-axes! And that's a scandalously cheeky Devil. Great finds! Maybe you should start a general art thread, too.
    Elvira likes this.
  10. Elvira

    Elvira Well-Known Member

    As temping as this sounds, I think I will give it a miss. Don't think it is the most popular thread;)
    In the meantime, 900 hundreds years ago...

    "Nomen istius herbe Canabe"
    Herbal, England or North France, ca. 1190 (British Library, Sloane 1975, fol. 44v)


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