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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dodos and other things in the "List"


So, the Pixar team were not the first people who gave "artistic dignity" to dodos! The detail above is taken from a painting made in 1626, when these birds were not yet extinct: Paradise, by Roelant Savery. The painting is on exhibition at the State Museum in Berlin.

This is just one out of a thousand interesting items in one of the last books published by the great Italian semiologist and writer Umberto Eco (the author of The Name of the Rose), who passed away on February 19. It was called Vertigine della lista, something like "List Vertigo," and dealt with the different meanings of all kind of "sets" of things, in both literature and art: lists of names, descriptions of long series of objects, pictures of groups of animals, etc., from Homer to J. L. Borges, from Roman frescoes to 21st century art installations.

All started from a cycle of lectures given by him at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2009. Apparently a very specific topic, this was in fact one of Eco's favorite viewpoints on culture, as his novels clearly show. In his magic hands, what might look like academic pedantry turns into a fascinating travel through history, thought, and beauty. The book also, and obviously, provides precious insights into the Renaissance.