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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Populas alba

Here is Emblem CCXI, the Populas alba, or the white popular tree, which I mentioned in my initial post on Alciati's emblem book: 

From our quarto edition

Herculeos crines bicolor quod populus ornet,
Temporis alternat noxque diesque vices

Because Hercules wears the two-colored poplar in his hair,
Both night and day alternate in time.

As I alluded to in my first post on Alciati, this image is an example of the tree emblems that were substantially altered from their original form for the initial Plantin edition of 1573. The original illustrations were much more literal adaptations of Alciati's text; they were often grotesque or even explicitly sexual. The Plantin tree illustrations, on the other hand, are just images of trees without any human elements being directly depicted. The text, as such, has been expurgated, possibly to be made safe for a Catholic audience, possibly in order not to offend the  taste of Dutch burghers. In the original, unexpurgated edition, the Populas alba would actually have been emblem CCXII. The Plantin press removed Emblem LXXX, Adversus naturam peccantes, "those sinning against nature," from the text entirely: likely because both poem and illustration feature a woman defecating on a bushel box.