'Jean in the Jar' illustration from 'Five Wounds.

The illustration brief was as follows:

Crow’s workshop? Should be broadly consistent in feel with the depiction on the stand-alone pic of the same name, but here a view of eyeless Jean and dead cats and dogs floating in jar, decomposed?
Following the brief, the image therefore shows the decomposin
g body of Jean sealed in a jar in the workshop of Crow, the alchemist. Jean is accompanied by several
cats and dogs.

I drew a brick floor as I imagined the workshop being hidden in a cellar. In general I give a lot of attention to brick work in my drawings, being the son of a bricklayer.
In fact you could even interpret Jean representing the figure of 'Melancolia'- pensive and immobilised- in a workshop filled with unused instruments and tools, the bricks being evidence of manual labour. This, however, did not pass my mind whilst working on the illustration.
Below is a video of Alan Moore, who is probably most famous at the moment for writing the 'Watchmen' graphic novel. Here he is talking about the alchemical theory of 'Solve et Coagula': analysis and synthesis, which I thought was relevant for this particular post:

'In Sin' was the original running head for this page, which was later changed to 'Various Bodies'. There is an annotation to tilt the eye-line to give the feeling of floating, as Jean is also floating.

For the objects in the lab, I used my drawings of medical equipment and specimens sketched from the Hunterian Museum in London, which I visited in 2006 on Jon's recommendation. Jon posted me the book 'Old Medical and Dental Instruments' by David J. Warren, which also came in handy for reference.

This is 'Melancolia I', surely Albercht Dürer's most interpreted engraving about theory and practice. I took from this the sand timer & the bell which appear above the head of Jean. The sand timer represents the passing of time for the decomposing body of Jean; a living man who was trapped inside the jar.
The bell is a more vaguely interpreted symbol in Dürer's engraving, which is partly why I chose it. Some interpretations suggest that it represents the heavens because of its dome shape, also that it symbolises a connection/communication between the heavens & the earth because of its hanging pendulum. This then would represent the 'expiring soul' of Jean, which Crow wishes to trap inside the jar with Jean's body. I also chose a bell because sound and music are the least considered practices of alchemy.



Jonathan Walker said...

There are in fact no cellars in Venice, because they'd all be underwater if they existed, but I like this contradictory suggestion, which is in keeping with the (deliberately) vague topographic descriptions both here and elsewhere in the book. It is more or less impossible to reconstruct any of the layouts of buildings and places described.

It's not in fact clear how many floors Crow's shop / workshop has, but it appears to be both somewhere high up (in the workshop plate, with the moon shining through the window), and somewhere underground (as here).

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Dan Hallett said...

Glad to have helped. I don't have your e-mail address. Feel free to ask me any questions (my e-mail is at the top of the screen). Yo hablo castellano también.

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hace tiempo que me encontré con los perros callejeros de estambul. lidia me ha dado la dirección de tu blog, para que vea tus dibujos. me gustan, me encantaría hablar de proyectos contigo si tienes tiempo. este es mi mail: elotroinquilino@gmail.com