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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Send a postcard to the “missing post office” on Awashima Island, Japan, and it will be held there to be read by anyone. Messages can be sent for any reason — the office has received cards addressed to deceased relatives, early loves, unborn children, even to a traffic light. Samples:

‘Mother, When you died last summer I didn’t cry. When you were alive it was like we only said horrible and spiteful things to each other … If we met now I think we still would … But a year has passed and I have only loving memories from childhood left. I have when we made pudding together. I have when we read books. I have when you bought me my piano. That was the happiest.’

‘To my future grandchild, When will you arrive? The sooner the better, come on and be born! I can’t wait to finally do for you everything I couldn’t do for my own kids.’

‘Actually, I was hoping to do the folk dance at school with you. My heart was pounding with excitement as our turn together was coming around soon but … just before it happened, the song cut off. Since then several autumns have gone by. What might have happened to you by now?’

The project was launched in 2013 by artist Saya Kubota and has been maintained due to its popularity. Anyone can participate — send a postcard to this address, omitting the name of the recipient and your own name and address:

Missing Post Office (Hyoryu Yubinkyoku) 769-1108 Hyoryu Yubinkyoku Dome Awashima 1317-2, Takuma Town, Miyoto City, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan

A visitor who feels a message is meant for them will be allowed to keep it.

Related: The Bridegroom’s Oak.

In a Word
Image: Wikimedia Commons

n. an unexpected view of something that startles one; a sudden fear

n. the act of sneering or laughing derisively; mockery; derision

adj. bringing or producing death

adj. inciting, animating, or inspiring

Photographer Philippe Halsman took three hours to pose seven women in the shape of a skull for his surrealistic portrait In Voluptas Mors, after a sketch by Salvador Dalí, who’s seen in the foreground. Director Jonathan Demme borrowed the idea for the one-sheet poster for his 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs — the skull image on the “death’s head moth” is a miniature version of the same tableau.

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A young Michelangelo once aged a sculpture artificially to bring a higher price. He began working on a sleeping cupid in 1495, at age 20, apparently inspired by a sculpture in the Medici Gardens. At the advice of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco he aged it falsely to resemble an antique and then passed it on to a dealer, who sold it to Cardinal Riario of San Giorgio. Riario erupted when he discovered the artifice, and Michelangelo offered to take back the sculpture, but the dealer wouldn’t hear of it, and Michelangelo ultimately kept his share of the money.

The work has since been lost, but it helped to establish the artist’s reputation and first brought him to the notice of patrons in Rome.

Brute Nature
Images: Wikimedia Commons

French painter Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) was a student of physiognomy, the notion that a person’s character or personality can be read in the face. In 1671 he presented a lecture to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris in which he drew comparisons between the features of humans and animals. The lecture has been lost, but his sketches survive and are held at the Louvre. Here they are.

Sideways Music

It’s sometimes contended that time is one of four similar dimensions that make up a single manifold that we call spacetime. The four dimensions are orthogonal to one another, and though humans view one of them, time, as distinct from the others in various ways, it’s not intrinsically different.

Philosopher Ned Markosian offers a novel argument against this view: If aesthetic value is an intrinsic feature of an item, and if the four dimensions of spacetime are indeed similar, then rotating an object shouldn’t change its value. Turning a van Gogh painting 90 degrees doesn’t alter its beauty (though we may now have to turn our heads to appreciate it).

But turning a piece of music “out” of time, so that the notes of its melody, for example, occur all at once, changes the aesthetic value of the piece. “Whereas the original series of events had some considerable positive aesthetic value … the resulting series of events has either no aesthetic value or, more likely, negative aesthetic value. … Hence we have a powerful modus tollens argument against The Spacetime Thesis.”

(Ned Markosian, “Sideways Music,” Analysis 80:1 [January 2020], 51-59; and Sean Enda Power, Philosophy of Time: A Contemporary Introduction, 2021.)

Outsider Art

This is Sunset Over the Adriatic, a painting exhibited at the 1910 Salon des Indépendants and attributed to the “excessivist” Genoan painter Joachim-Raphaël Boronali.

When critics praised the work, novelist Roland Dorgelès revealed that he’d tied a paintbrush to the tail of a donkey named Lolo to decry the excesses of modern art.

Lolo’s thoughts are not recorded.

See Different Strokes.

The Augsburg Book of Miracles

What is this? A mysterious illuminated manuscript seems to have appeared in Augsburg, Germany, around 1550, but no one knows who created it or for whom. The name of Augsburg printmaker Hans Burgkmair appears on one page, so he’s thought to be a contributor, but the manuscript contains no introduction, title page, table of contents, or dedication; instead it launches directly into a catalog of divine wonders and marvels of nature, each illustrated in full color.

“The manuscript is something of a prodigy in itself, it must be said,” wrote Marina Warner in the New York Review of Books in 2014. “[I]ts existence was hitherto unknown, and silence wraps its discovery; apart from the attribution to Augsburg, little is certain about the possible workshop, or the patron for whom such a splendid sequence of pictures might have been created.” Here it is.

In a Word
Image: Wikimedia Commons

adj. made out of a single trunk or piece of timber

For this 2011 work, Italian artist Giuseppe Penone carved away the successive growth rings of a fir tree, revealing the sapling of its early days.

“My artwork shows, with the language of sculpture, the essence of matter and tries to reveal with the work, the hidden life within.”

Brush Work

The 1672 painting Easel With Still Life of Fruit, by the Flemish painter Cornelius Gijsbrechts, is a sort of apotheosis of trompe-l’œil: The whole thing — not just the still life itself but the easel, all the tools, the other pictures, and the letter — have been painted on a wooden cutout; it’s all an illusion.

The painting at the bottom has no front — only its reverse is visible. Gijsbrechts had played that joke before.

Still Life

Another striking example of trompe-l’oeil, this one painted by Rex Whistler at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire, England: The niche, the brazier, and all the objects are painted in place on a wall in the drawing room. Click to enlarge.

(Thanks, Declan.)