Bernard Picart's prints
almost-sweetheart are also culturally challenged, drifting through Tokyo without understanding the city, but in the process creating a haunting, beautiful tale.
Squirreled in the U-M Museum of Art basement is another example of beauty created from missed connections. A series of around thirty exquisitely rendered early-eighteenth-century engravings by French artist Bernard Picart reveals a fantastical vision of India.
Picart took it on himself to illustrate a
giant nine-volume 1723 encyclopedia of world religions a hit in its day and still in print and the UMMA exhibit shows what he made of Hinduism. Picart never traveled to India, but he pored over what few travel books were available and examined a few Indian miniature paintings he dug up. The resulting illustrations depict a vivid, screwy view of Hinduism as seen from afar in the relatively vaster, more mysterious world of the eighteenth century. The artworks reveal a surreal visual anthropology, with the evidently spotty travelogue information lavishly filled in by Picart's imagination.