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Wednesday October 01, 2014
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Bernard Picart's prints

 

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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.

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