July 05, 2006

Morghen and the Moon

At some time between 1764 and 1772, the printmaker Filippo Morghen (ca. 1730-1808), a Florentine based in Naples, issued a curious set of ten etchings under the title Raccolta delle cose più notabili veduta dal cavaliere Wilde Scull, e dal sigr: de la Hire nel lor famoso viaggio dalla terra alla Luna, ‘A Collection of the most notable things seen by Sir Wilde Scull, and by M. de la Hire, in their famous voyage from the Earth to the Moon.’ Details from six of these prints follow below. The first of them shows part of the title-sheet, which describes the contents of the other etchings in the set, and dedicates them to ‘Guglielmo Amilton,’ that is to William Hamilton, then the British ambassador to the Neapolitan court.

A detail from the introductory title sheet of Morghen's 'Raccolta' series of etchings, ca. 1768.


A detail from the first of the nine etchings in Morghen's 'Raccolta' series, ca. 1768.

The detail above is part of a scene depicting ‘a savage mounted on a winged serpent, fighting a monster resembling a porcupine.’ The one immediately below shows the same kind of spiny beast being lured toward a contraption intended to split it from head to tail. In the second image below, we are presented with a sail-powered lunar carriage. The remaining pair of details show ‘gourds that serve as dwellings safe from monsters,’ and ‘a boat that has as for a sail an enormous bird.’ The etchings’ ‘ornamental passages of chinoiserie,’ remind us that China would still then have been alien enough to most Europeans, that it might as well have been another world…

A detail from the second of the nine etchings in Morghen's 'Raccolta' series, ca. 1768.


A detail from the third of the nine etchings in Morghen's 'Raccolta' series, ca. 1768.

Morghen had arrived in Naples in 1752, to join the team of artists appointed by King Charles III. of Spain (also Charles VII. of the two Sicilies) then assembling an eight-volume opus documenting Le Antichità di Ercolano Esposte (The Antiquities discovered in Herculaneum). Besides these archæological illustrations, Morghen also produced Vedute (‘views’) of other local antiquities and of the picturesque environs of Naples: these found ready buyers in the ‘grand tourists’ (many of whom were English), for whom that city was a fashionable destination. Between 1766 and 1769, Morghen executed a series of forty vedute, published as Le Antichità di Pozzuoli, Baja, e Cuma which he individually dedicated to native noblemen or distinguished foreigners, Hamilton and his (first) wife among them.

A detail from the seventh of the nine etchings in Morghen's 'Raccolta' series, ca. 1768.


A detail from the eighth of the nine etchings in Morghen's 'Raccolta' series, ca. 1768.

While Morghen seems to have invented the name of one of his astronauts—Sir Wilde Scull—the other, Philippe de la Hire was that of an historical fugure, a notable astronomer and mathematician. Apparently, in a later printing of his Raccolta, Morghen replaced Sir Wilde’s name with John Wilkins’s… A few more of Morghen’s prints can be seen here. The Raccolta, I notice, was recently mentioned here. I am much obliged to Michelangelo for bringng these images to my attention.

Posted by misteraitch at July 5, 2006 12:55 PM

Hi misteraitch!

We must thank Bibley Odissey for Morghen's at moon.

By the way- you have the greatest blog I had ever seen



Posted by: zazie on July 5, 2006 01:43 PM

So it was at Bibliodyssey already! I wondered if I’d seen these images somewhere before, but couldn’t (and still can’t) find them there—my apologies to peacay, in that case.

Posted by: misteraitch on July 5, 2006 02:09 PM

Well, I think we travel by the some places, like library’s archives . I didn’t knew your blog for a long time and I must say that I’ve use some images that you post just because I have made a google search
But you have the greatest one, for sure! Congratulations


Posted by: zazie on July 5, 2006 02:45 PM

Ah! It had to be on Bibliodissey! And yet, when I search for ‘Morghen’ or ‘moon’ on that site, nothing pertinent comes up. Where is that page?

Posted by: Michelangelo on July 5, 2006 11:46 PM

Sir Wilde Scull...
The little face-gourd house...
The Chinese/Native American fantasy man with his spear and dragon...
The porcupine rat...

Most delicious, this Morghen-moon! Thanks, mister aitch & michelangelo.

Posted by: marlyat2 on July 6, 2006 04:04 PM

I have just discovered this page which displays the later (?1770) edition of Morghen’s Raccolta which indeed has as its protagonist Giovanni Wilkins, erudito Vescovo Inglese (‘John Wilkins, erudite English Bishop’). Another difference with the earlier edition is the presence of English captions on the plates.

Posted by: misteraitch on July 7, 2006 03:17 PM

Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. I so enjoy coming here and being astonished, enlightened and utterly entertained.

Posted by: Midori on July 11, 2006 08:04 PM

I'm reminded of a 1703 book by Charles Morton called An essay towards the probable solution of this question, Whence come the stork and the turtle, the crane and the swallow, when they know and observe the [a]ppointed time of their coming, or Where those birds do probably make their recess and abode, which are absent from our climate at some certain times and seasons of the year. Morton lays out evidence that migratory birds spend their winters not at the bottoms of ponds (as was commonly supposed), but on the surface of the moon. His edition offers no illustrations, alas, but the images his words conjure are priceless.

Posted by: Matthew Battles on August 17, 2006 10:58 PM

Great illustrations.

Posted by: Dmitry on March 29, 2007 03:49 PM
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