Friday, August 1, 2008

Bad Captions

Yesterday, I was in the Rare Books Collection reading room at Monash University Library (Clayton), having a browse through Ornella Volta's Le Vampire: La Mort, le Sang, la Peur (Paris: Jean-Jaques Pauvert Éditeur, 1962).

When I came to page 26, I noticed a picture I had seen elsewhere.

I immediately thought of a plate (3) in Christopher Frayling's Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (London: Faber and Faber, 1992).

The difference, however, is in the way they're captioned.

In Volta's book, the image is credited thusly:

Jan Luiken : Bianca Rubea, 1711.
Coll. Henry Kahnweiler

Meanwhile, Frayling's version reads:

A vampire rises from the grave, illustrating an early eighteenth century treatise on the undead.

And sure enough, if we turn to Frayling's "Bibliography and Acknowledgements", we get a reference to a certain source consulted for his book:

On the erotic angle, Ornella Volta's Il Vampiro (1962) is interesting (if a little strange at times) and has some extraordinary illustrations (p. 424)

However, the riddle doesn't quite end there.

I thought it'd be easy to trace Bianca Rubea as a novel. Thus far, I haven't been able to trace anything by that name.

I've been able to track down Luiken (or Luyken, 1649-1712) easily enough, though. Turns out he was a Dutch engraver. But the only books I've been able to turn up, that fit the year Volta's caption gives (1711), are: De bykorf des gemoeds and Het leerzaam huisraad.[1]

Rest assured, these are
not treatises of the "undead". Indeed, Luiken never illustrated any such treatise.

Looks like Faber and Faber and Frayling tried to pull the wool over our eyes!

[1] "Jan Luyken". DBNL auteur. 1 August 2008.


Erwin Keustermans said...

It seems that the picture a woman killing herself by being crushed by her husband's tombstone. That's what the caption says in Dutch.

Anthony Hogg said...

Talk about a lucky find!

I really appreciate you sending that link over, Erwin. I've even written about it, if you take a look at my latest post!

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