Andreja Brulc's Blog

Illustration: On the Swing / Book Cover / Italo Calvino

Posted in Books, Craft, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 20/09/2010

IC_Baron na drevesu_Jacket_FrameThis stitched embroidery, titled as On the Swing (2010), is a part of a larger illustration made for book The Baron in the Trees (Il barone rampante) written by the Italian author Italo Calvino. The author creates a fantasy world immersed in history, philosophy and politics at the time of Voltaire. Described as conte philosophique and a metaphor for independence, the book tells us the adventures of a boy called Cosimo who, as next in line for the title of Baron, resists the authority of his parents when 12 years old – he refuses to eat a dinner of snails prepared by his sadistic sister Batista and rejects his comfortable aristocratic childhood by climbing up a tree adjacent to the dining room. He spends the rest of his life inhabitating an arboreal kingdom. The story is narrated by his younger brother Biagio. Set in Liguria near the French Riviera, the two brothers belong to the 18th century nobility, whose family estate is located in the vast forest landscape of Ombrosa. Cosimo discovers that the more he distances himself from others in order to see them from a new point of view, the more he is able to help the society. His love for a young woman named Viola, the daughter of the Marquis next door, in feud with the Cosimo’s family, changes the course of the lives of everyone: Cosimo, Viola, Biagio, and the community of Ombrosa.

The cover illustration – which combines mixed media by collaging photography, distressed paper and historical textures, print-making and outlined stitching – reflects the direct meaning of the book and its setting. It depicts the most memorable scene in which Viola, while sitting on her swing holding an apple, is taken by surprise at her first vision of the sudden appearance of Cosimo on the tree. She drops the apple and her shoe. The swing is set near the wall that physically divides the two estates, here reinforced by the stripe across the cover, and surrounded by the white magnolia, mulberry and oak trees. The scene is further set against the silhouette of the veduta of Ombrosa. The use of the two 18-century paintings by Watteau and Fragonard as a source for outlining the characters’ sihouettes using the traditional craft of stitching has two purposes: on the one hand, it is intended to reinforce the historical setting through the traditional forms (the tradition of the nobility), while, on the other hand, by subverting the painting’s context through the use of stitching and placing it into a different context, the idea of creating a new meaning is evoked showing the ‘new’ world (rebellious child breaking from the tradition).Marquisa on the Swing

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