Ratschläge einer Raupe

“Alice and the Caterpillar” by John Tenniel (1820-1914), from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865)


Ratschläge einer Raupe is one possible German translation of “Advice from a Caterpillar”, which is the title of chapter five of Alice in Wonderland. But the drawing above doesn’t need a translation. John Tenniel and Lewis Carroll were a classic combination, like Quentin Blake and J.P. Martin or Thomas Henry and Richmal Crompton. Tenniel drew fantastic things in a matter-of-fact way, which was just right.

But that makes me wonder about Ratschläge einer Raupe. In German, Rat-schlag means “piece of advice” and Ratschläge is the plural. At first glance, the title is more fun in German: it alliterates and trips off the the tongue in a way the English doesn’t. And Schlag literally means “blow, stroke”, which captures the behaviour of the caterpillar well. Like many of the characters Alice encounters in Wonderland, he is a prickly and aggressive interlocutor. “Advice from a Caterpillar” is plain by comparison.

So perhaps that makes it better: it’s a matter-of-fact title for a surreal chapter. Tenniel’s art echoes that.

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The Power of Pucelle

Gustave Moreau, L’Apparition (1876-7)

Ruff Stuff

Zelfportret (1601) by Joachim Wtewael (1566-1638) (pron. roughly OO-tuh-vaal), as seen in Phaidon’s 500 Self-Portraits


Previously pre-posted:

She-ShellPerseus Rescuing Andromeda (1611) by Wtewael

Ju Dunnit

Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne (c. 1612), Cristofano Allori (1577-1621)


Interesting facts in-terms-of-issues-around this painting, known as Judith with the Head of Holofernes in English: according to Allori’s first biographer Filippo Baldinucci, the severed head is a self-portrait of Allori, the decapitatrix is an ex-girlfriend, Maria di Giovanni Mazzafirri, and the old servant is her mother (from A Face to the World, Laura Cumming, 2009).

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #61

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Orchid KidThe Orchid Hunter: A Young Botanist’s Search for Happiness, Leif Bersweden (Short Books 2017)

Deep in the DarkThe Tunnel, Eric Williams (1951)

Faces and FactsThe Self-Portrait: A Cultural History, James Hall (Thames & Hudson 2014)

Persian PoolReligions of Iran: From Prehistory to the Present, Richard Foltz (Oneworld 2013)

Hooky HereUnknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, Peter Hook (Simon & Schuster 2012)

#MiTooMorbid: The Mephitic Memoirs of Miriam B. Stimbers, Dr Miriam B. Stimbers (TransVisceral Books 2018)


• Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #60

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Conteur CompatissantShort Stories, Guy de Maupassant, translated by Marjorie Laurie (Everyman’s Library 1934)

Riff-Raph100 Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces, Gordon Kerr (Flame Tree Publishing 2011)

Fall of the WildA Fall of Moondust, Arthur C. Clarke (1961)

Orchid and OakVine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W.E. Vine et al (Thomas Nelson 1984)

Hoare HereRisingtidefallingstar, Philip Hoare (Fourth Estate 2017)


Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Pedal to the Medal

“Once, in a contest with a rival, he painted a blue curve on a huge sheet of paper. Then he dipped the feet of a chicken in red paint and persuaded the bird to walk all over the paper. The resulting image, he said, represented the Tatsuta river with red maple leaves floating in it. The judge gave him the prize.” — The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (c. 1760-1849) described in Thomas W. Hodgkinson’s and Hubert van den Bergh’s How to Sound Cultured (2015)