The Romance of Roentgen: X-rays, Zinc, Zoos and Zodiacs

We seem to be sitting still, 
but we are actually moving,
and the fantasies of phenomena 
are sliding through us, like ideas through curtains.
(First stanza of The Well, A Year with Rumi, 138)

In my case, it's been images as well as ideas moving through me.

But I did feel I was sitting a little too still, or plodding along in too regular a path, so I jumped ahead to look at images from X and Z. I will need to find more images from X later, or to use a little license (perhaps a foray into images of Xylophones from the immense music section, who knows). Yet, I was struck by the ephemeral romance and sensuality of what I usually think of as the hard fact of medical imaging. First there's a romance with technique, the gloss of the machinery next to soft flesh as seen in images like this one:

But there's also a surprising delicacy and sweetness in images like this:

It's an 1896 copy of one the earliest x-rays, which portrayed the left hand of X-Ray inventor Wilhelm Roentgen's wife, with her wedding ring clearly visible in the image. Given this iconography, it's not surprising to see the delicate romanticism in this x-ray of a rose:

And it's a logical jump to this illustrated "x-ray" of a Gibson girl, which reveals her beating valentine of a heart as well as a sturdy (and more anatomically correct rib cage, arms, and pelvis.

Still marooned in Victoriana, I looked at images in the folders labeled "Zoological Parks and Gardens":

The elephant is a recurring figure in zoo images, but I love the ostrich cart in this tiny postcard.
Something sad about these Copenhagen elephants...

A tremendous amount was going on in the Central Park Zoo nearly a century earlier...
These two images span a almost a century (the photo is from 1905, while the illustration is from the "early 1800s"), yet I see much similarity in depictions of this relatively new leisure activity, even in this zoological garden even farther afield, the menagerie at Barrackpore:

Finely clad strollers, children observing animals in ornate cages. It reminds me a bit of "Hypnotism in a Wild Beast's Cage" from an earlier post. I hope to return to this category for some more recent zoo images later.

More "fantasies of  phenomena moving through my hands" were these two images from the folder "Zinc":

I never knew zippers were made of zinc... and I wonder what other places were represented on the Zinc map where I found an image tied to Oklahoma, a place which seems to be located, curiously, in a wide blue sea...

I've had a fascination with the ruins of Great Zimbabwe since I saw a play that featured Getrude Caton-Thompson , an archaeologist who excavated there in the late 1920s and put to rest a lot of idiotic and racist theories about the place and its former inhabitants. It has mysterious hive-shaped buildings, which you can see in the following images:

I was particularly struck by the two images below, paired by a 1989 editor at Archaeology.

As the caption indicates, the travel poster on the "Mystery of Rhodesia" insists that these finely wrought buildings must have been wrought by a surprisingly pale Queen of Sheba rather by local Bantu people. Other theories included Greeks, Egyptians, and Phoenicians making their way down south, but Gertrude Caton-Thompson laid this racist malarkey to rest, writing that the buildings were Bantu in origin and date from between 1100 and 1400 CE. It's believed this city was the site of the palaces of The Kingdom of Zimbabwe, and the stonework is so fine that their high walls contain no mortar to hold them together. Glass beads, coins from Arabia, and shards of pottery from China indicate that Great Zimbabwe must have been a trading hub.

I love the shape of these bee-hive buildings as well as their story, so I'll have to find a place for them in a landscape inspired by the letter Z.

Another feature in this landscape will be a kind of rotating Ferris wheel structure made from fragments of various zodiacs. The treasure trove of images depicting the zodiac is incredible. I was expecting to find things like this:

 But I wasn't expecting the diversity of these images of zodiac wheels:

Using one of these wheels, I'd like to replace some of their "contents" with images of individual zodiac signs like these:

I love these Persian Gemini, who remind me of my dad, Robert Palmer. He was a Gemini who loved the Persian poet Rumi and gave me my first book of Rumi's poetry in the late 1980s. He also loved another Persian poet, Farid al-din Attar, who wrote:

Strive to discover the mystery before life is taken from you.
If while living you fail to find yourself, to know yourself,
how will you be able to understand
the secret of your existence when you die?

 I hope my dad remembers those secrets now, sitting up in the sky somewhere with his Persian poet friends.