22 February 2011

"From Face to Venus" of Jan van Es (on big egg) from North America

"From Face to Venus" carved on big cosmic egg

When this stone was received in the Dennis Boggs collection from Oregon, U.S.A., it became one of the first to be closely examined because of its large size, unique egg shape and possible relatively explicit intended iconography.  It is also one of Dennis’ favorites. If it was an artifact, it was, to me, quite obviously representing the left profile of a man’s face and maybe more. 

When I showed it to my girlfriend, initially without prejudice, she said "I see a woman."  I asked "Do you see the man's face?"  She replied, "Yes but I looked past it."  She went on to explain the female imagery, which I had unsurely noted. If one shifts visual attention, a man's face profile and alternately a woman's body profile may be seen.  She further described seeing a family, together, in the image because of what looks like a few legs/feet on the “ground” of the image, looking maybe like a child in tow, along with the man’s face and the woman’s standing body profile.  Only then I recognized the possible kid.  When I asked Brennah, age eight, what she saw while I pointed to the image details, she replied without hesitation, “A giant egg.”  


A physical examination of the image under 10x lighted magnification shows likely areas of stone removal to create the fine details of the profile.  It looks as if there was a natural crescent shaped gash in the egg shaped rock and the gash was used to guide a chisel-like tool down into the stone to remove selected parts to make the image.  Today, the gash has two surface types, the smooth "original" or first gash and then a rougher part representing where detail stone was removed by the artist.  Or they represent two stone removal techniques used to create the gash then refine it to completion.

One of my avenues of inquiry was to revisit the work of a man in Europe who I was aware had made research of the “egg” motif in figure stones.  Jan van Es of The Netherlands began investigating figure stones exactly 40 years ago. I re-discovered he writes at his web site:
“During all those years of research I noticed that, besides all forms nature offers in rocks, trees, fruit, animals etc., the egg-shaped rocks were considered as the most ideal kind. The big cosmic egg, the germinal force and origin of life, seems to have been a very important notion and turns out to be a main line in the images.”  

As I browsed his home page, I came across a pencil sketch he made representing a composite image of another significant theme he has identified.  The sketch is titled “From Face to Venus.”  

For me, it is as if the Oregon, U.S.A., artifact image was one of the subjects composing the idealized drawing.  According to van Es, it represents a man's face, his nose also the breast, his mouth also the vulva, of a standing woman, representing together the breath of life. They are indeed depicted on this figure stone with a child, whose legs and feet are seen in the photo above the sketch (above) but wear may now have obscured the rest of the child's body image if there was one.  This polymorphic art sculpture was an object of a fertility ideology.
I experienced a great thrill of discovery as it became clear Dennis Boggs had found, and I had identified, a “From Face to Venus” carved figure and more- one integrated into a giant cosmic egg.  It is a western North American artifact linked to Middle Paleolithic Western Europe art traditions. It loudly calls into question the theories of the initial peopling of the Americas currently posited by mainstream anthropology.
-kbj

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