"...the mountain, molded and weathered by wind and rain and sea, is peopled by the sandstone with a crowd of stone inhabitants, dumb, motionless, eternal, almost terrifying. There is a hooded hermit, sitting with arms outspread on the top of an inaccessible rock at the entrance to the bay, who, according to whether the sky is blue or stormy, appears to bless the sea or warn the sailors. There are bird-beaked dwarfs, monsters in human form with two heads, one laughing, the other crying, close to the sky, on a deserted plain, in deep cloud, where there is nothing to make you either laugh or cry. There are giants' limbs, disjecti membra gigantis : here the knee, there the torso and the shoulder blade, further on the head..."

---Victor Hugo: (Voyage aux Pyrénées)

Rosette  ca. 1856
Pen and brown-ink wash on vellum paper folded twice. 8x7 in.

What Hugo was searching for in these drawings were signs that would stimulate his imagination and suggest directions for his pen. Hugo interpreted these foldings, not for psychological purposes like the Swiss physician Hermann Rorschach with his famous tests introduced in 1921, but like a seer. He developed the symmetry, discerned resemblances, discovered figures and carried out all kinds of permutations. Reversal (or, better still, reversability), metamorphoses and fusion were themes so firmly rooted in Hugo's praxis that one commonly finds in his compositions a landscape reflected in water or a figure that reads equally well either way up. ---Florian Rodari.

SHADOWS OF A HAND
The Drawings of Victor Hugo

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