Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Yesteryear's Palaces of Culture and Knowledge

Richard Earlom after Michel Vincent Brandoin
Royal Academy exhibition in London
British Museum

Anonymous printmaker
L'Entrée au Musée
hand-colored etching
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Thomas Rowlandson
Exhibition Room, Somerset House
(annual Royal Academy exhibition in London)
hand-colored etching and aquatint
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Veuve Chéreau (publisher)
La famille Anglaise au Museum à Paris
(An English family at the Louvre)
hand-colored etching
British Museum

Louis-Philibert Debucourt after Carle Vernet
Visitors to the Salon Exhibition in Paris, admiring the ceiling
hand-colored etching
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

J. Findlay and S.G. Hughes
Fashion Plate set in newly-opened Phigalian Room of the British Museum, with Elgin Room beyond
hand-colored etching and aquatint
British Museum

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd
Reading Room of the British Museum
(the sixth Reading Room, in use from 1838 to 1857)
ca. 1840
British Museum
" . . .  and so the characteristics of human beings are to be counterpoised as alien to one another, and so the harmony of the spheres resounds from their orbits, which do not come into contact with one another.  Every essential being is a sun and relates to beings like itself, as suns in fact relate to one another.  This also applies in the realm of philosophy, which is the only realm in which the truth becomes manifest, namely with a sound like music.  And this is the harmonic concept of truth, which we must acquire so that the false quality of watertightness that characterizes its delusion vanishes from the authentic concept, the concept of truth.  The truth is not watertight.  Much that we expect to find in it slips through the net."

– Walter Benjamin, from manuscript draft of Language and Logic (1921), reproduced in Walter Benjamin's Archive, translated by Esther Leslie (Verso, 2007)

A.O. Driscoll after Elijah Shaw
Entrance Gate, British Museum
(Montague House, with porter William Scivier)
British Museum

William Harcourt Hooper and Joseph Swain after Matthew James Lawless
Group of women and children guided by the Housekeeper in the Picture Gallery of a Great House
ca, 1857-64
British Museum

George Goodwin Kilburne
Mother and daughter with Demeter statue in the Mausoleum Room, British Museum
before 1884
British Museum

John Sloan
Connoisseurs of Prints
British Museum

Types of Knowledge


The knowledge of truth. This does not exist. For truth is the death of intention.


Redemptive knowledge. This is the knowledge that dawns with redemption, which is thereby completed. But it is not the knowledge that precipitates redemption.


Teachable knowledge. Its most significant form of appearance is banality


Determining knowledge. There is knowledge that determines action. It is, however, not determining as a "motive," but rather due to the force of its linguistic structure. The linguistic moment in morality is connected to knowledge. It is absolutely certain that this knowledge that determines action leads to silence. Therefore, as such, it is not teachable. This determining knowledge is closely related to the concept of Tao. This is in direct contradiction to knowledge in Socrates' Doctrine of Virtue. While this is motivating for action, it does not determine those who act.


Knowledge from insight or perception. This type is highly enigmatic. In the region of knowledge, it is something that resembles the present in the region of time. It exists only as an ungraspable transition. From what to what? Between foreboding and the knowledge of truth.

– Walter Benjamin, from manuscript outline headed Types of Knowledge (1921), reproduced in Walter Benjamin's Archive, translated by Esther Leslie (Verso, 2007)

François Courboin
À la bibliothèque
(woman studying an album at Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris)
etching, drypoint
British Museum

Muirhead Bone
Egyptian Saloon (with scaffolding), British Museum
ca. 1906
British Museum

Frederick Hans Haagensen
British Museum
British Museum