"Patagonian Woman and Man Dancing"

 

David Normal:

The dancer on the left is one of two "prophetesses" featured in the Crossroads suite (the other is in "Ostrischizocracy"). They are androgynous figures posed with blank books. There is an old tradition of soothsayers being androgynous. For example; the oracle of Apollo, "Tiresias", who spent seven years as a woman. Michelangelo depicts the "Sybille de Cummes" with pronouncedly masculine physique. Tehuelche Indians of Patagonia were recounted as giants by European explorers, perhaps giving this illustrator license to depict the woman with such masculine arms. Whatever the case, she slipped readily into her new role as prophetess astride an ichthyosuarus.

 

Image taken from '[The Peoples of the World: being a popular description of the characteristics, condition, and customs of the human family ... Illustrated. (A new, much enlarged ... edition of The Races of Mankind.)]'.  Collection of the British Library.

View illustration on British Library's Flickr Photostream

 

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