Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Small woods, and here and there a voide place

The OED is allowing free access to its online edition this week. Here are four definitions of the word ‘landscape’ along with some illustrative quotations from the seventeenth century.

  • A picture representing natural inland scenery, as distinguished from a sea picture, a portrait, etc: 1605 Ben Jonson in The Masque of Blackness, “First, for the Scene, was drawne a Landtschap, consisting of small woods...”
  • The background of scenery in a portrait or figure-painting (obsolete): 1656 Thomas Blount in Glossographia, “All that which in a Picture is not of the body or argument thereof is Landskip, Parergon, or by-work.”
  • A view or prospect of natural inland scenery, such as can be taken in at a glance from one point of view; a piece of country scenery: 1632 John Milton in L’Allegro, “Streit mine eye has caught new pleasures Whilst the Lantskip round it measures.”
  • In a generalized sense, inland natural scenery, or its representation in painting: 1606 Thomas Dekker in The seuen deadly sinnes of London, “A Drollerie (or Dutch peece of Lantskop).”
The first of these references, The Masque of Blackness, was Ben Jonson’s first masque, performed for Queen Anne at Whitehall Palace on 6 January 1606. It is usually discussed in relation to issues of race and gender, but the artificial landscape scenery is interesting as it was part of an early Inigo Jones design. Here is the full description from which the OED's quotation above is taken:

First, for the Scene, was drawne a Landtschape, consisting of small woods, and here and there a voide place filld with huntings; which falling, an artificiall Sea was seene to shoote forth, as if it flowed to the land, raised with waues, which seemed to moue, and in some places the billow to breake, as imitating that orderly disorder, which is common in nature.

No comments: