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Left: NY, Morgan, MS G.24, fol. 25v / Right: British Library, Add 62925, fol. 67r
Left: NY, Morgan, MS G.24, fol. 25v / Right: British Library, Add 62925, fol. 67r

5 Very Weird Themes in Medieval Manuscripts

Left: NY, Morgan, MS G.24, fol. 25v / Right: British Library, Add 62925, fol. 67r
Left: NY, Morgan, MS G.24, fol. 25v / Right: British Library, Add 62925, fol. 67r

Every generation thinks they were the ones to invent the fart joke. The truth is that people have been laughing about bodily functions—and other low-hanging humor fruit—for a long, long time, even in the margins of medieval texts. (Fair warning: Some of these images are legitimately R-rated.)

1. POOPING

Contradictory though it may seem, the margins of religious texts were a perfect and popular place for crude humor during the Middle Ages. If the scripture was king, the margins were its jester, poking holes in the text's (or author’s) grandeur and commenting pointedly on issues of the day. Some of that commentary was nuanced or couched in metaphors. The poop drawings … a little less so.

2. ATTACK SNAILS

Image Credit: British Library, Royal MS 10 E IV

Art and religious historians have debated this one for centuries. Some theorize that the snail and its trail of slime represent death; others think it signifies the Resurrection. Some believe it’s a metaphor for the lower class and their struggle against the armored aristocracy. Still others think scribes liked snails because, well, they kind of look like penises. Which brings us to our next item ...

3. GENITALS

Image Credit: Lyon, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms 5128, fol. 100r

So. Many. Penises.

4. THE ANIMAL-ON-ANIMAL CAROUSEL

Image Credit: British Library, Yates Thompson 8, f. 294r.

Margin art was a complex, labor-intensive game for both reader and scribe, as symbolic as any family crest. Lions had one meaning and monkeys another, as did their behavior and placement on the page. Illuminators swiped existing symbols and appropriated them for new, bizarre uses. If all this sounds familiar, it’s because we're still doing it.

5. BUTT TRUMPETS

Image Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Monty Python may have made illuminated butt trumpets famous, but they certainly didn’t invent them. No, those very special instruments came straight from the borders of religious texts, where they lay for centuries, amplifying and directing farts right into the holy gospels.

(Need more marginal mayhem? Check out Discarding Images on tumblr.)

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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