Icebergs in oil or bone or what-have-you
December 2, 2012 3:41 PM   Subscribe

What is the earliest depiction (not description) of an iceberg in Western Art?

This is the kind of question Google should be ideal at answering, yet nothing seems to be turning up. Painting, sculpture, or other artistic medium would be fine.
posted by Chrischris to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Humans were in arctic as long as 30-40k years ago. The first art depicting icebergs was probably about that time. In any case the answer would be pre-history which is why google won't be a lot of help.

Not sure how you are defining 'Western'
posted by 2manyusernames at 4:19 PM on December 2, 2012

The first known landscape painting is from Çatal Hüyük (ca. 9500 BCE), so that's not it, and it'll come from sometime later.

Taking a fairly strict view of Western art, I took a guess that it'd either be something crafted by Vikings, who doubtless saw some icebergs, or painted by the Dutch, whose Golden Age was pretty rich in both sailing and landscape paintings. Googling on that basis, the earliest candidate I came up with was "A Bear Hunt in the Arctic" (1696) by Wigerus Vitringa.

I seriously doubt that's the first, but those are some starting points for whittling it down.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:11 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the question means "earliest known" or "earliest extant" not "when would they first have been represented even though those particular examples are now lost to us."
posted by yoink at 5:56 PM on December 2, 2012

I'd guess a time before the Dutch Golden Age, and would look into early atlases and maps of the arctic. You're particularly likely to find depictions from the North Atlantic, because there was a lot of competition for fishing resources and colony-scouting going on there between the feudal kingdoms of Europe for centuries, and they communicated their findings in images as well as cartography in early Atlases.

This is a really good question for a reference librarian, particularly at an art or maps library.
posted by Miko at 7:42 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Based on Miko's suggestion, I turned up the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus (1539). This zoomable version of a copy made in 1572 lets you clearly see the very large (island-sized) chunks of ice with polar bears ("ursi albi") on them.

I'd bet on there being something earlier, and I'd agree this question is likely to please a map or art history librarian.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:11 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

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