Monday, June 25, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs: Part 2

As promised in the last post, it's now time for some Sibbick sauropod(omorph)s. There's surely nowhere better to begin than with the favourite dinosaur of people named Heinrich, Plateosaurus! Sibbick depicts the animal in both upright and rather more erroneous quadrupedal feeding postures. Interestingly, the 'prosauropods' are primarily depicted as bipeds in this book - especially in the skeletal diagrams and photos of mounted skeletons, which include the excellent Tübingen mount of Plateosaurus engelhardti. However, Norman is careful to point out that these animals were probably habitual quadrupeds, a view that became firmly established in the 1990s before being demolished by more recent research (Bonnan & Senter (2007) and that Mallison guy).

Skeletals, by popular demand! It's worth pointing out - although I completely failed to in my last post (FOR SHAME!) - that each double-page illustration is accompanied by a spread of wonderful skeletal diagrams, which are a key part of this book's enormous appeal, even if a lot of them are now rather out of date. This Plateosaurus is partaking in a strangely upright tottering walk with a rather uncomfortable-looking tail. Of course, it's notable that the hands are facing the right way here, and the smaller skeletal is clearly based on a Plateosaurus mount supervised by Friedrich von Huene that was remarkably ahead of its time. It's also worth noting that - for all their flaws - both of these depictions are more realistic than, say, a galloping Plateosaurus. As if anyone could contemplate such silliness...

I've clearly been reading Mallison's blog for far too long - time to move on to some Proper Sauropods. Sibbick's Apatosaurus clearly owes a lot to earlier work by the likes of Burian, particularly when it comes to the neck, which seems to emerge from below the shoulder blades; noteworthy is that the head is of the more correct diplodocid style.  The artwork is still beautiful, but at this point Sibbick's sauropods still tended to be rather lardy tail-draggers. Of course, his work evolved rapidly, and it's worth comparing the very 1950s Diplodocus in the background here with the extraordinary 'Allosaurus v Diplodocus' painting from the early '90s. Yeah, I know it mentioned it last time. But it's that bloody good.

This drawing's just fantastic. Excellent caption provided by Ivan Kwan (@VaranusSalvator), via Twitter:

Sauropod: Come here, give Aunt Pat a big hug!
Allosaur: DO NOT WANT

More skeletal stuff. This page is remarkable for the inclusion of 'diplodocid skulls' that actually come from titanosaurs. Given how famous they are now - the stars of TV documentaries and popular dinosaur books across the globe - it's easy to forget how much our understanding of titanosaurs has progressed in the last 20 years. The Diplodocus skeletal here is also very old fashioned, with the bones of the hand arranged in a rather strange, flat, lizardy way.

Every time I look at this Giraffatitan I think of chocolate biscuits (or 'cookies' for David and our United Statesian readers). There's a reason - back in the early '90s, the biscuit manufacturer Jacob's made dinosaur-shaped chocolate coated biscuits that were bundled with little cards featuring Sibbick artwork. Also, the big lug looks really happy, like he just ate a particularly delicious chocolate biscuit. Yes. This was also the illustration that led to my childhood perception of Camarasaurus being the little baby brother of the other sauropods; apart from its neck being unduly short here, standing next to Giraffatitan certainly never helped.

You know how I mentioned that some of these sauropods look a little...heavy? Vulcanodon here is probably the best example - modern restorations of this basal sauropod tend to be rather more slimline. Again, though, this is absolutely stunning artwork, and the animal depicted here is completely believable, dragged tail and all. It was probably the excellent execution of this picture that led to Vulcanodon's otherwise inexplicable mention in a number of dinosaur books back in the 1990s - this illustration was always there alongside.

It's the only erect-tailed sauropod there ever was! Perhaps because its tail is its most notable feature, Opisthocoelicaudia is depicted holding it aloft with nary a puff of dust in sight. Fellow titanosaur Saltasaurus is clearly aghast at this dangerous dinosaur radical. Saltasaurus itself is exhibiting a posture clearly modelled on rearing elephants. Another lovely illustration...you know, by the end of this series, I'm going to have to resort to just typing "Cor! Look at that lovely Sibbick art, there! It's right nice, it is!"

And so concludes today's lesson. There'll be more! Oh yes, I'm afraid so.

11 comments:

  1. Ha!
    You're quite right about Huene and the AMNH depressed (drooping) Plateosaurus - an altogehter much better mount that many.

    However, there is a much better (non-droopy) one by him in Tübingen (GPIT/RE/7288, the one I CT scanned); and there is this, also by him:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plateosaurus_Skelett_2.jpg

    Note the similarity to the skeletal drawing with the "uncomfortable" tail? In fact, the drawing you show above is is most certainly derived of the Huene 1932 drawing ;)

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  2. I did mention the Tübingen mount! It is indeed better, and there's a photo in the book.

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  3. Brilliant stuff... so many palaeo-art memes... of which I'll mention just one. Sibbick's rearing saltasaur is (looks for right words) surprisingly similar to a pencil sketch produced by Mark Hallett some years earlier.

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    1. You know, I was going to mention Hallett here, but it seems he was so far ahead of the curve it isn't really fair. I swear he had a TARDIS.

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  4. Biped Plateosaurus is the best Plateosaurus :3

    Also, I'm pretty sure I thought for a brief moment the Vulcanodon picture was a photo of a model, back when I first saw it.

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  5. @Marc Vincent

    "However, Norman is careful to point out that these animals were probably habitual quadrupeds, a view that became firmly established in the 1990s before being demolished by more recent research (Bonnan & Senter (2007) and that Mallison guy)."

    In Plateosaurus, yes, but not in "early sauropodomorphs" as a whole (See the highlighted sentence: http://books.google.com/books?id=1GOYYwqctxMC&pg=PA232&dq=%22considering+the+varying+adaptations%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=akUaT5SgIMr50gH53OCeCw&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22considering%20the%20varying%20adaptations%22&f=false ).

    "This Plateosaurus is partaking in a strangely upright tottering walk with a rather uncomfortable-looking tail."

    I always thought it was tip-toeing.

    "Sauropod: Come here, give Aunt Pat a big hug!"

    Alternatively, it could be saying, "I give this book 2 thumb claws up!"

    "This was also the illustration that led to my childhood perception of Camarasaurus being the little baby brother of the other sauropods;"

    Good to know I'm not the only 1. It seems to have a baby face (I.e. Short nose, big eyes).

    "Fellow titanosaur Saltosaurus is clearly aghast at this dangerous dinosaur radical."

    This is partly why I love your book reviews so. I can't look at vintage paleoart w/out thinking of your captions.

    "And so concludes today's lesson. There'll be more! Oh yes, I'm afraid so."

    Would you do me a favor &, when you get to the ornithopods, make sure to include a pic of Sibbick's Tenontosaurus? It's a good example of a paleoart meme I've always wondered about: Sauropod-like tenontosaurs. It's been around for as long as I can remember & still shows up in some post-2000 paleoart (E.g. http://www.artdinouveau.com/photos/4110530_Tenontosaurus%20Deinonychus%201.jpg ), yet I have no idea of how or why it came to be. Many thanks in advance.

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    1. 'This is partly why I love your book reviews so. I can't look at vintage paleoart w/out thinking of your captions.'

      This. So very much this.

      One day, if we keep trying hard enough, Marc just might begin to see how much his contributions are valued.

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  6. I used to have this book too. To me it was one of the first dinosaur books in which the animals actually looked realistic. I grew up in the 1970s when the dinosaurs of "the Album of Dinosaurs" were the standard of illustration.

    Speaking of which you really should review the album, so many memes and the art is just gorgeous if outdated. You can find some scans for it at
    http://the-haunted-closet.blogspot.com/2009/02/album-of-dinosaurs-tod-mcgowen-rod-ruth.html
    though they are a bit dull do to the scanner or perhaps a bad printing.

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    1. McGowen & Ruth's Album of Dinosaurs and Album of Prehistoric Mammals completely rule. We've been thinking of scanning them both cover-to-cover this year.

      This Encyclopedia has some great illustrations, too, and we'd like to pick up a copy for our dino library. Thank you for posting it!

      We just added Edwin Colbert's World of Dinosaurs to our collection. And despite being so out of date on some of the science, it's a cool little book.

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  7. Opisthocoelicaudia's tail position is probably due to its description (Borsuk-Bialynicka, 1977) saying its tail was held horizontally.

    The Diplodocus manus position in the skeletal is especially odd considering it's redrawn from Hatcher (1901), who correctly had it digitigrade.

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