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Serafini, Luigi

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist, Author.

(1949-    ) Italian architect, artist, designer and author who has consistently focused his work, in whatever medium, on imaginary constructs, whether organic entities, buildings, furniture, artworks and Illustrations, or books-as-objects. Of sf interest is the extraordinary Codex Seraphinianus (1981 2vols; more than one varying edition; most significant rev 2013), a heavily illustrated pseudo-encyclopedia of an apparent Alternate World. The Codex is divided into eleven primary chapters whose subjects include flora and fauna (see Biology), depicted as vividly as the images that might be found in a mediaeval Bestiary; bipedal creatures whose appearance and representative behaviours Parody Homo sapiens, sometimes evocative of Absurdist SF, sometimes of artists like Hieronymus Bosch, while also seeming to represent Alien life forms (including more or less surreal Cyborgs) as variously imagined over the past two centuries of Fantastika; Physics, Technology, Machines and Inventions, with an effect somewhere between the speculative drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and the First Industrial Age fantasias of Rube Goldberg or W Heath Robinson, while at the same time prefiguring or shadowing the work of contemporary artists like Shaun Tan; human mores and games (see Games and Sports); and Cities (many with the air of Utopias) and their architecture. [For Bestiary and Hieronymus Bosch see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below.] Though these and other aspects are depicted in glowingly coloured detail, they remain enigmatic since the language (see Linguistics) surrounding these illustrations is written in a yet-undeciphered script, and is either an imaginary tongue or entirely asemic. The final effect of the entire enterprise – strongly reminiscent of the fantastic otherworld encyclopedias imagined by Jorge Luis Borges in Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (May 1940 Sur) and the title story of El libro de arena ["The Book of Sand"] (coll 1975) – is both estranged and intimate, and the Codex, though an inturned autonomous work of art, has served sf authors and artists as a releaser for the creative imagination. [JC/DRL]

Luigi Serafini

born Rome: 4 August 1949

works (selected)

  • Codex Seraphinianus (Milan, Italy: Franco Maria Ricci, 1981) [published in two volumes: illus/hb/Luigi Serafini]
    • Codex Seraphinianus (Milan, Italy: Franco Maria Ricci, 1993) [rev of the above: illus/hb/Luigi Serafini]
      • Codex Seraphinianus (Milan, Italy: Rizzoli, 2006) [graph: exp of the above, with new illustrations: illus/hb/Luigi Serafini]
        • Codex Seraphinianus (Milan, Italy: Franco Maria Ricci, 2013) [further rev of the above: some other intervening editions contain some modifications: illus/hb/Luigi Serafini]


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