Gazing at the Moon is an eternal human activity, one of the few things uniting caveman, king and commuter. Each has found something different in that lambent face. For Li Po, a lonely Tang dynasty poet, the Moon was a much-needed drinking buddy. For Holly Golightly, who serenaded it during the “Moon River” scene of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, it was a “huckleberry friend” who could whisk her away from her fire escape and her sorrows. By pretending to control a well-timed lunar eclipse, Columbus recruited it to terrify Native Americans into submission. Mussolini superstitiously feared sleeping in its light, and hid from it behind tightly drawn blinds.
huckleberry friend：Evokes someone with whom one has a carefree, innocent, hopeful, gentle friendship.（来自urban dictionary）
It would be a challenge for any museum to chronicle the long, complicated relationship humanity has with the Moon, but the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London has done it. For the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, the museum has placed relics from those nine remarkable days in July 1969 alongside cuneiform tablets, Ottoman pocket lunar-calendars, giant Victorian telescopes and instruments designed for India’s first lunar probe in 2008. This impressive exhibition tells the history of humanity’s fascination with this celestial body and looks to the future, as humans attempt once again to return to the Moon.
The Moon was once the domain of the gods, who had placed this seemingly smooth orb in the heavens, the finishing touch to a perfectly ordered creation. The red of the blood Moon was a sign of divine imbalance that only humanity could correct: the Chinese banged mirrors, the Inca shouted and the Romans frantically waved burning torches. In later ages when “progress” became a watchword, the Moon was colonised by Promethean dreams. Galileo swivelled his new telescope on the Moon in 1609, finding not perfect smoothness but chaotic crags and craters. It became a world to be lived on like any other, a place that could conceivably be travelled to, by beanstalk, catapult or geese, as the heroes of novels did, or in the latest inventions like hot-air balloons and giant cannon. Reaching out to it became almost an instinct, an act that confirmed humanity’s intelligence and immortality. “From the moment the first flint was flaked this landing was merely a matter of time,” wrote WH Auden in 1969.
Today, a gaggle of countries and companies plan to return to the Moon. Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese engineering firm, thinks it can solve the global energy crisis by assembling a belt of solar panels around the lunar equator, a shiny black girdle visible from our planet by 2035.
“I want! I want!” (1793) by William Blake
Opening the exhibition is a tiny print by William Blake. A small human figure is poised to scale the rungs of a giant ladder, a symbol of man’s ingenuity, ambition and bravery, and a foreshadowing of travels to come. Yet the image is tinged with ambiguity. “I want! I want!” could be a heroic statement of purpose or the cries of a spoilt child. Will the superhuman effort of getting to the Moon be compensated by what is found there? Is the Moon the final destination, or nothing more than a ledge propping up the ladder by which humanity begins its ascent into the void? For Blake, there was a dark side to the lunar dream – a place where hubris lurked.
首先出场的是一副非常小的版画，由威廉•布莱克所作。一个小人正准备爬上一个巨长无比的梯子，他展现了人类的聪明才智、雄心、勇敢及对种种未知旅程的隐喻。然而这一画面又带着几分模棱两可之感，《我想！我想！》可以是一个坚决的宣言，也可以是一个被宠溺的小孩的哭闹。在月球上的发现足够补偿那些为登月所做的所有异于常人的努力吗？月球就是终点吗？亦或不过是为人类架起梯子的一隅空间，让人类由此开启对宇宙虚空更深的探索？对布莱克而言，月球之梦的黑暗一面 —— 潜伏着人类的傲慢与自大。
“Tale of Genji” from “One Hundred Aspects of the Moon” (1886) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
Over six years, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, a Japanese artist of the Meiji period, created a series of images from episodes in Japanese and Chinese fiction and history, all associated with different phases of the Moon. This print conjures a famous event in the “Tale of Genji” an 11th-century work of fiction, in which the eponymous hero falls in love with a mysterious aristocratic lady, whom Genji names “Yugao”, after the white evening blossom that grows across her dilapidated house. She is tragically murdered by the spirit of one of his ex-lovers and dies in his arms. Here Yoshitoshi renders her as a ghostly figure wreathed by white Yugao flowers and illuminated by a full Moon, symbolic of nostalgia. Meiji Japan was shifting beyond all recognition in its effort to modernise. But no matter what changed, the Moon was always there.
“The Moon” (1787) by John Russell
By day, John Russell painted the likenesses of London elites. By night, he whiled away the hours bent over a telescope, sketching the Moon under different light conditions. Cartographers were making increasingly precise charts of the lunar surface, but Russell believed that only an artist could capture the orb’s lustrous character. He married attention to detail – Russell was fascinated with the craters and contours of the Moon – with an eye for colour. His use of pastels gives his lines the blurred softness which inspired Flaubert to liken the Moon to “a rounded fragment of ice”. Even though Russell’s drawings of the Moon, somewhere between a map and a portrait, are so evocative, he was criticised for neglecting his earthly sitters, and his Moon drawings were eventually forgotten.
白天，约翰•拉塞尔为伦敦的精英阶层画肖像；夜晚，他则一连几个小时俯身在望远镜前，画下他在不同光线下观测到的月亮。虽然地图绘制员手中的月表图愈发精确，但拉塞尔坚信只有艺术家才能扑捉到月亮那璀璨的特点。他对月亮的轮廓与月表的陨石坑格外着迷，这让他将自身对色彩的敏感和对细节的关注合二为一。蜡笔的运用让他笔下的线条有一种略带模糊的柔和，这给福楼拜带来了灵感 —— 月亮好似“圆边的冰粒”。拉塞尔笔下的月亮大约介于地图与肖像画之间，尽管他的天上之作充满让人共情的力量，可他却因疏忽了地上的工作而饱受指摘，终于人们忘了他还曾画过天上的月亮。
Poster for “Frau im Mond” (Woman in the Moon) (1929)
In the early 20th century, artists and scientists worked together to shape the space age. For his 1929 film, “Frau im Mond” (Woman in the Moon), German director Fritz Lang employed rocket scientists as consultants. The film was the first realistic depiction in the cinema of what it might be like to send men (and one woman) to the Moon. The rocket launch was an exciting novelty, and the countdown from ten to zero so dramatic, it was adopted by NASA. Lang didn’t get everything right. When the actors landed on the Moon, they strutted around a breathable Alpine world in plus-fours. But Lang’s rocket was so accurate that, by 1937, the Nazis had banned the international distribution of the film for fear that their enemies would deduce how to assemble the regime’s prized V2 rocket.
The Moon National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, until January 5th