Body Politic

Contemporary Artists in Australia Investigate Place, Identity, Memory, and History through the Graphic Image 

The ‘body politic’, the idea that a nation can be understood as a metaphorical body, was superbly visualised in the frontispiece for Thomas Hobbes’s seminal text, Leviathan, first published in 1651. This striking etching by Abraham Bosse is easily his most remembered print, largely because of its ability to visually translate such a concise metaphor. Born in the early 1600s, Bosse was a French-born, German Huguenot printmaker, who produced exquisite engravings and etchings throughout his life. His image for Leviathan is compositionally divided into geometric sections— evidencing his géometrique style. The top half is the most captivating section; it depicts a towering crowned giant whose body is constructed from hundreds of tiny bodies. He looks out over a cityscape and its surrounding landscape.