MOTHER EARTH (2017)
125 x 160 cm
Most woodcuts related to mining depict truncated trees around the mineshafts. Mining in the Middle Ages was unimaginable without wood. Beams were used in the shafts and charcoal was needed for ore processing. Thus, miners were usually let to use the sorrounding forests as they wished. The deforestation and the shortage of wood eventually procreated forest management.
Although the principles of modern environmental protection came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the issue of preserving the environment has been present throughout history. As Georgius Agricola recalls in De re metallica (1556) – translated to English by Herbert Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover – in Italy, it was once forbidden by law to ravage the Earth and destroy fertile lands for the sake of ore. Mining was seen as a wicked activity in the antiquity. Philosophers argued that the Earth does not conceal the goods that are useful for mankind, while the unessential minerals had been expelled to the bowels of the Earth for a reason.
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses where the Four Ages of Man (Golden, Silver, Bronze, Iron) are described, bringing the ores up to the surface in the Iron Age counts as a lethal sin of mankind. “And not only was the rich soil required to furnish corn and due sustenance, but men even descended into entrails of the earth, and they dug up riches, those incentives to vice, which the earh had hidden and had removed to the Stygian shades.” Mother Earth combines this citation with Dante’s Inferno, interpreted as the downward shrinking cones of gold and silver mines.