Brain Pickings

Stone Is Not Cold: Miroslav Šašek’s Playful Vintage Children’s Illustrations of Classical Sculpture


Medusa goes to the hairdresser, or what Cicero has to do with press conferences.

Czech illustrator Miroslav Šašek is best-known for his fantastic and timeless This Is… series of vibrant vintage travel books, designed for children but beloved by adults as well, which he produced between 1950 and 1970. But in 1961, in a lesser-known yet no less wonderful project, he took on a subject at once more intimate and more esoteric than cities. In Stone Is Not Cold, unearthed by the lovely Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves, Šašek brings to life famous sculptures from London, Rome and the Vatican City in irreverent vignettes from everyday life. The subdued black-and-grey drawings are nonetheless infinitely playful and lively, a feat of contrasts that reflects Šašek’s rare gift for visual storytelling.

Yes, Hercules, too, had a mother — and she, like any mother, worried:

Curiously, despite the book’s humor and buoyancy, Šašek is quoted describing the illustrations as “very gray and black — very sad, as life is” — tragic validation for the myth of the tortured genius, even in the carefree realm of children’s books.

All of Šašek’s illustrated books are an absolute treat, but if you haven’t laid eyes and hands on the glorious This Is New York (1960), you are missing out on something particularly magical and exquisite.

Images courtesy of Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves

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