from the jazz age to the space age

Monthly Archives: February 2016

retold by Leontyne Price, based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
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Aida is the story of the beautiful Nubian (Ethiopian) princess who is captured by Egyptian soldiers and made a slave in the palace.

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She keeps her identity a secret, but her nobility, gentleness, and beauty shine so brightly that the Egyptian warrior, Radames falls in love with her. However, the Egyptian princess Amneris loves Radames as well.

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imageAida’s father, King Amonasro, invades Egypt to free his daughter, but is captured by Radames and his army.

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Aida and her father are determined to escape and Aida begs Radames to come with them.

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But Amneris was watching and calls the guards. 

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Radames is sentenced to be buried alive for treason.

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But Aida has hidden in the tomb. She has resolved to die with her beloved.

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The princess Amneris prays to the gods of Egypt that they forgive her and grant rest to Radames.

I have quite a few books by Leo and Diane Dillon- one of which, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” you can see here. The illustrations were done in acrylics, on acetate and marbleized paper. The metal frame was created by their son, Lee Dillon.
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The Dillons are primarily famous for their sci-fi/fantasy covers, which are spectacular. They also often portrayed black/african looking people in their art, which is a rarity on book covers, even when the characters are specifically written as darker skinned (such as in Le Guin’s Earthsea books). -Note, an illustrator is usually given the briefest synopsis to work with, or something even worse like, “a young woman in a futuristic setting.”
But, the Dillons initially flourished during a time when there was an interest in African culture and black beauty, which enabled their work to break out of the common stereotypes of sci-fi/fantasy art. I’d like to do a post soon on Afro-futurism, which is one of my favorite genres, where I go into this in a little more depth.
In the meantime, please enjoy the Dillons magnificent art.

And, the story was retold by the famous soprano, Leontyne Price. Here is a video of her, singing “O Patria Mia” from Aida~


Retold by M. Charlotte Craft. Illustrated by Kinuko Craft.
I know everyone hates Valentines Day because it makes them feel horribly alone, but I can’t help but love it. Not because I’m married either.  I’ve always loved it,  even when I was single.  There’s so much candy! And, to be perfectly honest,  I love when others are happily in in love. Valentine’s is also about showing love to your family and friends.  People hate holidays,  but as long as you don’t go totally fucking insane trying to create perfect moments,  they’re actually just nice reminders to reach out to the people in your life, whether those relationships are romantic or platonic.

I first read “Cupid and Psyche” as a chid. I immediately recognized it as “Beauty and Beast”, which is one of my two favorite fairy tales ever. I’ve had plans to illustrate it for 20 years, but until then we can gaze at the beautiful paintings of Kinuko Craft.

A note inside tells us that the art is oil over a watercolor base.
imageRoughly, “Cupid” means “desire” and “Psyche” means “soul”. These are the names by which the characters are best known, however, Cupid is Roman and Psyche is Greek. In Greek, Cupid is Eros and in Roman, Psyche is Anima. Together they form the ultimate in love. Note the Morning Glory flowers on the left. According to Victorian tradition, Morning Glory meant a love that never dies. And of course we have Psyche holding a butterfly- psyche also meant butterfly in ancient greek. 

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Beautiful embossed cover. You rarely see covers like this anymore.

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A King and Queen have 3 daughters. All are lovely, but Psyche is so beautiful the people believe her to be the Goddess Venus come to Earth. Her sisters marry, but Psyche, prized her her beauty, remains unloved.

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Venus sends her son, Cupid to shoot Psyche with one of his arrows of desire and make her fall in love with a monster.

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He gleefully goes to do her bidding, but upon seeing Psyche accidentally pricks himself with the arrow meant for her. The Oracle of Delphi proclaims that a monster so fearsome that even the Gods fear him has fallen in love with Psyche and wants her as his bride. They are to take her to a mountaintop where the West Wind will spirit her away to her Bridegroom.

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But once there, Psyche finds a beautiful palace filled with invisible servants. Every night, in complete darkness her husband comes to her. He is so kind and gentle that she forgets that he is supposed to be a monster. But still, she is lonely and persuades him to allow her sisters to visit her.

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The West Wind brings them, but even though they are both married to rich and handsome kings, they become consumed with jealously at their sister’s good fortune. When they discover she has never seen her monstrous husband, they convince her to break her promise to him and light a lamp to see what he looks like.

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After they leave, Psyche decides to follow their advice. but instead of an ugly monster, she discovers that her husband is the beautiful God of Love. She is so shocked she drips hot oil on Cupid.

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Heartbroken that she has broken her promise and wounded from the burning oil, Cupid leaves her.

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Bitches get stitches.

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Psyche beseeches Venus to have pity on her. The Goddess tells Psyche that all the stress that Psyche has put her through has dulled her own beauty. She sends the girl to the Underworld to borrow some of Persephone’s beauty. This painting reminds me of Kay Nielsen’s amazing illustration from “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”.  That fairy tale is another variant of this story.

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The beautiful and dreaded Persephone, queen of the Underworld. Persephone gives her a box containing a bit of her beauty, but warns Psyche to not open it. Note the pomegranate from Persephone’s own myth.

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Psyche is really bad at following instructions. Like, really, really bad. She worries that her travels have made her look terrible. She wants to Cupid to see her in all her beauty and so she opens the box to take just a pinch of Persephone’s beauty for herself. But Persephone’s beauty delivers only deep, deathly sleep. Luckily, Cupid had been watching for her. Healed from his wound, he flies to her side and puts the sleep back in the box.

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Psyche delivers the box to Venus. Cupid entreats Jupiter, king of the Gods to grant Psyche immortality. Jupiter and the other gods are happy to do so, thinking that Cupid will be so busy with his lovely wife that he will cause far less trouble for both gods and men. Even Venus is happy. With Psyche in Olympus instead of on Earth, mortals once again resume their worship of her.
As for Cupid and Psyche, they have a beautiful daughter they name, “Joy” and they all live happily ever after.