from the jazz age to the space age

Category Archives: medieval

I have Dean’s A Book of Fairy Tales illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. Unlike their fellow British children’s illustrators they’re not well known here in the U.S. which is a shame considering the high quality of their work. They generally worked on small to medium sized artist board in watercolor and gouache. Right click to enlarge.

Sleeping Beauty, or La Belle au bois dormant, always seems best served by a high medieval setting. And whenever the tudoresque prince comes, in his slashed doublet and round toed shoes, he makes the best example of 100 years gone by just  with his fashion. 
the lovely but doomed princess.
the beautiful kind-hearted fairy.
lords and ladies in their particolored hose, gowns, and  hennins. 
keep an eye on everyone here~
the prince in his radically different and decidedly un-medieval fashion.
note the page boy running after the cat with the fish in it’s mouth. Janet and Anne set up this little bit of storytelling father up, when they all fall into the hundred year sleep. i love little details like this!


“You and the land are one… drink from the chalice and you will be reborn and the land with you.”
 
Ready my knights for battle. They will ride with their king once more. I have lived through others for far too long. Lancelot carried my honor, and Guenevere, my guilt. Mordred bore my sins. My knights have fought my causes. Now, my brother, I shall be… king.”
 
 
 
This is my favorite scene from Excalibur. It gives me chills when Arthur rides forth and the land blossoms in his wake, while Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana plays. The words were written by goliards {defrocked monks and minstrels} sometime between the 11th and 13th centuries, while the music was written by Carl Orff in 1935-1936 *cough* nazis *cough* {to be fair, I’ve read that Orff had jewish relatives who remained unmolested due to his popularity.} Many years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Orff’s Carmina Burana performed and it was breathtaking. The themes of fickle fortune, the transience of life, and the peril and pleasure of vice are as relevant today as they were when written. I often wonder if we have begun the decent into a dark age or the ascent to another renaissance.

O Fortuna (fortune)
Velut luna (like the moon)
Statu variabilis (you are changeable)
Semper crescis (ever waxing)

 

Aut decrescis; (and waning;)

 

Vita detestabilis (hateful life)

 

Nunc obdurat (first oppresses)

 

Et tunc curat (and then soothes)

 

Ludo mentis aciem, (as fancy takes it)

 

Egestatem, (poverty)

 

Potestatem (and power)

 

Dissolvit ut glaciem. (it melts them like ice.)
 
Since I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin I’ve been obsessing on knights again. His characters are well crafted, especially for the fantasy genre, and because his world is so detailed, his books read more like the history of a hitherto undiscovered country. Below are some of my favorite pictures of dragons, knights, and ladies fair which have been dancing circles in my head since I started the series~ {all scans are from books in my library unless noted and linked. right click and open in a new window for full size}
 
Paolo Uccelo~ “St. George and the Dragon” 1455
Arthur Rackham~ “Stories of King Arthur” 1902
J.W. Waterhouse~ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” {detail} 1893
 H.J. Ford~ 1917
Howard Pyle~ “The Lady Nymue beareth away Launcelot into the Lake” 1905
Howard Pyle~ “Sir Kay breaketh his sword at the tournament” 1903
 Howard Pyle~ “the Lady Guinevere” 1903
Gustav Klimt~ detail of the Beethoven frieze, “the Golden Knight” 1902

Arthur Rackham~ “Seven Ravens” 1900

Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark~ screencap from “Game of Thrones” tv series. via coldwindsarerising

Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone~ “Arthur goes to Avalon” 1966. via joan eyles johnson

 


starting in 7th grade i ordered time-life’s enchanted world series. instead of starting “witches and wizards” they started me with “the fall of camelot”. 
my knights/arthurian craze had begun!


in my mid teens i discovered trina schart hyman’s beautiful, “st. george and the dragon”. 









taking it’s details from spencer’s “faerie queen” we are plunged into an england not seen since arthur rackham. an england {or eden} where every tree, every root is populated by gnomes, fauns, & beautiful fairies with gossamer wings. 





in the book, only fairies, angels, animals, and children stare out from the pages to make eye contact with the reader. the adults are unaware of their audience.















the great dragon looking like a medieval satan!

















i love how his tail curls through the opposing page! 


there is also another story told in the decorated margins of sailors trying to get home which parallels st george’s journey. 









una comforts st. george.











gorgeous medieval manuscript like details. witches, fairies, mandrake roots!

















an epic battle. there’s also a fair amount of blood for a children’s book.




i love the clouds through these illustrations. they’re like scenery in a mystery play!









lovely angels with crimson wings pray for st. george.















the death of the dragon. again, a bit of blood, but this was 1984 and we were less sensitive about these things. although i’d certainly rather my son was exposed to violence in this manner, with evil being clearly vanquished.









una and st. george. notice the cat looking at you. 


trina used india ink outlines and washes of acrylic.