Merlin building Stonehenge (14th century) from Folio 30r of British Library, Egerton 3028.
The Arthurian magus in art and illustration. Despite the antiquity of the Arthur legend there doesn’t seem to be much early representation of Merlin outside a few drawings in old manuscripts. The British Library’s folio showing the raising of Stonehenge is the oldest known depiction of the ancient structure.
Most of the pictures here are illustrations for the Merlin and Vivien section of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, the first book of which was published in 1859. Vivien (or Viviane, Nimue, etc) is the sorcerous Lady in the Lake who either imprisons Merlin underground or in a tree depending on whose account you read. Edward Burne-Jones’ The Beguiling of Merlin has long been my favourite of that artist’s paintings. This is only a very small selection of possible pictures, of course. A more complete catalogue would include Nicol Williamson in John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981), a performance that some find overly mannered but one that I’ve always enjoyed.
Merlin and Vivien (1867) by Gustave Doré.
The Beguiling of Merlin (1874) by Edward Burne-Jones.
Continue reading “Merlin”
Drawings from an edition of Alfred Tennyson’s Poems illustrated by British artist Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (1872–1945) which was published by George Bell & Sons in 1905. The book was part of a series of illustrated poetry collections that included several books featured here in previous posts: Poems by John Keats and Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley both illustrated by Robert Anning Bell, and The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe illustrated by William Heath Robinson. There was also an edition of Browning illustrated by Byam Shaw at whose art school Ms Fortescue-Brickdale was employed as a teacher. Her Tennyson drawings aren’t entirely to my taste, I’ve omitted the full-page works which are rather static pre-Raphaelite-derived things. Far better are these vignettes whose heavy outlines and sinuous curves resemble both Heath Robinson’s early illustrations and Pamela Coleman Smith‘s famous Tarot card designs. As usual the Internet Archive has the whole book and (should anyone require more Tennyson) Ms Fortescue-Brickdale’s take on that Victorian staple Idylls of the King.
Continue reading “Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale’s illustrated Tennyson”