Salomé (1916). “Your eyes are like black holes burned by torches in a Tyrian tapestry.”
This marvellous Salomé design is by a Dutch artist I hadn’t heard of before, Willem Arondeus, who might have had a longer career had his life not been cut short by a Nazi firing squad in 1943. Arondeus helped with the Dutch Resistance during the war, forging papers for fleeing Jews, and bombing the Amsterdam Public Records Office. His work warrants a place in the ever-popular gay artists archive not for any homoerotic qualities but because Arondeus was open about his homosexuality for his entire life, his last message to the world being “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.” The work that can be seen online is in that hybrid style that you see a lot from the 1920s on, a blending of the prevalent Art Deco manner with some hangover from the Art Nouveau period. The Salomé piece is particularly good for the way it entangles Salomé’s figure in writhing foliage and clustered architecture.
De Elfenzetel (1919).
Stamp advert (1923).
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A slight return to Omar Khayyam. The Edmund J. Sullivan post prompted comments about other editions so I thought I’d see what else was at the Internet Archive. The problem there is that the Rubáiyát was a very popular book in the latter part of the 19th century which means there are not only multiple editions of the Edward Fitzgerald translation but many translations by other hands, as well as numerous parodies. Anne S mentioned the Edmund Dulac edition which I suppose I ought to at least acknowledge since Dulac’s passion for Persian and Arabian art made him an ideal illustrator. But I do enjoy finding illustrated books that are less familiar, hence Elihu Vedder’s edition of 1894.
Elihu Vedder (1836–1923) was an American Symbolist painter, and also something of a poet himself, producing a few volumes of his own illustrated verse. Many illustrators favour an Orientalist interpretation of the Rubáiyát despite the popularity of the quatrains being more a result of their universality than their exotic qualities. Vedder produced over 50 drawings that concentrate on the mystical aspects of the poem, setting hand-lettered texts against illustrations that are either very similar to his paintings or direct copies of some of his canvases. It’s unfortunate that the reproductions in this edition—a reprinting of Vedder’s 1884 original—aren’t better. The book is still one of the more remarkable editions, however. Browse the rest of it here or download it here.
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Mention yesterday of Edmund J. Sullivan’s illustrations for The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam made me realise that I’d never seen a complete set of Sullivan’s illustrations for this volume (75 in all) despite one particular drawing (the rose-crowned skeleton) being very familiar. Sullivan’s Rubáiyát was published in 1913, and the translation is the Edward Fitzgerald version. These copies aren’t the best quality but they’re good enough at a small size to give an idea of Sullivan’s renderings which feature more occult references than usual for this title. Browse the rest of the pages here or download the book here.
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(Apologies again for the downtime, the fourth outage this month.)
Thanks are due to Beautiful Century for drawing my attention to this 1905 edition of the Rubáiyát illustrated by Adelaide Hanscom (later Adelaide Hanscom Leeson). Hanscom (1875–1931) was an American artist and photographer whose work here is notable for the early use of photographs to illustrate a popular book, and for many of those photographs being nude portraits of her literary friends. No doubt the “exotic” theme enabled these to escape opprobrium at a time when male nudity (in photographs at least) was a very scarce commodity. The book was understandably popular, and a later edition featured tinted plates, an example of which can be seen below. A few of the plates look too much like what they were—friends of the artist posing in costumes—but the majority achieve that nebulous atmosphere, common to much photography of the time, that sought to imitate the effects of painting. Browse the rest of the book here or download it here.
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One of the more obscure artists from the Golden Age of the illustrated book, finding this volume by René Bull (1872–1942) makes up for my earlier dismissal of his Arabian Nights where the illustrations tend towards the comical. This volume dates from 1913, and shows Bull to be a fine exponent of Edwardian Orientalism. Browse the rest of it here or download it here.
Continue reading “René Bull’s Rubáiyát”