Tenniel’s Fables


Everyone knows John Tenniel’s illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, two volumes which have overshadowed the rest of his career. In addition to being a popular artist at Punch magazine Tenniel illustrated a number of other books including a collection of Aesop’s Fables in 1848. The copy from which these pictures are taken is a later edition from 1898, with text by Thomas James. The drawings lack the indelibly memorable quality of the Alice illustrations but that’s partly a result of the content which for Aesop is always going to lack the invention of Wonderland. Browse the rest of the book here or download it here.




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Detmold’s insects


The White-Faced Decticus.

Edward Julius Detmold’s (1883–1957) skill at drawing animals gave him a great advantage when it came to illustrating Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Aesop’s Fables, still among the very best editions of those books. Less well-known are his illustrations for Fabre’s Book of Insects (1921), a guide by naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre. Bud Plant has details about the artist’s unhappy life, while the Internet Archive also has copies of the Aesop and the Kipling.


The Praying Mantis.


Italian Locusts.

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The illustrators archive

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Fantastic art from Pan Books

Wenceslaus Hollar’s peacocks


Juno and the peacock (1665).

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677) did more than just peacocks, of course, as you can discover if you browse the substantial collection of his work at the University of Toronto. Both these pieces illustrate Aesop’s fables. (See here and here.)


The jay and the peacocks (1665).

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The etching and engraving archive

Mayuri lute


Mayuri means “peacock” and although this splendid instrument doesn’t look like a European lute, a lute it is, albeit styled for Indian court performances. Via Wunderkammer.

Popular at nineteenth-century Indian courts, this bowed lute borrows features of other Indian stringed instruments, such as the body shape of the sarangi and the frets and neck of the sitar. There are four melody strings and fifteen sympathetic strings, which sound when the instrument is played to accompany popular religious song. The peacock is the vehicle of Sarasvati, the goddess of music, and it appears in Indian poetry as a metaphor for courtship. (More.)


As a complement, here’s something I’m still hoping to find in a good colour reproduction, all one usually sees are details. The Peacock Garden (1889) was one of a number of wallpaper designs created for William Morris by Walter Crane. This copy showing the full pattern is from an 1897 issue of the German arts periodical Pan, part of a section highlighting arts and crafts in England. Walter liked his peacocks, here’s Juno and her birds from The Baby’s Own Aesop (1887).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Jaipur peacocks
Maruyama Okyo’s peacocks
Louis Rhead’s peacocks
The White Peacock
Whistler’s Peacock Room
Beardsley’s Salomé