Beauty and the Beast as Presented in Home Pantomime Toy Books

Beauty and the Beast by Richard Andre

Beauty and the Beast is among the most recognizable fairy tales in the world. Immortal story by Madame Leprince Beaumont (being a rewriting itself) went through numerous adaptations aiming at a very different audience. This post presents one of the so-called toy books, an innovation of the 19th century, where the pages could be moved and folded in different ways to present a 3D effect or change of scenes.

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Richard Andre, one of the most prolific illustrators of his time, made a step further. The story about the pretty and kind girl who is willing to sacrifice her life for her father, and the enchanted prince who needs to find true love before he can break a spell by which he became The Beast, was adapted for the theatre.

It's a pantomime theatre, where the movement speaks instead of words but the scenery has a tremendously important role as well. We don't know for sure who contributed to the final product because credits and copyrights were not particularly taken care of in those times. Richard Andre, who changed his name two times, just to escape the sins from his past, probably didn't care much about that either.

Anyway, we are dealing with a characteristic product from the newly developed field of picture books - a pantomime toy book. The printing technique was chromolithography, done by Emrik & Binger, published by Dean & Son, London, in 1880.

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The play obviously starts with the departure of the father. While the Leprince Beaumont's story informs us about the merchant, his business, the relationships in the story, and the crisis leading to the relocation of the family from town to much smaller country house, all this information is supposed to be already known or irrelevant to the story. The setting is Oriental, which gives an additional exotic feel.

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Merchant's travel is not a nice one. He looks worried, the trees are threatening. Everything can happen.

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We don't know what happened to the camel but the merchant is not ready to give up yet. It looks he'll continue on his foot.

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And there it is - a magnificent palace, looking like a perfect shelter to the man who was so troubled. Things look much more optimistic now. Now threatening trees around!

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Merchant's luck is coming back - he found a rose, a flower he promised to his youngest daughter. Yes, Beauty will be very happy when she receives it.

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But that was a mistake. A fatal mistake. Roses are not meant to be picked. They are beautiful just like they are - alive, on the bush, with other roses. The Beast demands punishment. Will the merchant pay with his life? Or can he offer something better?

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Beauty feels guilty. Her wish for the rose led her father into trouble. She is willing to replace him in front of the Beast. She demands that.

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The first meeting between Beauty and the Beast is surprisingly nice. The Beast doesn't intend to eat her or tear her apart. At least for now. He even brings her flowers. They soon befriend each other.

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But Beauty's life in the palace has its downsides. She misses her father. A magic mirror shows her his image which worries her even more. Merchant is ill. Very ill. Beauty wants to see him. The Beast gives her permission to visit her family but she must return soon. Otherwise, he will become ill.

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Beauty kept her word and returned to the palace. Just about time to find the Beast on the floor. Her father is better but her friend is in trouble now. Will he die? She realizes how important it became the Beast to her. She wants to stay with him forever. She would like to marry him.

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The Beast heard the good news. His health is restoring. The presence of Beauty is the best medicine for him. Soon he transforms into a handsome prince. He was enchanted and only true love could save him.

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A marriage between Beauty and the Beast follows. Her jealous sisters are there too. But they are transformed into the statues. This way they can't hut the happy couple anymore. Magic works in their favor now. Her father moved into the palace as well.

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This book is just one of the series. If I find another one, I'll add it to this blog. In the meantime, you can check an interesting article about the mythology behind the fairy tale about Beauty and the Beast!

Calendar for 1896 by Eugene Grasset

Eugene Grasset was one of the most successful artist on the edge of the 19th and the 20th centry. This calendar is just one example of his skills.

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Eugene Samuel Grasset was born on May 25th, 1845, in Lausanne, Switzerland. He showed great talent for drawing from the early years, learning to use chisel and gauge from his father, who was a successful sculptor and cabinet maker. His first mentor was Francois-Louis David Bocion at Ecole Industrielle in Lausanne, where he studied for two years.

Eugene left for architecture and later sculpture studies in Zurich, following the steps of his father. While he never worked as an architect, his sense of proportions and symmetry absolutely benefited from the studies. After his graduation whole family took a trip to Egypt what influenced Eugene who soon became interested in Egyptian and Japanese art. These influences stayed part of his creative process for the rest of his life.

For a couple of years, he worked as a painter in Lusanne. In 1871 he moved to Paris, in many ways the art capital of the world in those times. There he established his career as a designer of fabrics, furniture, and jewelry. Industrial design occupied him for several years, leading to his work in the area of ceramics and stained glass, combining very different materials and building his time as one of the best designers in Europe.

He earned money by decorating homes of affluent families, churches, libraries, and other public buildings with mosaics and stained glass, combined with ivory, silver, gold, and precious stones. He also taught at Ecole Guerin, Ecole d'Art Graphique, Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, and Ecole Estienne. Several of his students later became successful artists as well. We should also mention illustrations for the books Le Petit Nab in 1877 and Histoire de quatre fils Aymon 1883.

Let's take a look on the rest of his calendar for 1886:

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In the 1890s he started designing posters, a relatively new and unexplored media if we consider the innovations in printing. Grasset was a jack of all trades, being able to create a complete poster, from typography (he created his own fonts) and tiniest ornaments to final composition with the message. He also created magazine covers, logotypes, carpet patterns, stamps, calendars... His biggest influences were Gustave Dore (in the illustration) and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc (in the industrial design).

Eugene Grasset is one of the most influential artists from the Belle Epoque and a pioneer of the Art Nouveau era. His variety and skills can be compared with another, although much more widely recognized artist - Walter Crane.

Grasset's probably most recognizable characteristic was the ability to decorate any object without suffocating the leading motif, what was exactly what the poster art needed - staying simple, focused to the point, yet pretty and even attractive for spectator's eyes. His style was so recognizable and effective, Americans invited him to design some posters for them as well (Christmas issue for Harper's Bazaar in 1892, for instance).

He exhibited at Salon des Cent in 1894 and Salon des Artistes Decorateurs in 1904. The greatest hit was the presentation of his font named Grasset, engraved by G. Peignot et fils at the Universal Exposition in 1900. Did you know he even published a dissertation about the usage of plants in design? He was also one of the inventors in the field of printing color photos.

Grasset died on October, 23th, 1917, in Sceaux, today's suburbs of Paris, France. The presented calendar was made for 1886 but it will be 100% accurate in 2030 again!

Data provided by mycalendarland.com.

The Piper of Hamelin - A Fantastic Opera in Two Acts by Robert Buchanan illustrated by Hugh Thomson

Most children today never heard about the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The story about the piper who saved the city of rats and, because he wasn't paid as expected, led all the kids out of town, is just too scary. A century ago publishers of books for children didn't care so much of the possibility of hurting sensible kids' souls. But even then some people believed this should be a different kind of story. Not so eerie, with a happy ending, if possible.

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One of them was obviously Robert Williams Buchanan (1841-1901), a dramatist, a poet, and a writer from Scotland. He wrote the play about the mysterious disappearance of children in Hamelin in 1893 when he was already an established writer and dramatist. The book was published in the Comedy Theatre collection by William Heinemann in London.

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The play is written in two acts. The author mentions on the first page it follows the plot of the original legend in the first act but it's completely original in the second. Well, there's a significant difference in the first act already. The focus of the conflict is not on the Piper against the citizens but the Piper against the Mayor. The Mayor, who is presented just as a representative of all citizens of Hamelin in Browning's version, is not particularly popular among his own people.

There is also an introduction of a positive character named Conrad in this first act. Conrad agrees with Piper about the payment. He even offers to pay a part of the owed money instead of the Mayor. Unfortunately, he is pretty poor, so he can't possibly match the agreed sum. He is also in love with the Mayor's daughter Liza, what puts him in a conflict situation - a major building block of any drama, even if it's made for kids.

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The second act is truly Robert Buchanan's original product. Let's cruise through the illustrations signed by Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) and try to follow the whole story.

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The town of Hamelin was infested with rats. They were everywhere and nobody knew how to get rid of them.

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People were afraid of these tiny little beasts. The quality of life in the city was rapidly falling.

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The town council had meetings but nobody proposed any useful solution. They had a rat-catcher before, but the Mayor dismissed him to save some money. Now the rat infection threatens to destroy the trade and other profitable activities in the city. People blame the Mayor for the situation. He should find a solution as soon as possible. He was forced to offer a thousand guilders to the one who rids the town of the rats.

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Another Mayor's worry is an introduction to Conrad. He is a pauper, a poor young man who loves his daughter Liza. And Liza Loves Conrad as well. Mayor doesn't want Conrad around his daughter so he tells him to go away. But will the youngster listen to him?

Then the Piper appears in front of him. He said he can save the city. He can transform the rats into a distant memory in a matter of a few hours. Of course, he expects payment for his efforts. The Mayor tells him about the offer of one thousand guilders. Can the Piper release at least some tension from the Mayor?

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When the Piper starts playing rats came from all the places they were hiding. They followed the song wherever the Piper goes.

He went through the city until all the rats were lined after him. Then he led them into the river where they drowned.

But when the Mayor found out there are no rats anymore, he didn't want to part the guilders.

Piper demands the payment for his service. Mayor doesn't want to pay.

Piper starts losing his temper. Conrad offers to pay at least some of the mayor's debt.

But the Piper insists on one thousand guilders. If not, something very bad will happen. Something to the kids.

Mayor starts threatening him. Piper must leave the city.

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But he returns. And he has his pipe with him.

When the Piper starts playing again, all children under 14 years fall into a trans-like state. The music is inviting. They must follow.

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All children of the town of Hamelin go after the Piper. Nothing can stop them.

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Parents are trying to dissuade the Piper from his plans. All their attempts are futile.

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The Piper leads the kids in the mountains, higher and higher until they are all lost in the caves.

The people of Hamelin go after him but they don't have the power to get their children back. They are still hoping the Piper changes his mind.

Then he proposes another deal. He will return the children if one of the young women from Hamelin becomes his wife.

Some of them are actually willing to sacrifice, but he wants young, pretty, and in household chores skillful lady.

In short - he wants Liza, the Mayor's daughter.

And he wants a dowry with his bride - exactly one thousand guilders!

The Mayor is horrified. Conrad is devastated.

Liza is not particularly happy either. Yet, after a while, she is willing to become Piper's wife if he releases all the children. Her life for hundreds of others.

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The kids are waiting for the final result of the negotiations safely playing in the neighborhood, hidden from the eyes of their parents.

When everybody agrees on Piper's terms, the thousand guilders are brought by the Mayor, and Liza is ready to be married, the Piper serves his final surprise to the audience. He will not marry Liza. Conrad can get her for wife and the money will go to them to start their mutual life in comfort.

He releases the children.

Everybody (but the Mayor and the rats) is satisfied.

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So the story instead of criticizing the hypocrisy of the citizens focuses on one bad character who needs to be thought a lesson. If you want to know more about the background of the legend about the Piper of Hamelin and it's presumably true background, go to:

The story of Piper of Hamelin

All illustrations are done in pen and ink by Hugh Thomson, an Irish illustrator who illustrated numerous works including ones by Jane Austen, James Matthew Barrie, Charles Dickens, George Elliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Oliver Goldsmith, and William Shakespeare. He was known by his ability to project himself in the story and especially praised for his work on Austen's and Barrie's novels. He preferred black and white illustrations and colored his pictures only if a published specifically demanded that.

Old Ben by James Otis and Sarah Noble Ives

Old Ben is the third and last one in the trilogy of the stories about Toby Tyler. The full title of the book is Old Ben, the friend of Toby Tyler and Mr. Stubbs Brother.

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The first book in the series, Toby Tyler, or, Ten Weeks with Circus, also the first book written by James Otis Kaler, became the most popular among his numerous works and the reason is simple - Walt Disney Productions made a movie, based on it, in 1960. In the story, we meet an orphan boy who would like to work in the circus. But when his wish comes true, he soon realizes how harsh may be the reality of the circus. There is also a cute chimpanzee and a bad guy who lies about real feelings of Toby's uncle and aunt. Eventually, he leaves the circus.

In Uncle Ben, we start with the scene where the very same circus comes to the town where Toby lives. The dream about circus glamour is still there. The chimpanzee too. Is now the right time to fulfill his wish?

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The author of the book started his writing carer as a journalist (he reported from the American Civil War, for instance). This probably at least partly explains his enormous production. He signed about two hundred books altogether. Considering the fact, he wrote under pen names Walter Morris, Lt. James K. Orton, Harry Prentice, and Amy Prentice (with assumption some of his later works were actually written or co-written by his wife), we'll never know what really belongs to his opus. Among other books, he wrote a series of boy spies (10 books), a series of navy boys (7 books), a series of historical novels (about 50 titles), a farm series (4 titles), a school series (3 books), a series about New York (7 titles) ... He also signed at least six nonfiction books.

So Toby trilogy is actually one of his minor projects!

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The misbehavior of Mr. Stubbs's brother

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The Serenade

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Mr. Treat proceeded to the honors

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Mr. Stubbs brother was dancing around the room with the bonnet on his head

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"Why, what is the matter, Mr. Treat? Are you sick?" Toby asked

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Mr. and Mrs. Treat prepare for the barn-warming

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What appeared to be some small portion of a regular circus darted in through the door

Sarah (Sara) Noble Ives illustrated the book with seven original color pictures plus cover and the inside title page. When we say color, we should be aware of often limited technical an financial possibilities of color printing, what in this specific case means there is only one color (orange-red) added to black and white line drawings. Despite that Noble Ives managed to create a warm and charming atmosphere of typical boys' adventure environment which still can't leave cold any true lover of vintage books. This edition was published by Harper & Brothers, New York in 1911. Occasionally, it's still available through the web for about 30 USD. If you got one in good condition, it may prove a pretty good investment.

 

The Ant and the Grasshopper: What's the Real Moral of the Story?

The famous fable about the ant and the grasshopper is worldwide known for many centuries. It's moral is clear and ruthless. You should use the good times to prepare for bad times. Because bad things will happen.

The grasshopper doesn't care about the future. He sings and enjoys through the whole summer while the ant works, works, and works. When the winter comes, the ant has loads of stock. The grasshopper has nothing. In the grand finale of the story the grasshopper asks for some help and the ant denies it. No, everybody who didn't work should not eat either.

This dramatic, in many ways even tragic situation inspired numerous artists in history. Let's see how some famous painters and illustrators saw it.

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Oliver Herford portrayed the meeting of both characters before the crisis occurs. The grasshopper is happy and the ant looks very tired. In this very moment, the roles of the winner and the looser look very different.

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Ernest Griset focused on ants. Yes, plural. It somehow looks different if we have a community of ants and an outsider like the grasshopper. Their collective decision of helping or not helping the poor musician is distributed among all the members. Each one of ants can think for himself he would help but the majority decided differently. Long live democracy!

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Charles Henry Bennet decided for the scene of begging. Look how weak and powerless looks the grasshopper. Compare the position of his neck with the position of the ant who is strong, determined and merciless. Cruel as nature can be. But aren't we, humans, better than the basic players of the eternal game of survival?

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La Fontaine already understood Aesop's fable about the ant and the grasshopper differently. He rewrote it (like hundreds of others) and put it in verse. He also changed the title. The grasshopper became the cicada - which emphasizes the musicality of the insect. With that simple change, a whole new debate about the importance of culture opens. Do we need people who are so 'unproductive' as artists? Who's responsibility are artists when they fall into trouble?

The other change of the title is seemingly less important, yet maybe even more crucial. It's the order of the main characters: The Cicada and the Ant and not The Ant and the Grasshopper anymore. The artist is in the first place now.

French illustrators loved the theme. Especially when they worked on La Fontaine's version.

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Gustave Dore decided to portray people instead of insects. This way the message of the picture becomes crystal clear. We have a lady with a musical instrument in an obviously submissive position and a wealthy lady with kids who, it looks like, just opened the door. Her kids look favorably at the musician, but their mother stays distant and exalted. Dore even made an allusion on 'les tricoteuses', women who were knitting while waiting on executions at guillotines during the French Revolution.

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Jehan Georges Vibert took a similar approach with people instead of insects. His characters represent two social classes. There's a catch - who is working harder? The monk, who collects the contributions or the musician who plays for whatever his audience gives? Note how skillfully the painter used the musician's instrument and monk's basket to mimick grasshoppers abdomen and ant's antlers.

It looks the more we look at the fable, more questions pop up. This is a sure sign of true artistic work. We'll definitely have to return - with more pictures and more questions about the moral in the story about the ant and the grasshopper.

The Story of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, in Pictures

Persephone (or Proserpina) belongs to Greek (Roman) mythology but is still deeply intertwined with modern society. Her name was, after all, used in popular movie trilogy Matrix and her story still echoes in one of the most popular fairy tales ever - Little Red Riding Hood. Artist loved to portray Persephone in crucial moments of her immortal life, which, it seems, really begins with her abduction.

Hades, who was really her uncle, had fallen in love with her and with a help of Zeus, Persephone's father, organized her capture. Nymphs, who kept her company at that very moment were powerless. Demeter, Persephone's mom, was clueless. Yet her pain, caused by the lost her only child, forced Zeus and Hades to arrange Persephone's return from the underworld.

There is a catch - Persephone had already eaten in the Hades, as the Greek underworld is also often called. When you ate there, you must stay there forever. So she can only leave the underworld for a limited time. Not even for a year. Persephone's return makes Demeter so happy she starts the growth of greenery, it's the time of spring, summer, maybe even autumn, but when Persephone returns, the winter comes.

Allusions to Red Riding Hood are numerous - from the dark strong male kidnapper and rapist in the form of Hades or wolf, the victim in the form of Persephone or Little Red Cap or even smaller details like picking flowers in the decisive moment, when the stronger party gets the definite advantage. We even have a protector in the form of Zeus or hunter and rebirth in the form of return from the underworld or wolf's stomach.

How did the painters saw this breathtaking story? Which scenes were the most important in their opinion?

The Portrait of Persephone

A few artists decided to portay this mythological character out of typical scenography. Yet they used many symbols to give her as much background story as possible.

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Arthur Bowen Davies

Arthur B. Davis (1862-1928) painted this picture in 1900 in oil. She is turned away from the observer, what is not the usual choice. In this position her main problem - separation from her live with Demer and sepration from her ruling position in the underworld may be emphasized. The contrasts of light and darkness confirm this theory.

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Arthur Hacker

Arthur Hacker (1858-1919) also played with contrasts. Apart from light and dark tones, each dominating part of the painting, he added side characters with different expresions, one joyous, another sad, and othe relements (note the flowers and scythe) to make this almost three meters tall painting even more powerful.

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (18282-1882) shared some parts of his life in similar ways as Persephone, or Proserpina, as he titled the painting after the Roman name of this goddess. He actually painted at least eight versions of the same painting between 1874 (the one above) and 1882 (the last below). You'll notice he decorated the picture with verses because he was not 'just' a painter but a poet as well.

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This version of Proserpina is very special because it was not done in oil but in color chalks which were very fashionable among Pre-Raphaelits for some time. Yu'll also notice he decided to change the colorof the hair of the goddess - it's red now. Red was Rossetti's favorite color and he was trully obsessed with red heads. By the way, the model is still the same - Jane Morris (1839-1914) who was suggested to the artist by her husband, also very famous William Morris.

She was by Rossetti's standards a perfect model. Not only by her physical looks, but by her personal background too. She was somehow trapped in a cold unsatisfied marriage with Morris and soon became intimate with Rossetti. He lived with the couple for several years, staying alone with her for months while William spent the time elsewhere.

It's obvious Morris presented the dark side to both lovers at first, yet Jane had a chance to meet Rossetti's problematic side too. So he acted as Demeter and Hades to her.

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This last painting was fiished just a few days before the artists death. It posses somehow magical power thanks to the the use of colors, with symbolic elements like her red har as the hair of fatal women, pomegranate ads the fruit of the dead, and ivy as the herb which is said to be able to erase one's memory.

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Anthony Frederick Sandys

Anthony Frederick Augusturs Sandys (1829-1904) used colored chalks on buff paper for this picture too. It was painted in 1896, directly sold to Cyril Flower and is in private hands now. Note pomegranates as her connection with the underworld and grain as the symbol of harvest and life, each in one hand.

The character of Persephone was used as a costume too.

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Jeremias Falck

Jeremias Falck (1610-1677) portrayed Marie Louise Gonzaga (1611-1667), the Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania. This engraving, made between 1639-1645 is part of National Library of Poland, but we can find it in British Museum, wher it's part of the series The Times of Day, presenting four mythological figures for four different times of the day.

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Carol de Szathmari

Carol de Szathmari (1812-1887), a painter and photograph in Romain court made this photo of Madam Cathrine Cantacuzino, an aristocrat, who attended one of the royal costume balls dressed as Persephone in 1870s.

 
The Abduction (Rape) of Persephone

More than 90 % of paintings of Persephone are dealing with her abduction which is often equalized with a rape. The abduction was carefully planned by Hades and supervised by Zeus.

It's interesting to compare how different artists took different angles on the situation.

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Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) created this etching on iron plate in 1516 (you can see the year in the print above). He decided to focus on sudden and inevitable change which can be related to Persephone's life or seasons of the year.

It would be interesting to guess why he replaced the carriage of Hades with a unicorn. To emphasize the magic of the moment, maybe? Please not this unicorn is not a nice, helpful animal, but wild and dagerous beast in this case!

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Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Rembrandt (1606-1669) painted the painting above in oil on oak panel in 1631. He used almost half of the surface for black. This way it's obvious how life of Persephone as she was accostumed to, ends, and how something completely different awaits her. Light will go off anytime now and it will never be the same.

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Paris Bordone

Paris Bordone (1500-1571) had much more simplified approach. his focus is on the predator and his victim. He is, like in most cases of much darker complexion, but otherwise looks pretty similar to a normal person. This, in a way, makes his action even scarier.

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Jean Honore Fragonard

Jean Honore Fragonard (1732–1806) made this etching after Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) drawing in 1764. You can see it in Metropolitan Museum in New York.

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Sebastiano Galeotti

The drawing by Sebastiano Galeotti (1656-1746) is done in pen and ink on cream laid paper.

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Ulpiano Checa y Saiz

Ulpiano Checa y Saiz (1860-1916) always loved the horses in movement and The Rape of Proserpina was a perfect chance to show his skills. The contrast of black and white tones makes an interesting dynamics with the running carriage with the abducted Proserpina and creates extremely powerful picture.

There is another group of painters who decided to add a cupid or cupids to the scene. They can be nicely used to balance the composition because they can fly, they can provide the psychological excuse for the actions of Hades. Plus they somehow soften the otherwise extremely tense situation.

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Charles Antoine Coypel

Charles Antoine Coypel IV (1694-1752) used all the major elements: water, horses, nymphs, and added a few cherubs tu support the abductor. It's oil on canvass.

 

 

 

Do you ever feel like Cinderella?

The story of Cinderella is popular for several reasons.

1. Cinderella is nice. Everybody around her tries to exploit her, yet she stays cool until her big moment arrives. Everybody loves nice and cool people.

2. It's full of magic. We have a good fairy helping her, talking and helpful birds, a pumpkin-turns-into-carriage, golden or glass slippers (depending on the version), and let's not forget her tranformation from the ash into a real princess. Everybody loves magic. Especially good magic.

3. The story is loaded with suspense. We don't know what her eveil step-mother or step-sister might fdo to her, we don't know if she'll manage to the dance, we are breathless when she is running home with only seconds left before the magic goes away, we cordially hope the shoe will fit on her leg and on her leg only. There is no good story without a suspense.

Such powerful story had to inspire artists through centuries all over the world to portray certain scenes form The Cinderella and here are only a few of them:

 

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 Charles Landseer (1799-1879)

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Sir Edward Burne Jones (1833-1899)

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Franz Stuck (1863-1928)

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George Cruikshank

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Herbert Thomas Dicksee (1862-1942)

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Sir John Everett Milais (1829-1896)

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Joseph Edward Southall (1861-1944)

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Jules Pascin (1885-1930)

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Jules Pascin (1885-1930)

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Jules Pascin (1885-1930)

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Richard Redgrave

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Talbot Hughes

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Valentine Cameron Prinsep

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William Henry Margetson

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Moritz von Schwind

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Thomas Sully

We could go on and on and one day we'll probably will, but yu got the picture (pictures, actually), right?

Cinderella is popular for centuries now and we can't suppose anything else to see it in huge demand for several more centuries. It's so close to everybody who had experience injustice, everybody, who dared to dream of better life and everybody who still believes in happy endings.

Do you believe in happy endings?