18 March 2010

The Arabian Nights: Golden Age of Illustration

Duringthe Islamic Golden Age folk tales were compiled for One Thousandand One Nights. Dating from the tenth to fourteenth century the stories are like a beautiful box that opens to reveal more nested boxes; much as the Persian Queen Scheherazade weaves intricate tales within tales each night to keep her husband Shahryār from executing her in the morning. Drawing on the cultures of Arabia, Persia, Egypt, and India the Occidental world soon became entranced by the stories. Translated into French during the early eighteenth century, English editions followed in the nineteenth century. The stories were a popular subject during the Golden Age of Illustration of the early twentieth century. American artist Maxfield Parrish (1870 -1966) illustrated The Arabian Nights in 1909 with his characteristic neo-classic style andsaturated colors. The French illustrator Edmund Dulac (1882 -1953) created fanciful images against impressionistic backgrounds in Stories from The Arabian Nights (1907). American Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931) had a brief but brilliant career. Diagnosed with tuberculosis at nineteen, her short life was spent in the West and Mid-West. Sterrett left us with exquisite images of the exotic Scheherazade and the world she spun out of words.


  1. We adore Edmund Dulac's Arabian Nights illustrations - they are so fanciful and exotic. We would love to transport ourselves into one of his drawings just to wander through all of the finery...

  2. Yes his illustrations always make me want to throw on a Talitha Getty caftan and escape to Marrakesh. Kendra

  3. That Parrish cover is gritty but stupendous with the image of toil crammed into that rectangle. My fantasy world is filled with ideas and images from the world of the Arabian Nights.
    Your "please follow" photo is wonderful too. I would have joined up immediately on seeing it -if I hadn't done so already !

  4. Thanks Gretchen! I have an original copy of the Arabian Nights illustrated by Parrish and I often escape into it. I loved your posting on Jean-Charles Moreux. I wish I could see what he did for Colette and listen to their collaboration. Best, Kendra

  5. Happy Landings! Artists and readers are very excited. Thank you this excites. me. I would lke to drop my modernity to listen with a later 1800, early 1900 ear. The mind going far out, and yet farther, until it seems to become a bit scabrous. which was also fascinating: scarabs, poisens, events in the nights sans witches, sans knights, we are on our own dealing with weird and entrancing "teasers". You are entertaining us with fresh and provocative programs.


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