Category Archives: Illustrations

The Krampus and the Yule Goat Cometh

As we enter December, we anticipate any number of holidays. Twenty-nine holidays from various traditions fall between the last week of November and middle of January. Many, but by no means all, of these are ancient holidays which were Christianized. My favorite of these though is Yule.
Yule, also known as the 12 days of Christmas, can begin between December 20 and December 23, depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar. In Nordic and Germanic countries, it begins on the day of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, usually December 21st. Yule is celebrated for another 12 days though, through January 1st, at the shortest or until the 12th of January (“twelve days” or “until the 12th day”).

Company’s Coming: Welcome the Yule Goat

Yule Goat, 1917 and 1912 by John Bauer

The holidays bring a train of friends and family as guests. You might wish that the Yule Goat is among them. In one tradition, the Yule Goat takes its origins from Thor, the God of Thunder, who rode in the sky in a wagon pulled by his two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr, meaning teeth-barer and teeth-grinder respectively.

However, another goat, Heidrun, is described in the Poetic and Prose Eddas. She eats the foliage of the sacred tree Laeraor and produces mead for fallen warriors brought to Valhalla. As Yule celebrations were originally referred to as “Drinking Yules”, with an emphasis on drinking as an important part of the celebration, a good case can be made for Heidrun as at least influencing the Yule goat.


She eats the foliage of the Sacred Tree to Produce Mead for Fallen Warriors

The Krampus for the Rest of Us

The Yule goat brings gifts, especially gifts for good children. But what about the rest of us? We are not left out, we have the Krampus! The Krampus, or Christmas Devil,  a Germanic demon, comes to punish bad seeds and naughty children. Krampusnacht is an annual festival celebrated through the Alpine region from Austria and Northern Italy, to Solvenia, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic. Like the Yule goat, the Krampus is horned and may wear cowbells on his backside reminiscent of Santa’s sleigh. Unlike the Yule Goat, the Krampus has a great gaping jaw, the better to eat you with, as befits any proper demon.

The Krampus

The Krampus arrives on December 5th — the naughty always like to move to the head of the line first — well before Christmas. St. Nikolaus also arrives this night, who will fill shoes with gifts if they’ve been good or rods if not. The Krampus is more proactive; he carries a birch bundle to beat naughty children before stuffing them into his basket and carry them off. The Church tried to ban Krampusnacht as far back as the 12th century, but with little success.  By the 19th century, Father Christmas was arriving on a Yule Goat:


Father Christmas riding a Yule Goat, 19th Century

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It’s Nielsen November!

It’s Nielsen November!


More Kay Nielsen

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Shakespeare’s Fairies as Dreams

Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare - 1781

Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare - 1781

We see them only at the edge of sight, in dreams, so it’s no wonder that we are often confused by them. But the Bard did a turn with dreams of various sorts, and in his sight was keener than most others. See how he did his research:

Henry Fuseli - Fairy Mab - c1815-20

Henry Fuseli - Fairy Mab - c1815-20

“O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep;”
— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio’s Speech

But Mab, she seems to have been plucked out of that nowhere we visit each night (which is her realm). But it was good enough for at least one other poet with a gothic tale.

Turner - Queen Mab's Cave

J. M. W. Turner, Queen Mab's Cave, 1846

Behold the chariot of the Fairy Queen!
Celestial coursers paw the unyielding air;
Their filmy pennons at her word they furl
And stop obedient to the reins of light;
These the Queen of Spells drew in;
She spread a charm around the spot,
And, leaning graceful from the ethereal car,
Long did she gaze, and silently,
Upon the slumbering maid.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab; A Philosophical Poem; With Notes

Arthur Rackham, A Fairy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1906

Perhaps even the Bard was confused for there is another with that title named Titania. Or perhaps Faerie is broad enough for multiple monarchs. At any rate, more celebrated than Mab, and older than any modern literature, is Oberon’s consort, whose dreams are made from fairies’ lullabies:

Henry Fuseli - Titania Awakening - 1785-90

Henry Fuseli - Titania Awakening - 1785-90

Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legg’d spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence.
— William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

But it’s well she were asleep, for in other forms that goddess is also the huntress we dare not bother as she bathes:

Hendrick van Balen -- Diana and Actaeon

Hendrick van Balen -- Diana and Actaeon

While Titania is bathing there, in her accustomed place, Cadmus’s grandson, free of his share of the labour, strays with aimless steps through the strange wood, and enters the sacred grove. So the fates would have it. As soon as he reaches the cave mouth dampened by the fountain, the naked nymphs, seeing a man’s face, beat at their breasts and filling the whole wood with their sudden outcry, crowd round Diana to hide her with their bodies. But the goddess stood head and shoulders above all the others. Diana’s face, seen there, while she herself was naked, was the colour of clouds stained by the opposing shafts of sun, or Aurora’s brightness.
— Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 3

The Meeting of Oberon and Titania, by Arthur Rackham (1905)

Since Theseus is also referenced later in tale, it seems Ovid and Shakespeare had the same dream (or perhaps Shakespeare read rather widely, but that’s between us). At any rate, sweet dreams.

Image Links: Arthur Rackham at ArtsyCraftsy, Henry Fuselli at Art History Archive, Hendrick van Balen at Hellenica

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Maxfield Parrish : Puss in Boots

Artsy Craftsy: Added Stars and Puss in Boots.

Puss in Boots, Maxfield Parrish

Puss in Boots

Art Passions: Parrish gallery is undergoing a reorganization that will make things easier to find. All of the Arabian Nights are up!

Stars, Maxfield Parrish


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Arabian Nights

The Fisherman and the Genie, Maxfield Parrish

Artsy Craftsy: I have added half a dozen of the Maxfield Parrish illustrations to The Arabian Nights, their Best Known Tales to Maxfield Parrish.

Art Passions: The full set of Maxfield Parrish Arabian Nights illustrations, both the 1909 edition and the additional illustrations from the 1923 edition, will be in the Art Passions Maxfield Parrish gallery within a few days. (That page needs a little reorganization). The Young King of the Black Isles and Sinbad Plotting to Kill the Giant appear only in the 1923 edition:

The young king of the black isles, Maxfield ParrishSinbad plotting to kill the giant, Maxfield Parrish

Have a great week,


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Anne Anderson

Anne Anderson now at Art Passions

The Frog Prince Gold from Straw Rapunzel

The Anne Anderson fairy tale art gallery is up, with images from Old, Old Fairy Tales, Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, The Wonder Book, Heidi, Aladdin, and more on the way. Anne Anderson Prints, and eventually tile if there is an interest, will be available at Artsy Craftsy.

Old Woman in the Woods The Seven Crows Snow White

Maxfield Parrish Arabian Nights

A selection of Maxfield Parrish illustrations to Arabian Nights will be coming soon to Artsy Craftsy. The entire collection will be added to the Parrish gallery page at Art Passions.

Have a great week!


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Cafe Press stuff and Kay Nielsen

We’re resolved to update this blog more often in 2009.  So here’s what we’ve been up to.

Seb has been working on the Cafe Press site.  He added John Bauer and Kay Nielsen calendars to the Cafe Press site. People seem to like them. However, we got a return on one of the mugs so we ordered — one of the most popular patterns, too.  So we wanted to check the quality of the mugs ourselves and ordered one. After two passes through the microwave, a small crack appeared. So we’ve taken all the mugs off the pages.  I thought the printable area was a little small, anyway. We’ll look around for a better vendor for the mugs.

Seb also added some “keepsake boxes” and is adding some packs of notecards for each of the artists. Here are some of the images he’s added for notecards.

Edmund Dulac Note Cards

Edmund Dulac Note Cards

Arthur Rackham Note Cards

Arthur Rackham Note Cards

Sulamith Wulfing Note Cards

Sulamith Wulfing Note Cards

XineAnn has been working on William Morris tile.  She hopes to have the tile up and available in a few weeks.  Sir Edward Burnes-Jones did a series of fairy tale panels for William Morris: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast. The first Beauty and the Beast tiles are almost ready. We were surprised that Burnes-Jones did not one, but several versions of these tiles, for various installations. We’ve picked what we thought were the best for our series.

In addition, XineAnn is adding all of Kay Nielsen’s In Powder and Crinoline by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch,to the Nielsen page on Art Passions, as well as making more of the prints available on the Nielsen page at Artsy Craftsy.  The illustrations to In Powder and Crinoline were not commissioned.  Rather, Kay Nielsen was so taken with the stories that he originated the illustrations.  The fairy tale book that resulted was never intended for children. Such books were intended as gift books and printed on thick rag paper, with the craftsmanship of the printing process rivaling that of the illustrations themselves.

We want to wish you all a very happy New Year and that your dreams do come true this year. We know the past year was a year of changes and not all of them good.  It’s shaken us out of our complacency and we’ve looked at what really matters to us and we’re thankful for that and for our friends who means so much to us. We believe that the economy is reaching its bottom and things are about to turn around and when it does, it will be authentic.

We wish you all the best,

Seb and XineAnn

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In Powder and Crinoline

Riding Out

"Princess Minon-Minette Rides Out Into the World to find Print Souci" from In Powder and Crinoline by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Illustrated by Kay Nielsen

Kay Nielsen (1886-1957) was a popular Danish Illustrator during the golden age of illustration. The book’s name was his own inspiration, which was then written by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.

Read more about Kay Nielsen in Wikipedia.

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