Both of these pieces have an emphasis on architecture so that when I look at them I don’t think much about the characters in whatever story they’re illustrating. Instead my mind is free to wander through these magical places making up my own stories. Despite the similarities between the pieces - the architectural theme, the towering buildings, the small figures moving diagonally toward
the upper left - they depict completely different scenes. The first is dark, mysterious, possibly downright sinister, with its crooked, haphazard, top-heavy maze of buildings, tiny windows, dark alleys, pointed roofs… The second is straight and ordered, well-lit and geometrical, like a great temple or government. It’s also pretty elaborately decorated, with not an inch left unadorned with angels as well as geometric designs.
The carving is pretty amazing, and I’m appreciating it all the more as I’ve been working on my leviathan design this weekend and struggling to capture fine detail and mysterious lighting. (Admittedly, a rubber block print is never going to have the level of detail of a wood engraving, but that doesn’t detract from Doré’s skill.) I need to go back and add more lines to my block, and these pieces are quite inspirational.
[Pictures: Wood engraving by Gustave Doré, 1855, from Les Contes drolatiques by Honoré de Balzac;
Wood engraving by Doré, 1877, from Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto.]