Sunday, 9 August 2015

Tolkien illuminations...

Thanks to reader "Tom" for informing me of these. They're from a 1993 Russian edition of The Lord of the Rings, by the artist S. Juchimov. I rather like them. The one depicting Gandalf and the Lord of the Nine Riders (above) could have been inspired by the mediaeval leitmotif of the three living and the three dead (see here), a judgement one can make by their postures and contrast.

Clearly inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry. Theoden Rex interfectus est. It captures one of the most heart-rending scenes from the book, in which Théoden is described as Oromë the Great in the impetuosity of his wrath as he rode to the defence of the city of the Númenóreans to be shot at by an evil arrow from the dark.

This is clearly the Invention of the White Tree in the snowy heights of Mindolluin by Elessar and Mithrandir. Just as the True Cross was carried in triumph into Constantinople by the Emperor of the Romans, so the sapling of the new tree was borne into Minas Anor by the King of the Númenóreans in memory of the old. This painting could almost be an icon of Christ's Transfiguration.

I don't know about the yellow and black barrier but at least Pippin's helm is accurate, being the winged helm of the Guards of the Citadel of Gondor. Who could tell, upon first reading, that the War of the Ring would have ended upon the very doorstep of Bag End?

It's encouraging to see Tolkien's work rendered into these illuminations. It's as I have imagined them for years.


  1. This portfolio also has illuminated, pseudo-icon and other painted depictions:

    1. It's actually in illuminations such as these that Tolkien comes to life, more so than in the art of Ted Nasmith or John Howe.

      What I'd like to see rendered into a series of paintings is Ar-Pharazôn's fleet encamped in the West. In fact, the whole story of Sauron's coming to Númenor and the change of the world.

    2. I like to imagine discovering the Red Book of Westmarch as a long-forgotten illuminated manuscript in some dusty old library, together with the Edel-Silmarillion which now actually exists.

      Yes, I would very much like to see Sauron in Númenor depicted in such a neo-medieval style. I can think of a few well-established iconographies which could serve as inspiration. The worship of Melkor depicted as one would have depicted the worship of the Golden Calf, for example.

    3. Iconography works better in my view because less is left in the freedom of the artist.

      For Númenor it would be nice to see the processions to Meneltarma. I imagine the women to have looked rather like those pious ladies in Hans Memling's paintings, with their books of hours and conical headdresses.