Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ivan and the Chestnut Horse

After sifting through a book on Edmund Dulac’s fairytale illustrations nearly two years ago, I came across his beautiful rendition of the Russian folk tale ‘Ivan and the Chestnut Horse’. Dulac’s image, rendered in a style strongly reminiscent of Russian iconography, depicts the climactic moment when Ivan prompts his steed to fly to the extremity of Helena the Fair’s tower and the couple share a kiss link. I am naturally drawn to historical romances, so it was no doubt that Ivan and the Chestnut Horse would catch my immediate interest. The story recognizes several interwoven themes of love, loyalty, responsibility and above all, intuition. You have a son struggling to fulfill the dying wishes of his father, a demeaning set of arrogant brothers and a princess who wills her own captivity so that she might become the prize to a bridegroom who accepts the challenge of liberating her.   

I sought to combine all these narrative elements into a single illustration that made exclusive use of negative shapes. I turned to optical illusion as an ideal form of visual communication. By juxtaposing the royal couple with the silhouette of a horse in profile, I learned the importance of balancing value and creating colour associations. Plenty of my research was devoted to accurately representing the elaborate clothing from the age of Russian Imperialism. I sense that the greater part of my work in the future will deal with the history and folklore of world cultures. In recent years I’ve enjoyed studying the histories of various countries, notably Italy, England, Poland and Russia 

Two-part reading of 'Ivan and the Chestnut Horse':

An initial sketch for 'Ivan and the Chestnut Horse', a variation of the Edmund Dulac scene.


  1. Wow, this is stunning Danielle. The patterns remind me of Klimt's work.

  2. Thank you Alan! You have a good eye :).In fact, the background was inspired by the textures and luminous speckling of Gustav Klimt's The Three Ages of Woman.