Samuel Palmer, The Lonely Tower

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut

Date: 1879
Technique: Etching and drypoint, with plate tone on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream laid paper, 261 x 357 mm


Erik Bodom, Moonlight (Måneskinn)

Private collection

Date: 1869
Technique: Oil on canvas


John Atkinson Grimshaw, Knostrop Hall, Early Morning

Private collection

Date: 1870
Technique: Oil on canvas, 61 x 92.1 cm

Knostrop Hall was built in the 17th century by Adam Baynes, Member of Parliament for Leeds during the Commonwealth, whose family had lived in the district since the mid 16th century. Atkinson Grimshaw lived at the hall in the 1870s, and it was demolished in 1960.

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John Atkinson Grimshaw, Lovers in a Wood

Private collection

Date: 1873
Technique: Oil on card, 23.2 x 36 cm


Georges Jules Victor Clairin, The Distant Princess

Date: 1899
Technique: Oil on canvas

A princess lointaine or princesse lointaine, (in French, "distant princess") is a stock character from medieval romances. The romantic interest of many knights errant, she was usually a woman of much higher birth, often far distant from the knight, and usually wealthier than he was, beautiful, and of admirable character. Some knights had, indeed, fallen in love with the princess owing to hearing descriptions of her, without seeing her, as tales said Jaufré Rudel had fallen in love with Hodierna of Tripoli.

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Joseph William Turner, Alnwick Castle

Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Date: c. 1829
Technique: Watercolour on paper


Hanuš Schwaiger, High, Wide, and Cleareyed (Dlouhý, Široký a Bystrozraký)

Galerie hlavního města Prahy

Date: 1896
Technique: Watercolor, ink, pen, 75.5 x 55.5 cm

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Dlouhý, Široký a Bystrozraký is a popular Czech folk tale by Karel Jaromír Erben (1811-1870), a celebrated historian, poet, and writer.  The title is variously translated as: Tall, Broad, and Keen, or Mr. Long, Mr. Broad, and Mr. Sharpeye, or High, Wide, and Cleareyed.

The story opens with an aged king and his only son. Since the king is old, he requests that his son marry soon, before he dies. The prince is eager to wed and make his father happy but he doesn’t have the slightest idea of who he can marry. The king hands his son a key and instructs him to climb to the top of a tower and from the portraits he finds there, he should select a bride.

In the tower the prince finds twelve magical portraits of crowned maidens, each one beckoning towards him. They are all very beautiful, but behind a white curtain the prince finds the most beautiful of them all, but she is dressed all in white and looks pale and sad. The prince chooses her as his bride and informs his father who is immediately unhappy. The king explains that that particular maiden is imprisoned by an evil wizard. Many have tried to rescue her before but none have returned (of course).

At the start of the prince’s quest for his bride, he quickly gets lost in the woods. But he runs into High, who magically stretches taller than the trees and finds the quickest way out of the woods. Next High sees his friend Wide and brings him over. Wide demonstrates that he can expand to huge proportions.

Next they run into High’s friend Cleareyed, who explains that he must keep his eyes covered because he can see too well, if his eyes are uncovered he can look through objects, burst them into flames, or shatter them to pieces.
The prince’s three new helpers prove invaluable for overcoming obstacles and turning what would otherwise be a very long journey into a single day trip. They arrive inside the wizard’s castle at nightfall, and the drawbridge is drawn-up behind them.

Inside the castle, all the courtiers have been turned to stone. They happen upon the dining room where a lavish feast is prepared, after politely waiting, they decide to dig in. Suddenly the wizard rushes in. He is dressed in a long black robe fastened with three iron clasps at the waist; he is leading the lovely pale maiden, dressed in white and pearls. The wizard explains that the prince can take the maiden only if he can prevent the wizard from stealing her back over the next three nights in the castle. High stretches across the dining room covering all the walls, wide blocks the doorway, and Cleareyed stands vigil in the center. They all fall asleep.

When the prince awakes he realizes the maiden has vanished. Cleareyed, however, spots her one hundred miles off, turned into an acorn on a tree in a forest. High stretches to her position and Cleareyed fetches her. She turns back into a woman when she is delivered to the prince. The wizard, naturally, is furious and then one of the iron clasps bursts off. The travelers are left alone again and the prince realizes that everything and everyone inside the castle is frozen in time.

Our heroes are charged with watching over the maiden for a second night, they all fall asleep like before. Again the princess is gone when they wake. Cleareyed spots her two hundred miles off, this time turned into a jewel inside a stone, inside a mountain. He and High fetch her again. The furious wizard loses a second iron clasp.
Once again the our heroes are charged with watching over the maiden for a third night, once again they all fall asleep, and once again the maiden has vanished when they awake. Cleareyed spots the princess at the bottom of the Black Sea, as a gold ring inside a shell, three hundred miles away. This time High takes Wide and Cleareyed with him.  High tries to stretch his arm to the bottom of the sea, but he cannot reach. So Wide puffs himself out and then drinks up the Black Sea, and then High can reach the gold ring.

The wizard bursts into the dining room triumphantly before the prince’s companions can return. But all of a sudden, the gold ring comes crashing through a window and turns into the princess (Cleareyed had seen the wizard coming and High had thrown the ring from very far away). The wizard curses, his last buckle bursts, and he turns into a crow and flies off.

 The whole castle comes to life and time happily resumes. All the residents of the castle thank the prince, but he humbly insists that it is all thanks to High, Wide, and Cleareyed. The prince and princess are married and the wedding lasts three weeks. The prince tries to persuade his new friends to stay and have a comfortable life, but they choose to wander the world helping people instead.

Text by Ian Dooley, Princeton University

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Jaroslav Špillar, Vodník in winter (Vodník v zimě)

Západočeská galerie v Plzni

Date: 1899
Technique: Oil on canvas, 111 x 77 cm

In Slavic mythology, vodyanoy (Russian: водяно́й; IPA: [vədʲɪˈnoj], literally "watery"), vodyanoi, Belarusian vadzianik (Belarusian: вадзянік), Ukrainian vodianyk (Ukrainian: водяник), Polish wodnik, Czech and Slovak vodník, Bulgarian and Macedonian vodnik (Bulgarian: водник), Croatian vodanoj, Slovene povodni mož or Serbian vodenjak (Cyrillic: водењак), (Chuvash: Вутăш, Vutăş, Vudaş), is a male water spirit. Vodník (or in Germanized form hastrman) in Czech fairy tales is the same creature as the Wassermann or nix of German fairy tales. In many such languages the word is also used to mean the Aquarius zodiac sign.

Vodyanoy is said to appear as a naked old man with a frog-like face, greenish beard, and long hair, with his body covered in algae and muck, usually covered in black fish scales. He has webbed paws instead of hands, a fish's tail, eyes that burn like red-hot coals. He usually rides along his river on a half-sunk log, making loud splashes. Consequently, he is often dubbed "grandfather" or "forefather" by the local people. Local drownings are said to be the work of the vodyanoy (or rusalkas).

When angered, the vodyanoy breaks dams, washes down water mills, and drowns people and animals. (Consequently, fishermen, millers, and also bee-keepers make sacrifices to appease him.) He would drag down people to his underwater dwelling to serve him as slaves.

In Czech, Slovene and Slovak folklore the features of the vodník are markedly different to the East-Slavic conception; he has a completely human constitution and habits, except for few differences – vodníci (plural of vodník) have gills, webbed membrane between their fingers and their skin is algae-green in colour (as well as their hair, which is typically of pale green tone). Their overall dress and appearance is weird, sometimes even resembling a vagrant; patchy shirts and (by modern standards) odd hats - often boaters with long speckled ribbons - are commonplace. They can withstand lingering for hours outside their ponds. When they do so, one can tell them unequivocally by their wet coat-tails from which water is dripping under all circumstances. The vodník's face is usually unshaven and it is not uncommon for a vodník to have a large, wet, tangled beard.

Czech,Slovenian and Slovak tales have both evil and good vodníci (relative to human beings) who do (or don't, respectively) try to drown people when they happen to swim in their territory. Vodníci would store the souls of the drowned in porcelain lid-covered cups. They consider their cups as the most valuable heritage and display their "work", and number these cups they see as proportional to their wealth and/or status among other vodníci. When the lid of such a cup is removed, the soul within (in a form of a bubble) will escape and be liberated. Except for fish (or perhaps fish spirits), they do not have servants. Otherwise, vodníci spend their time by running their territory or – in their spare time – playing cards, smoking pipes or just sitting at the water surface (on rocks, willows nearby) and loitering. Fishermen ask the vodník for help by placing a pinch of tobacco in the water and saying, "Here's your tobacco, Lord Vodník, now give me a fish." In Czech, Slovak and Slovene tales vodníci live in ponds or rivers; there is no mention of a particular dwelling and the "half-sunken log" is unapparent. There are almost no references to vodníci in connection with sea water, which it is supposed would be dangerous, even deadly for them.

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