Wednesday, April 6, 2016

245. A Ricketts Detail: Playing Children

The wood engravings that Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon made for their edition of Daphnis and Chloe (1893) are full of playful details. Some of these are not related to the story at all, some of them have a function in creating an atmosphere.

An example is shown below, with playing children in a house in Mitylene.

Charles Ricketts, wood engraving for Daphnis and Chloe (page 51)
The wood engraving (158x125 mm) opens the Third Book of the story. Playing children are in the foreground at the feet of the elder family members, who are seated around a fire with a kettle. In the background part of the stable can be seen. A door on the left gives way to the snowy landscape. An emblematic roundel is in the upper left corner.

The scene depicts the doings of a family when winter has come and 'a great Snow' had fallen and 'blinded all the paths', and 'all was thus taken up with their domestick affairs'.

And therefore no man drove out his flocks to pasture, or did so much as come to the door, but, about the Cocks crowing, made their fires nosehigh; and some spun flax, some Tarpaulin for the Sea; others with all their sophistry made gins, and nets, and traps for birds. At that time their care was employed about the Oxen and Cows that were foddered with chaffe in the stalls; about the Goats and about the sheep and those which fed on green leaves in the sheepcoats and the folds; or else about fatting their hogs in the styes with Acorns and other mast.
(page 52-53)

Some features of the wood engraving refer to this passage, but what makes Ricketts's and Shannon's illustrations for Daphnis and Chloe so compelling is the wealth of small 'unnecessary' details that bear no direct relation to the text, but do add to the feel of the story.

Charles Ricketts, wood engraving for Daphnis and Chloe (detail)
The two young children in the foreground are playing with some chickens. These have followed the mother hen that has come very near the fire and the cookery place where some crumbs may come their way.