Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
"Undine" as retold de la Motte Fouqué tells the story of the Knight Haldbrand
of Ringstetten and Undine. Throughout the tale, we learn of how
married a water-spirit and what followed, including the Knight's death and
burial and how Undine returned to her element beneath
the Mediterranean Sea.
Rackham's illustrations to "Undine" are among the first of a
series of consecutive suites, including those for "The Rhinegold and
The Valkyrie" and
"Siegfried and The Twilight of the Gods"
that were to be based in Germanic traditions.
The contemporary review published in "The Studio" (December 1909)
provides some insight into the critical reception that Rackham's suite
received upon publication:
Mr. Rackham's conception of "Undine" is most admirable,
and his drawing of this figure unvarying
in its charm. There is an amount of knowledge packed into
these drawings of the figure, too, which
must please the most academic. But it is Mr. Rackham's
singular gift to infuse scholarship with
caprice, and also with emotion. The front cover of the
book is very beautiful, and the get-up
throughout will commend itself to every reader.
The suite of illustrations includes what - as recorded in a
letter from Rackham to N Carroll in 1931 - was among his favourite images, that
captioned "Undine outside the window". Also noteworthy is Rackham's own wonderful
variation on the composition of Dürer's "Knight, Death
and the Devil" in his
illustration that is associated with the following caption: "Little niece,"
said Kühleborn, "forget not that I am
here with thee
as a guide".
On the left, we show a rare
antique copy of the First Edition of "Undine"
by Arthur Rackham that retains the original
gold-stamped blue cloth cover.
To the right, we show Rackham's
decorated Title Page to "Undine".