Wild Figure

541    They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
542        “He was always a desperate wag!”
543    They beheld him—their Baker—their hero unnamed—
544        On the top of a neighbouring crag.

545    Erect and sublime, for one moment of time.
546        In the next, that wild figure they saw
547    (As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
548        While they waited and listened in awe.

Lewis Carroll’s description of the Baker as “wild figure” “on top of the neighbouring crag” might have been inspired by John Martin’s painting The Bard. But to Henry Holiday, Martin’s depiction of the bard might have been only one of two sources for depicting not the Baker, but the Bellman. The second source would be a painting by Matthias Grünewald.

The contemporary Snark illustrator Mahendra Singh on Henry Holiday’s Snark illustrations:

[…] His picture of the Beaver doing its math problem inspired me to treat that entire Fit the Fifth as a long variation upon the Temptation of St. Anthony, especially the version by Bosch. Holiday really nailed that one. I have to confess that Flaubert’s version is a favorite book of mine and I tried to give this part of the Snark the same baroque, over the top feeling of deranged pagan vs. Christian imagery. […]

(Bosch’s Temptation of St. Anthony: Painting, Tryptich)


2017-09-13, update: 2018-10-11

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