“The Palace Burns and Behemoth”, Reginald Savage, 1892

Wikis > “The Palace Burns and Behemoth", Reginald Savage, 1892
Woodcut image of a rhino
(Fig 1) Reginald Savage’s wood engraving of “The Palace Burns and Behemoth” from The Dial, volume 2, published in 1892.

In The Dial’s second volume, published almost three years after its predecessor, Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon present image and text in artistic, loose harmony. The volume’s fairy tales, poetry, and fantastic stories are supported and shaped by the detailed woodcut and lithograph illustrations, including Reginald Savage’s “The Palace Burns and Behemoth” (fig 1).

“The Palace Burns and Behemoth” stands out as the first image to appear in the volume, preceded only by the cover page and followed with Rickett’s story, “The Marred Face”. The image specifically illustrates this scene:

A flight of peacocks wheeled round and round, as they fell, suffocated,
into the fire. The great sullen Behemoth then broke from his tank, in which
he loves to wallow in ooze and mire; first among the beasts he had snuffed,
but had not moved, he had rolled little red eyes long before the outbursting
of the flames. When, indeed, the heat grew terrible, he ran with his snout
low down, hurling out of existence beasts that stood in his path, to beat
against a part of the palace not yet on fire. (6)

The woodcut also stylistically complements the story in its depiction of the fantastic and their use of intertextual references.

The woodcut shows incredible attention to detail, both in form and content. The rhinoceros takes on the armoured form popularized by German printmaker Albrecht Dürer in 1515 (fig. 2). Despite its anatomical inaccuracies, this woodcut is iconic: it was reproduced for hundreds of years, and its adoption by Savage shows how The Dial frequently refers to, and plays with, visual art, literature, and design.

Savage’s woodcut isn’t a direct reproduction of Dürer’s “Rhinocerus”, however, and it’s interesting to note Savage’s illustration’s similarity to other historical images. It may refer to William Blake’s line engraving “Behemoth and Leviathan” (fig. 3), an 1826 commission for the book of Job. These references underpin The Dial’s “educated” stance towards their magazines; unsatisfied with mass production and consumption, the editors shirked the money-making potential of their magazine in favour of more cosmopolitan, intertextual, and holistic design elements aimed to inspire a closer look by their readers.

The Rhinoceros (NGA 1964.8.697) enhanced.png
Fig 2. Albrecht Dürer’s iconic woodcut “Rhinoceros”, 1515.
Fig 3. William Blake’s 1826 “Behemoth and Leviathan”, commissioned for an illustrated version of the book of Job.

Works Cited

Art Documentaries “The Durer Rhinocerous – Masterpieces of the British Museum.” YouTube, 5 Feb 2014, https://youtu.be/IPthhO4YU28.

Blake, William. “Behemoth and Leviathan. The Book of Job, 1826, Tate Gallery. Tate.

Dürer, Albrecht. Rhinoceros.1515. The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington.

Savage, Reginald. “The Palace Burns and Behemoth” The Dial, vol. 2, 1892.  The Yellow Nineties 2.0.

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