As Corelli's fantasy tale ARDATH continues, "Theos," our modern poet-hero from 1889, transported back five thousand years to the fabulous decadent city of Al-Kyris, meets a terrifying yet totally seductive character. She is Lysia, the young and needless to say gorgeous Priestess of the Sun and the Snakes. She is introduced wearing a full robe of gold lame, while riding on her ornate river barge. But most of the time she wears almost nothing but dazzling jewelry.
Theos is smitten, and must pursue her, though he is also in love with the Poet Laureate Sah-Luma. Sah-Luma has a bit of a thing for Lysia, too. Bisexual Love Triangle, 1889 style! To complicate matters, Lysia is having a forbidden affair with the King of the realm, even though a prophecy states: "When the Snake Priestess/is the King's Mistress,/Then falls Al-Kyris!" She's a busy gal. She also has to perform a lot of ceremonies, accompanied by her animals "Nagaya" the great python and "Aizif" the tigress. And then by night, she hosts orgies in her jewel-encrusted rotunda playroom.
I am not making any of this up. Marie Corelli did, which is why she's one of my favorite fantasy authors ever. I made dozens and dozens of illustrations for this book and a couple of other Corelli titles, between the late 60s and 1994. I have not made a Corelli illustration since 1994, though I have sometimes contemplated starting up again. But why? Could I do anything inspired by Corelli that does not look like either an Alma-Tadema pastiche, or a still from D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance," or some pulp fantasy cover? Y'see, it's like this. Back in the old days, I didn't know that fantasy art was unoriginal and in bad taste. I just did it because it was fun. Sometimes I sold one or two of them, but most of them are still in my collection, and I'm scanning them now. The one you see above was painted in 1980, acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 11". It was sold at Noreascon II, the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Boston that year. This image was scanned from a dusty old color slide.
Enough of this nostalgia...I wonder what Corelli illustrations would look like in Photoshop....?