Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)
Type of Paper/Work
Heather M. Shirey
John Tenniel’s “Alice and the White Knight,” one of the illustrations he created for Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, is based on Albrecht Dürer’s famous engraving “Knight, Death, and the Devil.” This resemblance has been noted by art historians and Lewis Carroll scholars before, but its impact on the meaning of Tenniel’s drawing has never been thoroughly explored. At the time that Tenniel was creating the illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass, Dürer’s engraving, also known under the name “The Christian Knight,” was held to be a representation of a knight as an exemplar of moral and physical strength. This paper will show how by aligning his illustration of Carroll’s character with Dürer’s famous engraving, Tenniel was able to present the White Knight as being of good character, while at the same time presenting him as somewhat ineffectual by utilizing strategic differences from Dürer’s picture. It will also demonstrate how Tenniel was able to use the satiric vocabulary that he was familiar with from his time working at Punch to simultaneously link the White Knight to the Gothic Revival as well as to ridicule that movement. Beyond the specific analysis of this one drawing, this paper will ultimately seek to show that Tenniel’s Alice illustrations are worthy of serious study beyond their connections to Carroll’s text.
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Burnett, Jason K., "“Alice and the White Knight”: John Tenniel’s Satire of the Victorian Idea of the Medieval" (2022). Art History Master's Qualifying Papers. 58.