Ivor Abrahams, R.A. 1935 - 2015
The Masque of the Red Death
Photo: R.A.
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
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The Masque of the Red Death
Screenprint, 495 X 365 mm
Printed by Advanced Graphics Published by Bernard Jacobson Ltd, 1976.
From: E. A. Poe Tales and Poems: 20 Images by Ivor Abrahams, 1976
Given by Ivor Abrahams, R.A., 5 July 2009
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'The Masque of the Red Death' is typical of Abrahams' approach to Poe. Rather than depict the climatic scene, when at the stroke of midnight the figure of the Red Death wreaks slaughter amongst the revellers, the artist presents instead an incriminating object found after the event, leaving it up to us to work out how it might fit into the story. His own explanation is that the pattern on the Pezenas floor-tile - it is both literally and metaphorically a found object - reminded him of the masked Red Death appearing on the balcony of Prince Prospero's palace, a scene not in fact described by Poe but probably remembered from Roger Corman's famous film. Produced as physical evidence of what we are told has happened, we must find our own place for this object in Poe's story. Thus, for example, the richness of the tile's pattern and curious design could stand equally well for what Poe describes as Prince Prospero's 'peculiar taste' and 'fine eye for colours and effects'.