Walter-Scott, “Histoire du temps des croisades”
Literary representation presented a significant challenge to visual art: to create imagery not only capable of representing the material aspects described in texts, but evoking the subjective experience of reading itself. This was the task that Achille Devéria tackled in Walter-Scott, "Histoire du temps des croisades" a lithograph dating from around 1829. Graphic works could carry not only the text’s title and the subject matter, but chapter, volume, and page number to facilitate the spectators’ comprehension of artists’ sensitive interpretation of literary subjects. In this image, Devéria portrays the climactic moment of The Talisman, the second novel of Scott’s Tales of the Crusaders, when Sir Kenneth, disguised as a Nubian slave, is recognized by Lady Edith Plantagenet, the woman on whom he has set his heart. Visual tension is portrayed through tonal contrasts. The disparity between blacks and whites reinforce plot elements and deepen the emotional impact of the fantastic components of Scott’s novel. Devéria’s lithograph is typical of the romantic era, a period that was so critical to the development of French art in the first half of the nineteenth century.