Material: Gouache on illustration board
The illustration by Ted Nasmith shows The Eyrie from the successful and world-famous novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by author George R. R. Martin. The series is probably even better known under the name “Game of Thrones”, the most successful TV series in the world to date.
Although The Eyrie plays a minor role as a place of action, both in the books and the TV series it is a particularly impressive place with impregnable fortifications. The Eyrie itself is a castle, palace and seat of the House of Arryn, the rulers of the Green Valley and one of the most important houses of Westeros.
In collaboration with George R. R. Martin, the well-known fantasy illustrator Ted Nasmith has portrayed The Eyrie as the author imagined it when writing it.
The illustration was created for the opulent background work “A World of Ice and Fire”.
What’s to see?
The high rectangular picture shows in the central middle ground a castle complex built entirely of white stone with seven high towers. The building was erected directly on a steeply sloping rock plateau, the angle of view is from below. Therefore there is no real foreground.
From the rock plateau a low ridge runs to the right edge of the picture, which is mostly taken up by a steep rock face. A waterfall flows over the ridge into the not visible ground.
The background is formed by high, snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance, which are held in sfumato. Due to the unusual perspective, the visible part of the sky extends diagonally from the lower part of the left edge of the picture to the upper right edge. The sky is blue and slightly cloudy. The white of the clouds and the stone shine in the bright light of an invisible sun, at the same time an increasing crescent moon is visible in the sky.
The irregular ground plan of the castle complex covers the entire rocky plateau. Massive, high substructures support the visible three halls, which are connected by small bridges. Also part of the foundation walls are fortifications, embrasures, battlements and battlements.
In the centre of the architectural picture arrangement is a three-aisled hall with narrow, pointed windows and an upper aisle. The narrow side is flat and shows a portal on the ground floor and windows or a balcony with a large passageway on the higher levels.
The other halls take up the basic structure of this representative hall, but with reduced and simplified forms, which can be seen especially in the window size and floor heights.
A total of seven towers are visible, whose distribution over the castle area does not follow any recognizable pattern. Four towers have a square ground plan and, especially in the upper third, cantilevered platforms without railings. The tower helmets are made of the same white stone and converge at a point.
The other three towers have a round ground plan and are smooth until the end of the tower with very few and small windows. The ends of the towers are wider in comparison to the shaft and have rows of windows all around. The round pointed helmets are covered with blue bricks, which makes them stand out.
Why does the picture seem so epic?
Due to the chosen, underview and slightly diagonal viewing angle of the picture composition, a strongly vertical and monumentalizing effect is created. The horizontal, wide castle substructure and the likewise horizontally aligned halls form an architectural unit. The solitary towers rise from this unit.
Together with the mountain peaks in the background, the horizontal building elements form a line running from bottom left to top right. Together with the rocky plateau of the castle and the rocky ridge dominating the right edge of the picture, they form a unity.
The towers now rise above this and can be seen as dominant structural elements against the background of the sky. This separation becomes clear in the lower third of the square towers: the supporting, broad base is optically separated from the upper, narrower areas by a surrounding cornice. The cornices lie on the line formed by mountains and substructures.
This separation between the towers rising into the sky and the massive, horizontal elements that form a compositional unit with mountains and rock creates the drama of the picture. The monumental, awe-inspiring overwhelming of the impressive building is created by the view from below and the towers towering high up. Their effect is counterbalanced by the three halls and the wide substructures, and is again emphasized by the contrast.
Why does this look so familiar?
Both the depiction of such a castle on a rock plateau and the uniform colouring of the building ensemble are clearly influenced by Neuschwanstein Castle. The individual building and decorative elements with their references to the Romanesque period also occur in both monuments. Furthermore, the smaller rows of windows are comparable.
The towers, both with round and square ground plans, are also found in Neuschwanstein. Here, however, they do not reach the fantastic heights as in Nasmith’s work. But the broad, round ends with the pointed helmets are clearly visible, as is the square layout of the keep. But in Neuschwanstein it ends in the round tower solution.
The monumental towers next to a three-aisled hall reminiscent of a church have also been seen in one of the most important fantasy films of all time: in “Lord of the Rings”!
Especially in the third part “The Return of the King” from 2003 the royal city Minas Tirith is clearly shown. The White City got its name from the uniform building material used, which was also used for the King’s Hall and Ecthelion’s Tower located high up on the ridge. The hall shows clear parallels to the Hall of Hohenehrs, because it is also shown as a three-aisled basilica in Romanesque style, but is decorated in a much more opulent way. It is also accompanied by a free-standing monumental tower.
More about Minas Tirith and the Hall of the King can be found in #AotW 005!
Who is the artist?
The connection to the Lord of the Rings trilogy is not surprising, as Ted Nasmith is a widely known illustrator of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Along with Allan Lee and John Howe, who also participated in the film adaptations by Peter Jackson, he is considered one of the most important Tolkien illustrators.
But also his impressive illustrations for George R. R. Martin’s world of “A Song of Ice and Fire” show his talent for monumental, epic and fantastic works of art. His talent lies precisely in the field of architectural illustration, which is also expressed in his work as a draftsman. Nasmith’s work is strongly influenced by architecture and its staging.
With Tolkien and Martin he has created formative images for the most influential works of fantasy to this day.
More about Ted Nasmith and a large selection of works can be found on his homepage.
He can also be found on Facebook.