Adventures of Sherlock Holmes




"A Scandal In Bohemia" - Sidney Paget, Strand Magazine, 1891

Dobrodruzství detektiva Sherlocka Holmesa, Vilímek, 1906

    The research and images for this commentary came from at "Pinacotheca Holmesian"  the definitive site for Holmes' illustrators.

     Josef Friedrich was a Czech painter and illustrator who illustrated the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the Czech magazine.   The above images illustrate not only  the difference in styles between Friedrich and Paget in "A Scandal in Bohemia," but the differences between showing a character and revealing a character.

    Friedrich  leans heavily on Paget's interpretation of the characters. And sometimes this imitation works.   Except for the hands placed on the opposite lapel and opposite pocket, the ill kempt groom is a double of Paget's creation.

    Other times, however, simply duplicating clothes and stance, fails to  connect the reader to the characters.   Friedrich's king wears the same heavily ornamented coat with cape tossed over the shoulder as Paget's version.   Friedrich has chosen to eliminate the cane and hat in the hands, somewhat diminishing the princely wardrobe provided by Paget.  Yet, in the images themselves, the essential element of revelation is lacking.

    While both Friedrich and Paget establish Holmes' superiority over the King by their placement and pose, Paget does so in a more restrained manner. Given his distressed state of mind, perhaps the King of Bohemia might not  resent Paget's Holmes remaining seated in his presence. But would he stand for Friedrich's Holmes blocking his path with hand in pocket and directing him to sit?  Perhaps, but the strident Holmes that Friedrich has drawn bears little resemblance to the serene Holmes described by Doyle and drawn by Paget.

    The woman is also copied with some care to the original.  But instead of the demure, veiled beauty at Paget's altar, Friedrich's Irene appears at the altar a bit portly and  more matronly than the figure described by Holmes and drawn by Paget ("The daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet.)   Friedrich errors in judgment by not drawing one of the most famous of the illustrations, "Good-night Mr. Sherlock Holmes."  Famous in that it is one of the few times Holmes is bested, and the most surprising and climactic revelation of failure in the Canon.  Paget's heavily cloaked figure is definitely female, a tribute to his skills, and perhaps too daunting a task for Friedrich to accomplish.

     Watson's interpretation is the greatest departure from the Paget model. Friedrich's Watson is poised in front of the ill-kempt groom eagle like, with a handlebar mustache that he could have hooked his top hat on had he not tossed it and his gloves casually on the table next to him.

    There is no corresponding image in the Paget version of this meeting, but the Watson drawn in the Paget images does not dress in ill fashioned morning coats with wild hair and  stalking demeanor.  Paget's Watson is a respectable looking Victorian gentlemen dressed for his occupation.  Paget draws an Englishman, unexcited in his response to the King's presence  and Holmes' plans to break the law, to serve.

     Friedrich remains as faithful to  the "detektiva" as his skills allow, but while his efforts bear an eerie a Basil Rathbone resemblance, his detektiva is thin and cranes his neck and stretches his arms in Czech magazines,  The Strand presents a restrained and fit character who moves through the images and story with ease of movement and grace of figure.

    SCAN was the first story illustrated by Paget.  In it he established not only recognizable features that would become synonymous with Holmes and Watson, but he also established and air of confidence and sureness of action that would be the foundation of their relationship and their cases.  Friedrich shows us the characters from a Czech perspective ; Paget makes us see the  English in the characters. And therein lies the magic.

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