Rapunzel: Fairy Tale in Public Domain Pictures
Thanks to Disney’s motion picture Tangled, an interest for a fairy tale Rapunzel rose in recent years. Brother Grimm were far from being the first who wrote it down but their version is very likely the most popular one.
Dozens of top artists made beautiful illustrations portraying the signature scenes from this story. It’s time to make an attempt to check some of them. Apart from the obvious criteria of quality we followed two basic rules:
- All presented pictures were first published before 1923 what basically put them in Public Domain in United States of America.
- All images in this post are signed by artists who died at least 70 years ago what means they are Public Domain according to the European Union copyright laws.
In short – if you need any of these images for a presentation, blog post, school project and even for majority of commercial projects, you can use them without asking for permission. Don’t forget to give proper credit and enjoy the ride!
The Crave for Rapunzel
It all started with a pregnant woman who desperately wanted some rapunzel (more known as rampion, Campanulla Rapunculus) which happened to grow right in the neighbourhood garden. Owned by a witch!
Otto Ubbelohde (1867-1922), German painter and illustrator from Marburg is one of rare artists who decided to portray the scene where the pair is watching at the witch. When she left, wife convinced her husband to get some rapunzel from the garden.
He did that and a few years later he did the same again.
The Witch Caught The Husband
It was inevitable – he got caught. But the witch made him to accept the devilish offer. He can continue supplying his insatiable wife with rapunzel on one condition. They have to give their newborn to the witch …
Let’s see how Gordon Browne (1858-1932) and Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) saw that:
Please note how monstrous is the witch. Other artists portrayed her very similarly.
Can we get back to the story?
Well, the baby girl was born and for some time it seemed the deal was off, but when she turned twelve (this age is very important in fairy tales – it’s the age when girls became women, just like in The Sleeping Beauty, where the magic number was thirteen), the witch demanded her and imprisoned the girl in a tower.
This tower (often being recognised as a phallic symbol) was probably the most inspiring element of the tale. In most cases it was presented together with the second most known element from the tale – Rapunzel’s long hair, the only way how the entrance into the tower was accessible.
The Tower Of Rapunzel
The illustration above is signed by Anne Anderson (1874-193?). The date of death of this artist is unclear. You’ll find the range from 1930 to 1952, but according to the dates of her published work it was most likely between 1935 and 1939.
Next two images are drawn by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) and Wanda Gag (1893-1946).
Rapunzel’s hair as a symbol of her innocence and some kind of magic power is important detail in this fairy tale.
Next two black and white pictures are focusing on Rapunzel’s long hair.
Robert Weise (1870-1923) above and Bernhard Hasler (1884-1945) below saw this scene as the signature of the tale.
Both pictures are useful as coloring pages as well.
The Prince Spots The Girl
Several important fairy tales have a prince in important role and Rapunzel is no exception. He saw the girl’s golden hair, in some cases with and in some without a witch, who called famous:
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down!”
when she wanted to visit her in the isolated room in the top of the tower.
We are already familiar with illustrations made by Anne Anderson and Bernhard Hasler (both above). Same is true for the artists responsible for next two images below (Gordon Browne and Otto Ubbelohde).
If there’s not enough striking black and white contrast, we have another beautiful work, this time illustration by Franz Mueller Muenster (1867-1936). More spectacular sheets waiting to be colored.
We’ll end this section of Rapunzel illustrations with probably the most well-known vintage illustration of this fairy tale, painted by Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938).
What happened when the prince enters the scene?
It really depends on the version of the fairy tale, but in all cases they met and after a while the witch finds out their encounters.
The Prince Visits the Rapunzel
Henry Justice Ford (1860-1941) made the illustration above for Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book, published in 1891.
Richard Andre (1834-1907), with real name William Roger Snow is author of next picture.
One of the most famous illustrations is next one. It is signed by Walter Crane (1845-1915), an influential Art Nouveau artist, who’s illustrations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales are one of the milestones in the history of picture books.
Enjoy all the tiny details, by which Walter Crane is still famous.
The Prince and Rapunzel In Love
Don’t miss a tiny detail of monstrous head on the tower, presenting clear danger to the couple in love – illustration by Edward Wehnert (1813-1868). Next picture is made by Phillipp Grot Johann (1841-1892), author of illustrations of another important book with Grimms’ Fairy Tales published in 1893.
The Witch Cutting the Rapunzel’s Hair
Here we are – the punishment is obvious. Rapunzel’s hair must go off! Already mentioned Gordon Browne and Phillip Grot Johann made next two illustrations:
Despite her punishment – in many variation leading to blindness of the prince, this fairy tales ends happily. The girl find the prince, he is cured and they married each other, having kids and all.
The last illustration is a vignette made by Walter Crane from the collection mentioned at his first image in this post.
More about the tale, together with summary and short analysis is available here:
Can you suggest another public domain picture of Rapunzel?