Picture 80.  Don Quixote and his Books

Bild 80. Don Quixote and his Books

The Castilian nobleman spends whole days and nights over his chivalry romances. "The greatest misfortune was that he believed every word of those sagas and legends". That is how he comes to take the extraordinary decision to become a knight errant himself.

Hundreds of artists have illustrated Cervantes' great novel. It is extremely difficult, indeed almost impossible to create something new in this regard. Anybody who attempts it must be as eccentric as Don Quixote himself. It would seem as if Stefan Mart were aware of this and were saying: "Don't worry - I am!"

The very first picture of the series demonstrates the zeal with which he set about his task: Over a precariously balanced pile of folios, the flame of the imagination burns on a bluish candle. The knight's forehead glows in its yellowish-reddish light. His jaw has dropped: he is overwhelmed by all the heroic deeds and wonders. He devours the book wide-eyed. With his gaunt hand, he clasps his almost bald skull as if it were in danger of bursting.

The Mexican artist Efrén Ordóņez (geb. 1926) has a very different view of knight at his reading. The painting of 1973 Don Quixote and his romances does not portray a dreamer, but rather the magnanimous nobleman Don Quixote. Deeply moved by his reading, he has laid his right hand on his heart.

Gustav Doré (1832 - 1883) created the prototype of Don Quixote as a romantic visionary with the first picture of his illustration series (around 1863). Intoxicated with the tales he is reading, the knight brandishes his sword in his right hand, he recites the words spoken by the creatures that have descended on him in his gloomy closet: bizarrley armoured knights on warhorses, a hideous dragon, imploring maidens being chained by fiendish monsters. The severed head of a giant lies at the knight's feet. In the foreground two toy-sized little knights riding on mice duell with spears; a third knight, who is somewhat larger, is actually climbing up the back of one of the tomes. (To Gustave Doré's illustration)