The White Duck Beneath the Waves

The White Duck illustrated by Ivan Bilibin

 
 

The Russian folktale Белая уточка (The White Duck) also bears some resemblance to the story of Лебединое озеро (Swan Lake) ballet, and may have been another possible source. The contemporaries of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky recalled the composer taking great interest in the life story of Bavarian King Ludwig II, whose tragic life had supposedly been marked by the sign of Swan and who—either consciously or not—was chosen as the prototype of the dreamer Prince Siegfried.

 
 

Audrey Hepburn received a Tony Award for her theatrical performance in the 1954 Broadway play Ondine, directed by Alfred Lunt

 
 

The original Swan Lake was based on the story of Ondine, a German myth with a theme common in Romanticism that was adapted by Hans Christian Andersen for his story The Little Mermaid.

In that German tale known as Sleep of Ondine, Ondine (from Latin: Unda, “a wave”)  is a water nymph. She was very beautiful and, like all nymphs, immortal. However, should she fall in love with a mortal man and bear his child, she would lose her immortality.

 
 

Undine beneath the waves of the Danube. Illustration by Arthur Rackham

 
 

Ondine eventually falls in love with a handsome knight, Sir Lawrence, and they are married. When they exchange vows, Lawrence vows to forever love and be faithful to her. A year after their marriage, Ondine gives birth to his child. From that moment on she begins to age. As Ondine’s physical attractiveness diminishes, Lawrence loses interest in his wife.

One afternoon, Ondine is walking near the stables when she hears the familiar snoring of her husband. When she enters the stable, she sees Lawrence lying in the arms of another woman. Ondine points her finger at him, which he feels as if kicked, waking him up with surprise. Ondine curses him, stating, “You swore faithfulness to me with every waking breath, and I accepted your oath. So be it. As long as you are awake, you shall have your breath, but should you ever fall asleep, then that breath will be taken from you and you will die!

In Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Past Things, Volume II: Madame Swann at Home, the narrator’s girlfriend Gilberte is referred to as Undine: “… she assumed that vague air, full of reticence and kept secrets…like the Undine that she was…”

And Genesis’ 1973 song Firth of Fifth (from the album Selling England by the Pound) makes reference to Ondinal Songs.

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The Peacock Enthroned

Earthquake Damage. Lily Cole photographed by Tim Walker in Whadwhan Palace, Gujarat (India), 2005

 
 

La Grande Odalisque, 1814,  Jean AugusteDominique Ingres

 
 

The Peacock Room, 1876-7, James McNeill Whistler

 
 

The Peacock Throne is the most notable piece of furniture of the Moorish Kiosk, a building located at Linderhoff Palace in Bavaria, Germany. It’s the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria

 
 

Illustration of Sir Vane Peacock, JJ Grandville, 1852

 
 

The Kiss, 1896 Will Bradley

 
 

Aubrey Beardsley

 
 

Alphons Mucha

 
 

Kimono by Iida Takashimaya. Circa 1904-1908

 
 

Erté

 
 

George Barbier

 

bilibinIllustration to a Russian fairy tale about Жар-птица (The Firebird), 1899, by Ivan Bilibin

 
 

Walter Crane

 
 

Orson Lowell

 
 

The Majestic Peacock, by Elisabeth Sonrel

 
 

Vogue Cover , March 18, 1909 as illustrated by James St. John

 
 

George Wolf Plank, 1911

 
 

Frank Xavier Leyendecker, 1921

 
 

Page from Winter 1965 Lanctan catalogue, illustration by Paul Christadoulou

 
 

Flapper style headdress

 
 

Photo credit: Art Kane

 
 

Katharine Hepburn. Photo: Cecil Beaton, 1961

 
 

Gabrielle Coco Chanel. Photo by Boris Lipnistki

 
 

Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes)

 
 

Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. Cover by Mark Ryden