Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Pictures and Portraits

There is an obvious sympathetic-Magic link between a likeness and its original, most famously exploited in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) – where, by a process resembling Charles Williams's Substitution, the protagonist's increasing dissolution is reflected only in the portrait, not in his own face. Symbolic truth also emerges in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Edward Randolph's Portrait" (in Twice-Told Tales coll 1837), where the eponymous portrait radiates the guilt and remorse of its subject, who once betrayed the people of New England and suffered their Curse; and in Charles Williams's All Hallows' Eve (1945), whose painter involuntarily depicts a sinister Magus and his audience as an imbecile preaching to things like beetles. In W S Gilbert's Ruddigore (1887) ancestors' portraited images are animated by their Spirits and step from their frames; Vigo the Carpathian's spirit likewise inhabits his portrait in Ghostbusters II (1989) (see Ghostbusters). Portraits may be Portals: that in James Branch Cabell's "The Delta of Radegonde" (1921) allows carnal access to the idealized Queen Radegonde painted 13 centuries earlier, and that of a Narnian ship in C S Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) opens on the Secondary World seas of Narnia itself. Pictures which change can be Scrying devices of a sort: M R James's "The Mezzotint" (1904) shows a sinister figure approaching and leaving the depicted house, outlining a century-old episode of Horror; the animated tapestry in Piers Anthony's Castle Roogna (1979) replays historical episodes from 800 years before; in Roald Dahl's The Witches (1983) a child is locked into a picture, where she is seen to grow old and die. The abstract picture in Susan Cooper's Greenwitch (1974) is a Disguise for painted Spells; the videotape picture of Swan in The Phantom of the Paradise (1974) (see Phantom of the Opera) embodies his Pact with the Devil. Photographs are often believed to capture SoulsCinema technology is used precisely thus to trap the Demon in Barbara Hambly's Bride of the Rat God (1994). Like Mirrors, photographs may either show the unseen or fail to show the unreal: many a Ghost, Vampire, etc., is inferred from a missing place in a group photograph, while the famous punchline of H P Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model" (1926) explains Pickman's inspiration for pictures of ghouls: "But by God, Eliot, it was a photograph from life." The ancient picture of a "Knight" in Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) indicates a Time Abyss as we realize that it shows an astronaut on the Moon. [DRL]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.