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‘At Ease on the Throne of Society’
Illustration by Justin Sweet, page 118, Kull Exile of Atlantis, Del Rey, 2006 for The Screaming Skull of Silence
“Kull sat at ease on the throne of society, listening idly to the conversation of Tu, chief counselor, Ka-nu, ambassador from Pictdom, Brule Ka-nu’s right-hand man, and Kathulos the slave, who was yet the greatest scholar [1] in the Seven Empires.”
-The Screaming Skull of Silence
Justin’s throne room scene evokes 19th century French social panoramas, such as the Wreck of the Medusa, undercut with the shadowy quality of English urban illustrations and vaulted with an extreme sense of brooding Nordic melancholy.
Kull sits on the throne like a biker in the presidential chair, the massive stone seat, backed with oak, rising out of the carven stair between pillars faced with leering gargoyles, a musician threatening distraction to the King's right, a great geometric tapestry hanging behind him like the unplumbed gulfs of intrigue the usurper is subjected to in a civilized land. The stone throne looks all the harder for its edges creasing the pearly white gossamer which drapes the foot-wide arms of the titanic chair. The gargoyles [2], vaulted stone, shadows, whispering knots of courtiers, the beguiling tapestry and the silk-veiled throne of stone marks Justin Sweet’s objectified portrait of lonely Kull as on par with the literary atmospherics of Howard himself.
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1. Such are the methods by which Howard infused historical perspective into a fantasy setting. In ancient Rome, it was fashionable to buy a Greek slave as a tutor. In the Middle Ages, certain Islamic scholars, such as Sina, were literally hunted by meathead warlords who sought them as a prize, like the Americans and Soviets scrambling to snare the surviving German scientists at the end of WWII.
2. These carvings are possibly of Chimeras, but are, in any case, monstrous and possessed of the power to descend, threatening judgment on their perch, the polytheistic equivalent of God's reserved wrath.
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