The Lair of the Sea Serpent by Elihu Vedder

The Lair of the Sea Serpent () – Elihu Vedder

The American artist Elihu Vedder (1836-1923) is little known in contemporary art circles, although one of his paintings, The Questioner of the Sphinx (1863), has entered the late-20th-century image bank via a parody by Mark Tansey. His other best-known images depict such fantastic scenes as The Lair of the Sea Serpent (two versions, 1863 and 1889), in which a giant serpent lies coiled along an otherwise unremarkable stretch of beach, and The Roc’s Egg (1868), a scene that could have furnished Ray Harryhausen with inspiration for The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Such images were Vedder’s most peculiar and establish him as something of an eccentric in 19th-century art, but his present obscurity has more do with the fact that, as modernism swept through galleries and exhibitions at the turn of the century, Vedder’s allegorical subjects and Italian landscapes were old-fashioned the day he painted them. –March, 1999 by Charles Dee Mitchell