Michael Scarborough

The White Company

As it was home to Howard Pyle, his studio and his amazing school of illustration, Wilmington, Delaware can be considered the birthplace of American illustration.

For many years, the Delaware Art Museum presented an annual exhibition called Masterpieces in Miniature featuring box dioramas based on famous paintings andor illustrations. As one of the artists selected in 2010, I chose N.C. Wyeth’s cover illustration for The White Company by Arthur Conan-Doyle. Because I wanted to tell a story beyond the illustration, I decided to symbolically represent a specific copy of the book itself: a first edition, leather-bound copy owned by an English gent who reads it in his oak-paneled study. (I was also tempted to place a snifter of fine cognac and a cigar in a cut-glass ashtray just outside the box... and may do so next time I display it.) Ergo, the box is paneled in oak, the front of the box is covered in leather, and the title on the box is illustrated on parchment as N.C. has represented it on the cover of the book.

The figures themselves began life as very stiff commercial offerings from Verlinden, so I completely removed all surface detail, bisected all joints, repositioned all limbs and further reworked them multiple times (including reworking portions even after they were painted) to fit my needs and to reach some level of satisfaction, including giving one a potbelly to represent one of the characters in the book.

This was my first box diorama, and it lit a fire which I believe will lead to many more iterations of “theater in miniature.