Wisdom’s Kiss illustrations

“But wait!” You say. “Wisdom’s Kiss has no illustrations! It’s just a regular old chapter book! Right?” Well, yes and no. It does have that marvelous cover (hello, kitty!), and no one could argue — in fact, some could grumble — about the illustrative quality of the headers. (For the full effect, read Felis’s memoir title aloud.) 

We did ponder including artwork but decided the story didn’t need it. The words, both text and header, tell the story quite well enough — however much fun it would be to see Queen of All the Heavens illustrated with drawings as campy as the play itself. While writing Wisdom’s Kiss, I used as inspiration a range of visuals, from folk statues (for the Elephantine Stiltdancers) to handmade models of the Globe d’Or. These, and the illustrations below, perhaps can provide readers inspiration as well.


The palace, as The Encyclopedia of Lax writes, “is of singular dimension and finish, even by the standards of the city in which it stands.” In other words, the place is exorbitantly extravagent.
Given my innate prejudice toward the medieval and the faux medieval, I felt that the evil Phraughloch Palace should be the exact opposite: classical, symmetrical and overbearingly formal.

The real-life Würzburg Residenz and Belvedere Palace — both magnificent expressions of the Germanic Baroque, and quite fitting for the vaguely Teutonic, Holy-Roman-Empire, rule-of-the-Hapsburgs feel of the Empire of Lax — served as examples. Duchess Wilhelmina would be quite tolerant of either, I suspect, particularly when lording her real estate over visitors and the emperor.


Escoffier, as I explain elsewhere, is based on our cat Charcoal, who — being coal black — is almost impossible to photograph. Here he is dreaming of catching squirrels. Good luck, buddy. His/Escoffier’s visage can also be seen in the seal of the Imperial Department of Revenue, above left, yet another graphic I developed while brainstorming for Wisdom’s Kiss.


Though WIsdom’s Kiss has no illustrations, my publisher Houghton Mifflin and I did — as I mention above discuss the possibility of illustrations. In order to convey better the appearance of the various characters, I did some sniffing around on the good old Internet, and found a treasure trove on Wikimedia and other free sites. These portraits, of various royalty or nobility, are not meant to represent the characters in Wisdom’s Kiss but to convey what they might look like, and how they might dress. Curiously, I never found anything close to Dizzy and Tips, or at least how I imagine Dizzy and Tips. Perhaps they both have too much of a spark for classic European portraiture.

← Felis el Gato (Franz Hals, The Laughing Cavalier, 1624)

Trudy, or Lady Fortitude →

(Moretto da Brescia, Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1540)

← Duke Roger of Farina

(Francois Clouet, Porträt des Königs Karl IX, 1566)

Duchess Wilhelmina of Farina →

(Anthonis Mor, Mary Tudor, Queen, 1554)

← Queen Temperance of Montagne

(Van Dyck, Marie-Louise de Tassis, c.1630)

Queen Mother Benevolence of Montagne →

(Perronneau, Madame de  Sorquainville, 1749)


← A window illustrating Temperance and Fortitude, from the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia (TOTALLY worth visiting, BTW)

The Montagne royal → seal of hedgehog + dragons, from Princess Ben


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The black-cat emblem of the Imperial Department of Revenue, described in Escoffier’s entry in The Imperial Encyclopedia of Lax. Crafted from a photograph of our cat Charcoal.