I told you I'd drop in if I came across anything worth sharing. As it happens, it happened, so welcome back.
Ordinarily, I'm not inclined to lengthy discussions of a single work of Haunted Mansion concept art if it left no traces in the actual ride. For me, that veers just a little too close to trivia for its own sake. But in this case the work in question is unusually rich, and it is barely possible that it may have left a tiny fingerprint in the ride, so . . . good enough, says I.
Evolution and Intelligent Design
In 1964 Marc Davis wrote a show script for the HM which included a figure described as "the most dangerous ghost in the mansion," who later turns out to be the Ghost Host himself. Marc did a sketch showing a portrait of this ghost, who evidently stepped down into the Mansion, tearing his likeness off the canvas at the same time. We've seen this one before.
reused it not long afterwards as the basis of a changing portrait, one of many that were never used.
That piece goes by various names ("Burn"; "Damned"), but I'm going to call it the Burning Miser, which describes it about as clearly as a title can do, I think. The fact that the man is a miser is suggested by the apparatus on the table next to him, which may not be immediately recognizable to everyone, so it won't hurt to describe it a little.
It's a scale and weights set, the kind of thing used by assayers to determine the weight of gold nuggets and whatnot. Its presence here suggests a man who keeps track of every gram of wealth he possesses, and his expression tells you all you need to know about his character.
I Scream, "Kohn"!
This is an update of an update. The alternate version of the final panel in the Burning Miser series seen below sparked considerable debate at the time of the original post, but now, barely a month later (Nov 2015), it is no longer a mystery. We now know that Ed Kohn did a rendering of the full Burning Miser set, and that what we have here is a poor photograph of a glass slide from the Kohn set.
I won't pretend that the evidence is conclusive, but I can't help wondering whether the embroidery
Conventional wisdom has always been that the so-called "Donald Duck chair" at the Endless Hallway was inspired by Rolly Crump's talking chair from the unused Museum of the Weird, and it's just been assumed that the other chairs with faces on them (in the ballroom and in the WDW library scene) are nothing more than variations of that one.
enough resemblance to Granny's rocker to at least raise the possibility of influence from there as well as from Rolly.
I think that what I admire most about the Burning Miser is how it deftly combines into a single artwork three separate narratives: the Rich Fool, the Faust legend, and the phenomenon known as Spontaneous Human Combustion. All three are laid under contribution, but the end result is seamless.
The Rich Fool
For this one, we can do no better than cite the Master Himself:
of the Rich Fool. This 1902 Frank Beard illustration from "The Ram's Horn" is very similar in some ways to Davis's version.
religious journals like "The Ram's Horn" (although Beard was a tolerably well-known American illustrator in the late 19th century).
We're all familiar with Faust, the scholar who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge. The story never seems to grow old, and new versions of the Faust legend continue to appear. In the case of the Burning Miser, we can say with some certainty that it began life as simply another version of the Faust story, as can be seen in these Davis sketches:
Spontaneous Human Combustion
It is not hard to find accounts of human beings suddenly bursting into flame and perishing, with no obvious cause present that could explain such a phenomenon. You'll usually find treatments of SHC in books dealing with the paranormal, right alongside ghosts and UFOs. One thing these discussions often mention is that Charles Dickens was apparently aware of the SHC mystery and included an instance of it in his novel, Bleak House. What we are most interested in is the illustration of the episode. Dickens used a number of illustrators during his career, and they have themselves been the subject of a good deal of attention by Dickens scholars. Most of them were very talented artists. One of them was Hablot Knight Browne (nicknamed "Phiz"), and he illustrated ten of Dickens's novels, including Bleak House. Studious artist that he was, Marc Davis may very well have been familiar with the work of any illustrator of Phiz's caliber, especially since some of Phiz's Bleak House drawings were gothic and ghostly; in other words, they were exactly the sort of thing the HM Imagineers wanted to research anyway: