The painting for the legendary card “Rishadan Port” has now crossed the Atlantic twice. VintageMagic.com has the exclusive story about the painting’s first time on the market in more than 15 years.
There is a certain vantage point in the seaside province of Rishada that offers a lovely view of the city’s bustling port. One can see the rainbow of slate roofs, the famous statue of the leaping dolphins and the banded lighthouse in the distance. Ships set to at the docks, and you can almost imagine the sound of the tide and the smell of the sea salt just a few hundred feet below.
If Rishada sounds like the latest vacation destination on the Greek or Italian coast, I’m sorry to report that the only way to get there is through a painting for the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. Located east of the fictional city of Mercadia on a world of the same name, the fantastical city of Rishada was lusciously illustrated by artist Jerry Tiritilli for the card “Rishadan Port.”
In late 2015, just before Christmas, the original owner of Rishadan Port gifted the art community with a rare opportunity — the chance to buy the painting. After 20 days of frenzied bidding, Rishadan Port was acquired by VintageMagic.com for $75,000 for a client who wishes to remain anonymous.
Now the painting has embarked on a voyage of its own, one worthy of the ships departing from the port of Rishada itself.
Daniel Chang visiting the “Arc De Triomphe” an iconic monument of Paris, France
EXCURSION TO FRANCE
Nicolas Didier discovered Magic: The Gathering when he was 12 years old. It was 1994, and the cards were starting to filter into Europe in a variety of translated languages. In his native France, Nicholas and his peers were about to be introduced to Dominaria, Planeswalkers and the whole scope of the Multiverse.
“All the other kids were into it, so I had to get a piece of the action,” Nicolas said. “Like most kids at the time, we didn’t play exactly by the rules, but it was fun enough to keep me interested.”
Like many pursuits of childhood, Nicolas’ interest in the game began to wane after a few years. What remained, though, was an appreciation of Magic’s art and its place in the larger world of fantasy illustration.
“I was always a fan of the art,” Nicolas went on. “Fantasy art in general. I remember buying some Spectrum books, and that got me hooked.”
To fuel his passion, Nicolas began writing to various Magic artists, all the while scrimping and saving to purchase some of the art he so loved. He saved money from his allowance, as well as cash from birthdays and Christmases. Eventually he was able to acquire an outtake from the Un- sets called “Moose Rider” from R.K. Post. That purchase launched a collection that eventually included 10 or so pieces of original Magic art.
“Moose Rider” by R.K. Post, an outtake from the Magic Un- sets and the first piece owned by Nicholas
It was in 1998, just around the release of the Mercadian Masques set, that Nicolas began to correspond with Jerry Tiritilli. Nicolas had wanted to get some cards signed, but he also expressed to Jerry his love of fantasy art.
“He showed me the pieces he had available, and Port, which wasn’t out yet, was among them,” Nicolas said. “I really liked it, and I got it straight from him. When I discovered that the card was actually quite good and definitely the marquee card from Masques, it was just a pleasant surprise.”
With an agreed-upon sale price of $500, the Rishadan Port painting traveled to France, where it’s lived for the past 17 years.
ORIGIN OF AN ICON
From his home in the Chicago area of Illinois, artist Jerry Tiritilli remembered well the original assignment for Rishadan Port and the conversations that led to its sale.
“It was just another assignment to me,” he said of the now-iconic piece. “I remember [Wizards] needed it fast. I sent it out to the art director, and he thought it looked too nice, too pretty. He sent it back and described it better and told me it was a port that a lot of rough people would visit. So I broke some of the tiles on the roofs and just made it a little darker. It still has a bright, colorful look, but it looked more weathered after I reworked it.”
A comparison between the original sketch for Rishadan Port and the final painting shows the difference between the roofing tiles and some of the port surfaces. (Images courtesy of Nicholas Didier)
Jerry was working as a freelance illustrator at the time, and he said that the original assignment simply described a shipping port where boats and traders would come. Having done various cards for Magic over the years, he also knew that the port should have some kind of fantasy element. But the rest was left up to the artist’s imagination, much like a lot of the game’s early artwork.
Which, of course, made the assignment challenging and fun.
“I would do stuff for Magic. And also I would do children’s books,” Jerry said. “Sometimes it was kind of rough switching gears because a lot of Magic’s work is a little more edgy and darker. If I’m in the frame of mind where I’m working on sweet-looking children’s books, it’s hard, like I said, to switch gears immediately and go into something else.”
After making the port appear more weathered and lived in, Jerry sent off his final piece. The last thing to happen before the card went to print was a bit of digital manipulation. The horizon line, which is heavily curved in Jerry’s painting, was flattened out significantly, a change he says he was OK with.
The image for Rishadan Port as it was printed on the card. Notice that the horizon was digitally altered in post-production. (© 1993-1999, Wizards of the Coast)
Time went on between when the assignment was made and when the set came out, and Jerry fondly recalls the speed at which Nicolas got in touch with him. Jerry was pleased that someone had fallen in love with the port scene and agreed to sell the painting. He didn’t think much about it but suspected that the card had become popular in the months and years that followed. At the few Magic events he attended, he was frequently asked to sign copies of “Rishadan Port” and “Sneak Attack,” which had come out a year prior in the set Urza’s Saga.
When he learned how much the painting of Rishadan Port had sold for, he was stunned nearly beyond words.
“With Magic, it’s a collectible item,” he said finally. “I figured a lot of this work would be of value at some point because the kids playing it grow up, and they make some money, and it’s like Rosebud — they want to grab onto something they cherished when they were kids.”
He added, “You collect this stuff and you play these games because you have a passion for them. They mean something to you.”
FINAL JOURNEY … FOR NOW
At the end of February, Vintage Magic founder and CEO Daniel Chang traveled to France to take temporary custodianship of the Rishadan Port painting.
Nicolas Didier & Daniel Chang pictured with the Rishadan Port Original Artwork
Of his decision to sell the piece, Nicolas explained, “I recently bought an apartment in Paris. Selling this painting will really help. I hate to see it go, but I’ve had it proudly on my wall for over 15 years.”
All of his MTG art has been sold now, but Nicolas still owns a Ron Spears fantasy piece that appeared in Spectrum and two original, non-Magic paintings by Bob Eggleton, whom Nicolas described as “my favorite artist. There’s really such a deep style in all of his works.” He isn’t collecting any more, but didn’t rule out the possibility of doing so again in the future. His ultimate grail, he said, would be to own an original piece by Frank Frazetta.
For Jerry, Magic: The Gathering has passed out of his life as well. After the digital art revolution of the early and mid-2000s, a lot of traditional artists found themselves scrambling for work — himself included. Art director turnover at Wizards of the Coast meant that assignments stopped coming, and Jerry had to take on other work to support his family. These days he produces exclusively personal work.
“It’s not like I’m cranking out masterpieces” Jerry said humbly. “I just want to work because I love it. It’s always been a passion of mine. I can’t see living without drawing and painting.”
News of the painting’s sale made him excited that his work for Magic continues to find an audience — nearly two decades after some of it was originally produced. He continues to welcome the opportunity to connect with fans, and invites people to write to him at jwTiritilli@gmail.com.
“It was always a lot of fun working on Magic,” he said. “I respect the people who play it. I’ve gone to some tournaments, and it seemed like they were having a lot of fun. It’s an intelligent group of people that plays the game.”
With the Rishadan Port painting on its way to a new home across the Atlantic again, it’s hard not to draw parallels between the ships in the artwork and the journey that the painting has taken. And like those same ships, where Rishadan Port goes next is anyone’s guess.
Original Painting For Shahrazad Sells For $72,000 : Hipsters of the Coast says:
[…] In Late 2015, the original art for Rishadan Port by Jerry Tiritilli was acquired by VintageMagic.com for an anonymous buyer for a reported total of $75,000. It has been said this amount most likely included a mixture or cash and trade, so the actual “hammer” price of the artwork itself is unknown, though there were offers of $50K+ bid during the auction. For more information regarding the sale check out Pat Scalisi’s article. […]
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