Starwars.com has been running an ongoing feature series about the art of the beloved concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, recounting the history behind some of the artist’s lesser known or exceedingly rare pieces of art—including a spectacular look at one of McQuarrie’s rarest-ever paintings.

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The latest entry in the series predominantly focuses on McQuarrie’s work for the cover of the Empire Strikes Back novelization from Del Rey. Many of McQuarrie’s planned ideas for the cover were in fact adaptations of his production artwork from the film, trimmed down from their widescreen originals into a format more suitable for the cover. McQuarrie pondered between vistas of Cloud City and Hoth, to scenes from Luke and Vader’s duel, but ultimately settled on something inspired by artwork he’d done of Luke Skywalker escaping his downed Snowspeeder in front of an Imperial Walker.

Ultimately however, the novelization was released without McQuarrie’s cover—the first run simply included the poster artwork from Roger Kastel, and it was believed that McQuarrie had simply stopped working on the cover art when it was no longer needed... but that wasn’t the case.

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It turns out that the book was briefly solicited with a cover featuring McQuarrie’s art—as the poster art was unavailable during solicitation—a fact that only came to light when an extremely rare printing of the solicit found its way to eBay recently.

Following the eBay auction, the Lucasfilm archives were scoured, and the original McQuarrie piece, thought lost and unfinished, was found:

We’ve seen so much of McQuarrie’s iconic art over the years, it’s almost amazing that we can still uncover even more of it all these years later. Head on over to the link below to see more of McQuarrie’s work for the book, including rough sketches of initial ideas for his cover.

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[Starwars.com]