Edward Burne-Jones, The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon













Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A Ferré Foundation Inc, Ponce, Puerto Rico

Date: 1881–98
Technique: Oil on canvas, 277.5 x 635 cm

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Lancelot Speed, Merlin and Vivien







































Illustration from The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights, 1912., 9th edition. Ed. Sir James Knowles, K. C. V. O. London; New York: Frederick Warne and Co., 1912

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Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa (Le radeau de la Méduse)



















Musée du Louvre, Paris

Date: 1818-19
Technique: Oil on canvas, 491 x 716 cm

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Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, Têtes coupées






















Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Date: 1818
Technique: Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm

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Follower of François Marius Granet, An Alchemist Applying Bellows to a Furnace







































Wellcome Library, London

Date: Unknown
Technique:  Oil on canvas, 35 x 27 cm 

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Robert Bateman, The Three Ravens (The Dead Knight)




















Private collection

Date: c. 1868
Technique: Watercolour with bodycolour and gum arabic, 28 x 39 cm

This haunting watercolour is probably Bateman’s most famous work and has a distinguished exhibition history. Its melancholic timbre is reminiscent of Burne-Jones’ watercolours of the 1860s such as The Merciful Knight (Birmingham City Art Gallery) and Green Summer (private collection). It was formerly known as The Dead Knight, referring to the figure stretched out in a meadow amid cow-parsley growing beside a spring, but the trio of black birds amongst the trees link the picture to a seventeenth century English folk poem The Three Ravens. It was as The Three Ravens that it was first exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in 1868, one of his fourteen exhibits there between 1865 and 1874. Bateman probably encountered the poem in Francis James Child’s English and Scottish Ballads, published in 1861;

There were three ravens sat on a tree,
They were as blacke as they might be,
With a downe, derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe.

Downe in yonder greene field,
There lies a knight slain under his shield.
His hounds they lie downe at his feete,
So well they their master keepe.


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Władysław Skoczylas, Sleeping Knights (Śpiący rycerze)






















Muzeum Żup Krakowskich w Wieliczce

Date: Unknown
Technique: Woodcut

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Philip Hermogenes Calderon, St Elizabeth of Hungary’s Great Act of Renunciation



















Tate Britain, London

Date: 1891
Technique: Oil on canvas, 1530 x 2134 mm

Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) was the wife of Lewis, Landgrave of Thuringia. After his death in 1227 during one of the Crusades, she entered a convent and devoted herself to good works. Before becoming a nun, she passed through a spiritual crisis, torn by the need to renounce the world, and therefore her children, in order to fulfil her desire to serve God. Pressed by a domineering monk, Conrad, whose natural affections had been starved by celibacy, Elizabeth finally vowed that 'naked and barefoot' she would follow her 'naked Lord'. Calderon's picture shows this moment of self-abasement.
Calderon took his subject from a play by Charles Kingsley, 'The Saint's Tragedy', first published in 1848. It was based on fact.

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William Frederick Yeames, Amy Robsart







































Tate Britain, London

Date: Exhibited 1877
Technique: Oil on canvas, 2815 x 1885 mm

A leading member of the St John's Wood Clique, Yeames sought a fresh approach to historical subject matter. Led by the flamboyant Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833-98), the group often rented Hever Castle in Kent during the summer months and used it as a setting for some of their pictures. Yeames and Frederick Goodall (1822-1904), another member of the clique, specialised in Tudor and Stuart subjects, but often departed from the tradition of depicting a particular specific historic event by creating situations which simply captured the mood of bygone times. Yeames' most famous picture is And when did you last see you father? (1878, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), now a permanent waxwork tableau at Madame Tussaud's in London. Other subjects include the story of Prince Arthur and Hubert and the imprisonment of Lady Jane Grey. The latter, like Amy Robsart (1532-60), illustrates the artist's sympathy with innocent yet tragic figures in British history.

Yeames was clearly fascinated by the intrigue surrounding Amy Robsart's death and may have been familiar with Sir Walter Scott's version of the incident, as recounted in Kenilworth (1831). When the picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1877 he included a lengthy explanation of the work's historical background in the catalogue. This took the form of an extract from a History of Berkshire by John Aubrey (1626-97):

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, being the great favourite of the Queen Elizabeth, it was thought she would have made him her husband; to this end, to free himself of all obstacles, he had his wife, Amy Robsart, conveyed to the solitary house of Cumnor Hall, in Berkshire, inhabited by Anthony Forster, his servant. This same Forster, in compliance with what he well knew to be the Earl's wishes, came with others in the dead of night to the lady's bedchamber and stifled her in bed, and flung her downstairs, thereby believing the world would have thought it a mischance, and so blinded their villainy; and the morning after, with the purpose that others should know of her end, did Forster, on pretence of carrying out some behest of the Countess, bring a servant to the spot where the poor lady's body lay at the foot of the stairs.

The woman's body lies bathed in light, her cloak romantically arranged across the bottom steps of the staircase. She appears less the bruised and battered victim of a vile murder than a seductive sleeping beauty. The devious Forster leads his manservant down the back stairs from the bedroom above. The latter is clearly horrified by the sight of the dead woman, and Forster pushes him back, for fear that he might discover the actual method of her death.

Text by Frances Fowle.

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