Friday, 24 October 2014

Tears, Idle Tears

I am an inveterate cryer.  I will weep at the drop of a hat, really I'm awful.  I believe the technical term for it is a 'self-defuser' which means that whenever I get angry or a bit too happy or generally overcome by un-English levels of emotion, I start crying.  Ridiculous creature.  Anyway, this week I came across this picture of someone having a good cry...

The First Place (1860) A Erwood

This charming genre piece is of a young maid overcome with the misery of her position in her first post away from home.  She was sweeping up the rug and just felt like having a sob into her pinny.  We've all been there love.  My first job after I left home with Mr Walker was as a temp receptionist at a business that sold doors.  I spent all day on the phone with people shouting because they hadn't received their doors.  It was all a little rum.  Anyway, I got to thinking that I should do a piece on people having a bit of a cry...

A Wife J E Millais
I wonder what's up with her?  Has her husband been cheating on her, gambled all their money away or maybe just not slept with her for five years?  Probably the latter as this is Millais.  I'm guessing she has found out her husband's deep, dark secret and it has rendered her unable to sit on a chair.  The horror!  The shame!  The implication for property prices in her area!  I dread to think what Mr Walker's deep dark secrets are; some of the stuff I already know is worrying enough...

Recalling the Past Carlton Alfred Smith
There are people who just cannot move beyond a moment in time.  Pinkie here seems to be weeping over some letters, love letters I'm guessing, and the recollections are not happy ones.  Did she leave him?  Did he leave her?  I'm not one to dwell on past love affairs (because there aren't any), mainly because stuff that happened in the past rarely makes me cry unless it affects my present.  Maybe Pinkie never got another offer.  Maybe she turned down a man for not having enough money, he then went on and made a fortune and married her sister.  She weeps because Jeremy Kyle will not be available for her to vent her spleen for another 150 years.  Smith seems to have done a lot of paintings of women contemplating - women gazing into fires, women looking out of windows.  A sizable body of his work could be entitled 'Do you remember that thing that happened in the time before now?  I feel a bit sad about it.'

At the Altar (1870s) Firs Zhuravlev
Oh deary me.  Well, it's leaving it a bit late when you're all dollied up in the big white frock but I suppose better now than five years down the line.  Is that who she is marrying?  Is that her father?  I don't mean to be personal as he does look a bit perturbed by the whole scene and that his bride (I'm guessing) has become a big meringue-y puddle on the floor.  Advice to the person in the doorway:  don't get involved, Love.  Leave them to it and see if you can your present back from the gift table.  Just in case.

The Restitution (1901) Remy Cogghe
I've used Cogghe's works a few time in my posts and I think he is a very interesting painter.  This is a curious picture as it is uncertain what is being restored to whom.  If the sturdy chap is giving the lass back something then why does she cry so much?  Has she returned something that doesn't belong to her and feels ashamed.  If she is the villain of the piece, he has painted her in such vibrant green and gold that it is impossible not to feel the compassion that our priest here seems to feel.  Is the woman being 'restored' to the church?  I love the gold of her hair in the middle of the canvas, echoing the gold in his hand, and I think the viewer is being told that she is the treasure that is being restored.

Lesbia Weeping Over a Sparrow (1866) (detail) Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Everyone gets sad when pets die, especially metaphoric, possibly phallic symbols of pets, but few of us have chosen to show our grief by sitting around with a dead sparrow on our lap.  It's time to bury that sparrow and move on.  The sparrow is meant to symbolise the passion of her lover and now it's all dead in her lap.  Well, that's the problem with symbolic pets.  Plus she doesn't seem very weepy.  I get a lot more soggy than that.  She looks a bit bored.  She should be thanking her lucky stars it wasn't a Great Dane.

Tears, Idle Tears E R Hughes
This young lady is managing dignity in crying, something that eludes the best of us otherwise.  Named after the Tennyson poem, either the girl is reading his work or reading something that is reminiscent of 'the days that are no more'.  I really like Tennyson's poem, he sums up the problem of feeling sad with no real reason other than things are not as they should be or were.  Sadness springs from nowhere, from memento mori in life, passing time, the seasons, remembering the dead, but then he mentions this: 'Dear as remembered kisses after death, / And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd / On lips that are for others'.  That is a very complicated sadness, for things that never existed, of unrequited love, mentioned in a poem mostly about time passing and death.  Maybe the young lady in the picture is being moved to tears by the thought of never kissing the lips of the one she loves, but who does not love her?  Sad thought indeed.

Old School Fellows (1854) Alfred Rankley
There are obviously very few or no images of men having a good cry.  The Victorians went as far as men leaning manfully upon their male manly companion in times of manly need, but that's all.  When one feels extreme levels of grief, one remembers one is English and one bites ones knuckle and thinks of the Queen.  One would never cry until one makes the snorty noise. 
 
So, to those who only know me virtually, feel lucky that you never have to put up with me dissolving unexpectedly.  To those who do know me, at least I bring my own hankie...

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sleep Shall Fold Her Hair Round Me

Whilst looking around the Rossetti's Obsession exhibition the other week I was struck by the pen and ink sketches of Jane Morris.  It wasn't just the small, intimate beauty of them, but that Rossetti had felt compelled to capture her completely, reclining and sometimes asleep.  This led me to consider the relationship between Rossetti, his muse and sleep...


Elizabeth Siddal (1854)
The use of sleep in Rossetti's work appears in both his art and his poetry.  Whilst only one of his oils contains the themes of sleep and dreaming, countless sketches exist of his models sleeping, but not just any models.  Beginning with Elizabeth Siddal in the 1850s, Rossetti continued to draw the women he was intimately involved with as they slept, not just once, but repeatedly.  These images tended to encompass the whole sleeping form in a domestic setting.  Why did he make these images and what did they mean?

Elizabeth Siddal (1853-8)
From early in the relationship, Rossetti sketched Elizabeth as she slept.  Maybe he was trying to capture a domestic image, a moment of adult bliss, content in their home.  It is a very informal image in comparison to the art that he and his Pre-Raphaelite brothers were creating, a snap-shot of home in the midst of all the art.  As he had 'taken' Elizabeth away from the others in terms of her being their model and potential mistress/wife, it could be argued that the images are marks of ownership.

Elizabeth Siddal (1856)
I find it interesting that most, if not all, of Rossetti's images of the sleeping Elizabeth are of vertical construction, that she sleeps sitting up, as if she were alert a moment ago but has slipped into unconsciousness.  Could it be that the transformation is what he is trying to capture?  There is a tension in these pictures, that even though she slept she remained unyielding.  The 1854 image at the top shows her almost displayed, rigid and perfect, like a medieval saint. 

There is no hint of impropriety in the images; even though she is asleep she did not become so doing anything improper.  It is unsurprising that she was the original model for Beatrice, the doomed but untouched love...

Dante's Dream on the Day of the Death of Beatrice (1856)
Saintly and pure, Beatrice/Elizabeth is almost sitting up as Love kisses her.  For Rossetti, sleep and Elizabeth were linked primarily to purity and ultimately death.  Within his poetry, such as 'My Sister's Sleep', the saintly sleeper slips from life: '"God knows, I knew that she was dead." / And there, all white, my sister slept.' In 'Autumn Song', the act of sleeping is linked to death, to rest, to an end well-deserved after the seasons of beauty.  Elizabeth's own death was linked to sleep, an overdose of laudenum that induced a deathscene reminiscent of 'My Sister's Sleep' as she slipped from sleep to death before Rossetti's eyes.  By that point however, sleep had come to signify something else.

Fanny Cornforth (1862)
Reclined and dishevelled, the next woman to sleep in Rossetti's company was there for entirely other reasons.  Mirroring the sentiment of the poem 'Nuptual Sleep', the horizontal form of Fanny Cornforth is unlikely to sleep alone, even if the artist can remain conscious long enough to draw her: 'Sleep sank them lower than the tide of dreams / And their dreams watched them sink...' In another poem, the narrator watches as Jenny, a prostitute, sleeps.  The intimation in both cases is that sleep follows sexual activity and the change of position in the sketches, from vertical to horizontal changes the inference of what happened before the subject fell asleep, which raises this interesting example...

Ruth Herbert (1858)
If the women that Rossetti sketched asleep were his lovers, then was he intimate with Ruth Herbert?  She is not fully reclined, but her skirts and legs continue outside the frame.  It was no secret that Rossetti admired and desired her but her professionalism has always drawn people to the conclusion that the passion was all on the side of the artist.  Could this image be an act of longing on the part of Rossetti, that he wished to add her to his list of lovers?  Maybe it was a way of possessing her in art that he could not manage in life.

Jane Morris (1870)
Certainly the next and last woman to be drawn asleep was a deep and obsessive love.  The images of Jane supine almost outnumber the ones of her upright.  It is believed that a back complaint made it easier for her to pose for Rossetti from the comfort of a sofa, but also among the works are images of unmistakable sensuality.

Jane Morris (1873)
This maybe my favourite of his sketches, and the image is unmistakably intimate.  Contrasting with the superficially similar image of Elizabeth that I placed first, Jane's hair is scooped from her bare neck, and her pose is languid and open.  It is unsurprising that she would replace Elizabeth in Dante's Dream...

Dante's Dream (1869-72)
A tumble-haired Beatrice is pulled towards Love's kiss as she reclines, eyes shut. In many ways it is surprising Rossetti revisited the death in sleep motif of Beatrice after it so cruelly foreshadowed the death of his first love, but for love and money there was not many things that Rossetti would not revisit. Added to this, sleep, death and disappointment in love were linked in his art and poetry,and sleep was the state that he most desired.  In the poem 'Dream Land', he envisaged 'sleep that no pain shall wake' and in 'Almost Over', a man dying of a broken heart longs for the moment 'Sleep shall fold / Her hair round me'.  Sleep and Death become female, become sexual and linked to fulfillment in Rossetti art and poetry.  There are two rare instances of male sleep in his art, firstly in a panel for the copy of Dante's Dream in Dundee Art Gallery (where Dante is shown asleep, dreaming) and this image of his brother from a letter to Thomas Woolner...

William Sleeping (1853)
The awkward portrait, roughly sketched in the letter, provides a homely scene for the absent Woolner.  Little sketches and letters were sent to keep him informed of events at home and to provide comfort while he was away trying to establish a new life.  Maybe the image of the sleeping brother is simply that, a moment from home which Woolner would have been familiar with, but possibly this, and the other images Rossetti drew of unconsciousness spoke of other things.  There might be a hint of superiority, of being the one awake in the presence of very human weakness.  The artist has the strength to stay awake, to think, to draw and record.  The act of sleep is personified as feminine in his poetry despite often referring to the poet's dreams. Women sleep, men are watching, recording.

It could be that the image of his lover sleeping was a positive one, signifying satisfaction on the part of the woman.  A woman who sleeps is content, and the artist records the vision, claiming responsibility.  Also a woman (or brother) who sleeps is not complaining, not accusing, not crying.  It is no coincidence that the majority of the pictures we have of our daughter in the first year of her life are of her asleep.  Goodness knows she howled like a banshee at all other times and slept about five minutes a day.  During those five minutes we made the most of her...

Lily-Rose, about 8 years ago, extremely asleep.
Just out of shot are her exhausted and slightly unhinged parents.
A woman asleep is contained, controlled, static.  The images of Elizabeth asleep show her almost frozen, as if she simply stopped for a moment rather than slipped into relaxed unconsciousness.  The images of sleeping women are mostly whole images. During a period where Rossetti's art focused on half-length or three-quarter-length pictures of women, Jane and Fanny are wholly inside the frame of the image, from head to foot.  In a world beyond understanding and control in the wake of the death of one you love, there is a certainty in these images, every part is known and is seen.  Maybe an envy lurks in that all-seeing eye, watching his muse enjoy the peace of sleep that illudes him.  In watching others enjoy being folded into sleep, the artist vicariously enjoys the peace while repeatedly reminding himself that there would be no peace until the end. 

The sleep the artist ultimate envisages is death and possibly that was the only sleep he felt he deserved.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Review: Dangerous Women! From Kauffman to Emin

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the opening of the Dangerous Women! exhibition at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth.  This had nothing to do with me being a dangerous woman (me? never!) and more to do with how much I love work by female artists, and the Russell-Cotes have a smashing collection. The beauty of this exhibition is that much of the work is from their own collection, but because of space and taste has not been seen for a while...

Kathleen and Marianne, Daughters of Samuel Gurney Sheppard
Louisa Starr Canziani
Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes' collection, formed between 1859 and 1920 features a surprisingly large number of female artists.  When they admired a piece that had already sold, they commissioned copies, so they have unusual examples of male artists copying the work of female artists, just so the Russell-Cotes could own the picture they wanted...

Love Locked Out (copy after Anna Lea Merritt)
Henry Justice Ford
There is an interesting portrait in the collection, formerly just attributed to 'British School' but recently identified as an Angelica Kauffman painting by Art-Ninja, Dr Bendor Grosvenor...

Portrait of a Young Officer in the Cheshire Militia (c.1760)
The idea behind the exhibition is tracing the history of female artists from the first woman Royal Academician to the most recent, Tracey Emin (represented in this exhibition by a piece of performance art and a poignant bed spread, entitled 'Here to Stay'.

For Victorian art fans (I know who my audience is) there are some utter gems on show.  Anna Alma-Tadema's painting of a Drawing Room with a rather familiar painting hung in it, is always a treat to see...

Drawing Room, 1a Holland Park Anna Alma-Tadema
I was utterly delighted to see the newly restored May Cooksey painting on display.  You may remember the post I wrote on Cooksey (see here) and to see the gorgeous Maria Virgo in her newly restored state was a bit of a highlight for me.


Lovely stuff.  You can see Violet Manners wonderful sketches (see my post on her here), and works by Alice Havers, Louisa Stuart and Jane Eleanor Benham Hay...

The Prodigal's Return Jane Benham Hay
Not only are there some gorgeous paintings on show over the two rooms, but also pieces of decorative art and sculpture as well.  Doultan vases designed by Hannah Barlow and Edith Lupton, and the most precious little bowl by the fabulously named Fanny Bunn...

Mr Walker showing me the beautiful bowl by Fanny Bunn.  Best name ever.
I have to admit that the real highlight for me was the case full of pieces by a little known Celtic Revival artist called Meave Doggett.  Meave spent the last years of her life in Bournemouth, giving four pieces of her work to the museum shortly before her death in the 1960s.  It was quite moving to see her work out on display as Meave herself is quite the keynote to the exhibition.  As an artist her career seems to have been short and at the mercy of time and opportunity.  Her talent seems great but the chances she received seemed less so.  If you go to the exhibition to see one object, let it be The Lady Shinain at the Well of Knowledge, it is just so astonishing...


Dangerous Women! From Kauffman to Emin is open now until 8th March 2015 and is free entry.  For further details see the Russell-Cotes website (here)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: Effie Gray

Once upon a time there was a girl called Miss Lovely.  She married Mr Grumpy and went to live in a land where no-one smiled.  Then she met Mr Hot Artist and everything was alright.
The End.



I cannot remember a film I felt such consuming anticipation for like Effie Gray. Much like Desperate Romantics, I was so eager for it to be here that it overcame any reticence I felt about having fact brought to the screen as entertainment, but if Desperate Romantics has taught me anything, it is knowing a lot about a subject can colour the way you view poetic licence.  I better start with what I liked about the film...

I want everything she wore.  Even the man-repelling nightie.
It is very beautiful to watch.  The colours, the scenery, the fact that a film is addressing the work of the Pre-Raphaelites - all these things made it a delight to watch.  The film is packed with acting talent and no-one gives a bad turn.  I think my favourite has to be Julie Walters as Effie's Monster-in-Law, truly the most grim mother to grace the screens in ages.  Emma Thompson looks gorgeous as Lady Eastlake, with the biggest hair and the most sensitive approach to Victorian marriage.  The costumes were astonishing, and the echoes of paintings of Effie in Scotland were much appreciated.  I also wondered if the constant loose hair and candle-light poses were meant to be reminiscent of The Bridesmaid, hinting at Effie's sexuality, awaiting reception.  Denmark Hill was a palace with claustrophobic layers of sumptuous fabric, wallpaper and furnishings, a gilded cage indeed.  The contrast of the little Scottish cottage was beautifully rendered, leaving you in no doubt which was preferable.

Worst Mother-in-Law ever.  Seriously, puts mine to shame.
So to the things that I didn't like - Greg Wise did not crack a smile for the entire 100 minutes.  Holy mother, are we to believe that Ruskin, for five whole years did not have a chuckle?  Ruskin is a pantomime baddie, stony faced, weird, a little Norman Bates-y with his mum and, forgive me, too old.  There is a big difference in a man of 30 who is treated like a baby by his mother and a man of 50.  When Dakota Fanning (with a decent accent but no life in her voice) looks so very young and Bambi-eyed, to match her with a grayed-up actor is taking a very particular angle which is unfair and untrue.  Flashing back to Ruskin's attention to the child-Effie, to his attention to little Sophie, he looks like a pedophile, the archetype of sexually perverted old Victorian man.  All nuance of Ruskin's character has gone to this one note.  We did not even need to have him point and scream at Effie's lady-garden, it's too ingrained in pop-culture.  It is now set in film.  He saw her naked, he recoiled and ran away because she was a full grown woman.

Effie with Rossetti, sorry, Millais.
The Italian adventure seemed too long and a little pointless other than to show us Ruskin was weird even without his parents around.  I like the hot Italian chap who was given more to do than Millais and managed to give a saucy character to his scant screen time.  However, it really only felt like a delay to getting back to London, to Millais and the ill-fated trip to Scotland.  I really wish that Millais had looked less like Rossetti and that he had been given more to do other than look hot and concerned.  Oh and a bit naked.  That should have been under the stuff I liked.  Shame on me.

It's no secret that I'm Team Ruskin, so it's not a surprise that I didn't really like the hatchet job done on the man who ensured the continuation of Pre-Raphaelite art.  However, the title of the movie is Effie Gray, and so in many ways all the problems, the layers of character that explained his behaviour were unnecessary.  John Ruskin was unknowable to Effie and so it could be argued that he should remain so to the audience.  There is no doubt that she hated him by the end of their marriage and all his imperfection, cruelty and damn-right weirdness should be reflected in the film that bears her name.  However, and this is a massive however, a film is believed to be unbiased in its narration.   We are shown scenes of cruelty strong and poetic and they seem to be fact, but really none of what you see is pure truth save that Ruskin and Effie were married and then it was annulled due to non-consummation, all else is 'he said - she said'.   I only hope that viewers of the film seek out both sides of the story before making up their minds, and maybe the best thing about the film is that it will bring more people in to appreciate Pre-Raphaelite painting and the fascinating stories behind the art.

Effie Gray opens nationwide from today.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Review: Rossetti’s Obsession: Images of Jane Morris


Forgive the delay in this review – I attended the opening of Rossetti’s Obsession: Images of Jane Morris at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow last Friday night.  This exhibition started in Bradford in March, making its way to the Lady Lever, Liverpool in June and has finished its tour in London.  This exhibition has been part of the centenary of Jane Morris’ death, and is dedicated to Jane as both image and reality.
 
Jane Burden (1858)
Whilst Jane, together with Lizzie Siddal and to a lesser extent Fanny Cornforth and Alexa Wilding, are always very much a focus for Rossetti exhibitions, they are rarely looked at as the subject alone.  In fact the change in focus from maker to inspiration is interesting not just for novelty’s sake.  By taking a directed look at the woman who provided the basis for so much of Rossetti’s work, there is an acknowledgement that the model is part of the creative process and not just a passive placeholder for the artist’s vision.  This obviously pleases me greatly as a researcher of models’ lives, but it also gave an opportunity to compare the woman with the inspiration she provided.

Pandora D G Rossetti
Housed in one room in the museum, the walls display an array of photos and chalks all reflecting one face.  The counterpoint of photos of the woman together with the images drawn from them reminds the viewer that this goddess, this woman of mythical wonder, was a real person.  The collection of John R Parsons’ photographs were familiar but to see them in a group gave a notion of Jane posing patiently as the artist positioned her and the photographer took the photographs, slowly.


Jane Morris (1865) John R Parsons
Seeing Jane’s face repeated and repeated in chalk, pen and ink made it easy to feel the unsettling obsession the Exhibition alluded to.  More than any of the other models, there is a disquieting aspect to the pictures of Jane, a possession, a desperation. Following her face around the room as she stares out at you, Rossetti’s repetition becomes a threat, a dream, a madness, especially as the pictures get bigger and Jane becomes the only focus.


Study for Mnemosyne (1876) D G Rossetti

Whilst getting caught up in the beautiful swirling chalks that surround you, it would be easy to lose sight of the reality but the final wall draws you back to Jane the woman.  Evelyn de Morgan’s heartbreaking study of an elderly Jane for The Hourglass, together with some photographs of Jane, no longer the focus of attention and looking disappointed and impatient, show the remains of a stunner, but I think the standout part of the exhibition for me was a spectacular bedspread, embroidered in William Morris’ design for Honeysuckle from around 1880 and embroidered by Jane and her daughter Jenny.  The sheer scale of the piece together with the skill and beauty of it defeats the notion that Jane was a vision without substance and left me feeling a little sad that Rossetti’s image of her as the passive goddess overwhelms reality.  It simply remains as a reminder that we cannot know Jane through the eyes of the artist, she is merely a reflection of himself.  To seek to know anyone through the art of another does a disservice to the subject and the interest of this exhibition is the discomfort it provides in reminding you of this.

Margje Bijl and the Honeysuckle Embroidery (© India Roper-Evans)
The reason for the delay in my review is that I have just had the pleasure of spending a long weekend with artist Margje Bijl, who you will remember from her exhibition (see my post here) earlier in the year.  Who better to attend the exhibition with than someone who explores the nature of Jane’s image in her art?  I had the pleasure of taking Margje off to Kelmscott, to visit both the manor and the graves and again felt the conflict of the Jane of our imagination and the woman who lay beneath the grave in the churchyard.  I suppose that is forever the paradox of being a muse.
Margje at the grave of William and Jane Morris
The exhibition runs until 6th January 2015 and details can be found here. Thanks to India Roper-Evans for the use of her photograph.  Her website can be found here.

For Margje's piece on the exhibition, stroll on over to her blog: http://www.reflectionsonjanemorris.com/rossettis-obsession-images-of-jane-morris/

Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Poem for National Poetry Day 2014

Here we are again for National Poetry Day, and like always I have a poem for you.  My favourite Burne-Jones painting is The Depths of the Sea as I've always been fascinated by the power of desire in the mermaid's face, overcoming the strength of the chap she's caught...

Depths of the Sea (1881) Edward Burne-Jones

The Depths of the Sea


I took this man from all that’s light,
My arm about his body tight
I pressed him with my charms.
My love secured this land-bred man
To harbour in my arms.

I saw him kick towards the boat,
As all about him bent and broke,
I didn’t see his face.
I caught him by his striking legs
And brought him to my place.

His eyes and mouth were open wide,
Plunging, plunging deep inside
The darkening waters, cold.
Exertion made his body hot,
I love this man I hold.

The last one was a beauty too,
How I cried when I ruined you.
The sea consumed my men.
White shells that line my pretty home
Are all that’s left of them.

This time, this time, I feel so sure,
Your love, your beauty must endure,
You answer with a sigh.
And cool and cease like the ones before,
As I begin to cry.





Saturday, 27 September 2014

Impromptu Celtic Revival/Souls Crossover Road Trip!

So it's the last Saturday in September and I had very little planned.  The next month will be very busy, so possibly it would be nice to have a weekend off.  Well, that was the plan.  Instead I ended up on an impromptu road trip to see a church...


In the heart of the New Forest, down on the south coast of England, is the little village of Thorney Hill.  Within that village is a nice Edwardian Baroque Church with the most amazing secret inside.  Built in 1906 by Detmar Blow, a follower of Ruskin and Morris, the Caen stone exterior is interspersed with plain glass windows that seem to promise a puritan interior.  However, as you'll see from the photo above, the semi-circular apse at one end has bricked up windows.  Step inside and you'll see why...


The rest of the church is painted in pale wash, but one end is a riot of colour and gold, all thanks to an incredible floor-to-ceiling mural by the artist Phoebe Traquair, an Irish-born artist allied to the Scottish Celtic Revival.  Painted in 1922, in memory of Lady Constance Manners, wife of Lord Manners who had commissioned the church in memory of their daughter almost 20 years previously.  The subject is Te Deum  and the figures depicted are somewhat familiar...


Starting with the left-hand side, we have Eric Gill, the sculptor (as St John the Baptist), Bishop Charles Gore (with a net, as St Peter), Constance Manners, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Blake...


Next to the Madonna and Child is a portrait of Raymond Asquith, who died in the Great War, like the Manners' son (more of that in a moment), next to him is St George and the Dragon, then Lord Lister and Louis Pasteur (in red gowns), on the right-hand side...


Above the scene, Jesus and all the children of Thorney Hill look down on the great and the good in a golden dome...


And below, a tangle of plants and beasts provides a luxurious border...


To say that the effect is amazing feels like an understatement; it is truly spellbinding.  In a gallery you would pause and admire the glittering majesty of the image, but to find it inside a small church on the edge of a New Forest Village is breath-taking.  It is a testament to the patronage of families in the early years of the twentieth century and like Mells (which you may remember from this post) it has a bittersweetness.  I suppose it started with a loss, that of the young daughter of the Manners family, but being of a certain age, they had a son who was old enough to go off to the First World War...


John Manners is majestically reclined like a knight cut down in the beauty of his youth.  On the wall next to him is a description of his death in combat.  Two angels weep over his name and dates. Not quite as mind blowing as the man on a horse which was Edward Horner's massive memorial at Mells, but his friend still is an imposing and moving presence in the tiny church, right next to the congregation.

View from the wooden gallery, next to the organ
The church is open from Easter, every Saturday afternoon until the last weekend in September (last weekend was this weekend), but you can phone to book an appointment to see it outside of this time.  Look on this lovely site to find details of who to contact (here).  Like all beautiful od buildings, this one is in constant need of maintenance and care, so this site has a link for donations, if you feel so inclined.  I thoroughly encourage a visit, it is an utter gem.

For a fairly comprehensive list of who is in the mural, look at this splendid blog (here).