Monday, 25 June 2012

Art Avengers Assemble, Again...

Now this is becoming a bit of a habit, but I do love a good mystery, as I might have mentioned before.  A while back, I posted a piece on Ernest Normand and his lovely picture that featured in a recent copy of Country Life.   Into my inbox popped a lovely email from a charming chap called Henry, about a mysterious painting owned by his friend.  This enormous painting is 27 foot long and 11 foot high, and is illustrated below....

A picture so big it interfers with the side-bar...

Righty-ho and here we go.  The current owner, the lovely Pat, bought it at auction between 15-20 years ago and the information she was given at the time was that it was painted in Austria by an English artist, for a grand house.  It was painted at the end of the 1800s, possibly to mark the turning of a new century as it appears to be about time and the dawning of a new age.  An assembly of figures move toward some steps, marked by a mask of Janus, seemingly greeted by a misty female spirit, gesturing them on.

The figures in the picture interest me greatly.  Are they allegories or are they meant to be real people?  The knight at the back, the poet at the front, and the man on the horse look as if they are meant to be actual people, or at least remind me of figures from other paintings.  The crouching woman reminds me of depictions of Elizabeth of Hungary.  Possibly they are Christian saints or important religious figures?  But then they are crossing by a figure of a Roman deity, so maybe that's out.

Detail of the musician/poet
 The Musician/Poet seems to be the only one who is hesitant to move forward, but he seems to have no strings in his lyre, which is curious.  This possibly fits with the idea of a theme of moving from the old century, filled with romantic arts, through to the modern twentieth century world.  If it was executed in the early years of the twentieth century, possibly it could reflect a move forward to war, as a few of the figures look soldier-like or in command of nations.  Only the musician pauses, unheard, without a voice.

So the names that have been put forward at various times are Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (I have to admit it was was first thought as the style is so like hers), Harry Mileham, Walter Crane, Robert Anning Bell, Robert Bateman, Evelyn de Morgan, Ernest Normand,  and the favourite, Henry Holiday.  Holiday spent time in Austria and Germany, loved Tennyson (doesn't it look like Tennyson on the horse?) and did a hooping great big mural for Rochdale Town Hall on the signing of the Magna Carta.  Normand also spent time in Germany and greatly admired Tennyson, so equally it could be his work.

Now, Art Avengers, does anyone have any ideas as to the artist or subject of this massive piece of magnificence?  I love it when something this fabulous appears in my inbox and thanks to Pat for letting me share it with you.  Hopefully we can be of help....


  1. I would love to see the real thing!

  2. Walter Crane came to mind at first viewing, how about John Collier?

  3. Do you know, I'm having a bit of a Collier week and I never thought of him to do with this! Hmmm, very possible...

  4. It's quite beautiful. It seems to be a royal procession, right? There's a crowned figure and children carrying his train. Janus is the god of beginnings, there is incense burning on the steps, so it seems they are approaching a temple to him. Perhaps the transition is to the next century as you suggest. Janus' temples were opened in times of war, so maybe that figures in.

    The woman on the far right seems to have a dog in a pouch around her waist.. unless it's a baby? What does the man next to her have around his neck?"

    I thought it might depict a pilgrimage, or even the Canterbury Tales, but I don't think that pans out.

    Thanks for posting this.

  5. It continues to be a mystery but thank you for your thoughts. I guess the chap on the right is carrying an axe or something - maybe they are a rural couple? I wondered about Chaucer too because it reminded me of the Madox Brown picture.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx