The mid-nineteenth-century English artists known as the Pre-Raphaelites are represented in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria by a group of important paintings and works on paper.1For a general discussion of these works, see Annette Dixon, Sonia Dean & Irena Zdanowicz, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1978. Two of the more intriguing images in this collection are William Holman Hunt’s 1850 pen drawing illustrating Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott (fig. 1) and his later engraving of the same subject (fig. 2) for Edward Moxon’s famous 1857 edition of Tennyson.2ibid., pp. 43, 62–3.

The significance of both works has long been recognised,3See Tate Gallery, The Pre-Raphaelites, Tate Gallery & Penguin Books, London, 1984, p. 250; and Richard L. Stein, ‘The Pre- Raphaelite Tennyson’, Victorian Studies, vol. 24, no. 3, Spring 1981, p. 279. but most scholarly attention has focused upon their relationship to Hunt’s mature visualisation of the theme in his two painted versions of The Lady of Shalott – the large oil painting of 1886–1905 in the Wadsworth Atheneum (fig. 3) and the smaller panel in the Manchester City Art Gallery.4William Holman Hunt, The Lady of Shalott (c.1886–1905), tempera and oil on panel, 44.4 x 34.1 cm, Manchester City Art Gallery. For discussions of the ‘precursory’ nature of the early versions, see Mary Bennett, William Holman Hunt, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1969, p. 56; and Timothy R. Rodgers, ‘The Development of William Holman Hunt’s Lady of Shalott’, in Brown University, Ladies of Shalott: A Victorian Masterpiece and Its Contexts, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 1985, pp. 55–60. All four representations of the Lady of Shalott show her being struck by the curse that is visited upon her when she dares to look directly at the world beyond her window. It is clear that the stanza of the poem in which the curse is unleashed held an enduring fascination for Hunt, although it should not be forgotten that a thirty-year period elapsed between his first two depictions of the subject and his later painted interpretations, in which he sought to convey ‘the severer philosophic purport of the symbolism throughout the verse’.5William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2nd edn, vol. 2, London, 1913, p. 401. This article will concentrate upon Hunt’s two early versions of Tennyson’s poem, outlining the circumstances of their creation and reconsidering their symbolism – not with the hindsight afforded by the late paintings’ elaborate iconography,6In 1905 Hunt published a detailed explanation of the iconography of the Wadsworth Atheneum painting in ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by William Holman Hunt, Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, 1905. but with a knowledge of Hunt’s aims and ideas in the 1850s.

It is not surprising that Hunt should be attracted to Tennysonian subject matter. The Pre-Raphaelites had always admired the poet – indeed, he was among the list of ‘Immortals’ that the young members of the Brotherhood had drawn up in 1848.7The term ‘Immortals’ stood for those ‘great thinkers and workers’ whom the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood most admired (see Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 1, p. 111). However, it was not until 1850, with Hunt’s drawing of The Lady of Shalott and John Everett Millais’s pen and wash design for Mariana, that the Pre-Raphaelites first attempted to capture the evocative imagery of Tennyson’s poetry.8Tennyson directly entered the Pre-Raphaelite orbit when Thomas Woolner commenced his portrait medallion of the poet in December 1849. William Michael Rossetti records that Hunt was working on his design for ‘the breaking of the spell from “The Lady of Shalott”’ from the time of the opening of the 1850 Royal Academy Exhibition, while Millais had begun his design for Mariana before early June that year (see William E. Fredeman (ed.), The P.R.B. Journal: William Michael Rossetti’s Diary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 1849–1853, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975, pp. 72–3). Technically, the first member of the Brotherhood to be inspired by Tennyson was Frederic George Stephens, who began work on his painting of Mort d’Arthur in 1849. This picture was left unfinished, and there is doubt as to the actual subject – it might in fact have been intended to illustrate Stephens’s own contemporaneous poem entitled ‘King Arthur’ (see Debra N. Mancoff, Arthurian Revival in Victorian Painting, University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1983, vol. 1, pp. 396–7; vol. 2, n. 65 p. 656). For a general discussion of Tennyson’s impact on the Pre-Raphaelites, see Roger Simpson, Camelot Regained: The Arthurian Revival and Tennyson 1800–1849, D. S. Brewer, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 250–4, 271–5.

Despite Hunt’s own enthusiasm for the poet,9See William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, vol. 1, London, 1905, p. 326. it was actually the prompting of a prospective patron that initiated his interest in the visual potential of Tennyson’s work. This patron was the landscape painter and illustrator Thomas Creswick, RA. In 1849 the older artist had suggested that Hunt might like to paint for him ‘a picture of one or of two figures from Shakespeare, or from Tennyson, or any other well-known poet’.10ibid., p. 211. Hunt’s earliest version of this conversation does not specify the subject matter of Creswick’s commission, simply referring to ‘some picture of a single figure, or two figures only’ (William Holman Hunt, ‘Notes on the Life of Augustus L. Egg’, Reader, vol. 2, no. 44, 31 October 1863, p. 517). In his later recollection of the commission Hunt states that Creswick had put forward the names of Shakespeare and Tennyson (William Holman Hunt, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: A Fight for Art’, Contemporary Review, vol. 49, April 1886, p. 485). In his accounts of this commission, Hunt does not mention Creswick by name, merely describing him as an elder member of the Royal Academy. Hunt readily seized upon the idea, and having reviewed ‘those subjects which I was eager to paint … three presented themselves as most suitable – one [being] of “The Lady of Shalot [sic]” with the web breaking about her’.11Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 485. Hunt worked ‘almost unceasingly for several days’ on his drawings, ‘and then, pressed by impatience to see the result … sat up all night to complete [them]’.12Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 1, p. 211. The result was the Lady of Shalott drawing now in the National Gallery of Victoria, a drawing of Claudio and Isabella (fig. 4) from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and a third design which has not been traced.13Judith Bronkhurst raises the possibility that the previously unpublished drawing Daniel praying (c.1849–50) may be the third work that Hunt presented to Creswick for inspection (Judith Bronkhurst, ‘New Light on Holman Hunt’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 129, no. 1016, November 1987, pp. 737–8).

Unfortunately for Hunt, the bad reviews that the Pre-Raphaelites received in the months following his commission from Creswick would seem to have caused his patron to lose all interest in the project.14This is Hunt’s own explanation for Creswick’s behaviour (Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 486). For a discussion of the bad press reviews after the 1850 RA Exhibition, and the concept of Pre- Raphaelite ‘affectation’, see Robyn Cooper, ‘The Relationship between the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Painters before Raphael in English Criticism of the Late 1840s and 1850s’, Victorian Studies, vol. 24, no. 4, Summer 1981, pp. 413–24. For when the artist visited his presumed client to present his drawings, Creswick claimed he had no recollection of the commission. In a letter to fellow artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti dated 29 May 1850, Hunt wrote: ‘Upon calling on Creswick with some designs this morning, and commencing business by reminding him of his commission, he politely told me that he did not remember anything whatever of it’.15Quoted in Janet Camp Troxell (ed.), Three Rossettis, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1937, p. 34. It has been noted that Hunt’s recollection of this incident becomes increasingly bitter over the years (see Hilarie Faberman, ‘William Holman Hunt’s “Notes on the Life of Augustus L. Egg”’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 127, no. 983, February 1985, n. 10 p. 91). Moreover, as Hunt later recalled, the older artist declared upon viewing the works ‘that, had he ever intended it, the sight of my designs, with their hideous affectation, would have cured him of the desire to possess any work of mine’.16Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 486.

Understandably disheartened by this reception, Hunt next showed the drawings to his friend, the Royal Academician Augustus Egg, who – to Hunt’s great relief – assured him that while he too objected to ‘the quaintness of some of the forms … generally, he found them full of merit’.17Hunt, ‘Augustus L. Egg’, p. 517. Egg then commissioned Hunt to develop his Claudio and Isabella into a painting.18See Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 1, p. 214. For a discussion of the painting Claudio and Isabella (1850–53), Tate Gallery, London, and of the study for it, see also Tate Gallery, pp. 103–4, 248. Various circumstances – including dire poverty – prevented the artist from similarly developing his composition of The Lady of Shalott, but he was, nevertheless, sufficiently encouraged to continue working on the drawing, ‘only [putting] it aside when the paper was so worn that it would not bear a single new correction’.19Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, pp. 100–1.

Even if we did not know Hunt’s precise title for this ‘admirable’ design,20In his 1905 version of his conversation with Augustus Egg, Hunt wrote that Egg had declared his designs to be ‘admirable’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 1, p. 214). it would still be clear that the image was intended to illustrate the ‘Breaking of the Web’,21In his autobiography, Hunt recalls that he told Dante Gabriel Rossetti in c.1855–56: ‘You know I made a drawing from this poem of the “Breaking of the Web” at least four years ago’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 100). the dramatic climax of Tennyson’s poem, embodied in the fateful lines:

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack’d from side to side;

‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried

The Lady of Shalott.

At this point in the poem, the heroine has abandoned her appointed task of weaving the ‘magic sights’ reflected in her mirror, in order to take a forbidden look at the world beyond her window – and in particular at the passing knight, Sir Lancelot. It is this illicit glance that unleashes the mysterious curse.

Tennyson’s poetry is rich in visual imagery, and Hunt has gone to some lengths in the Melbourne drawing to include as many of the poet’s telling details as possible. The interior of the Lady’s chamber, bare except for the mirror, the loom and the Lady herself, fittingly conveys the isolation of the ‘[f]our gray walls, and four gray towers’ of the silent isle of Shalott. In pointed contrast to the bleakness of the Lady’s room is the vivid, ever-changing world beyond her tower – a world that magically appears in the large convex mirror’s gleaming depths.

Dominating the surface of the mirror is the reflection of the tower’s ornate window. This introduces a suitably gothic note, which, together with the Lady’s medieval costume and her arcane glass, firmly situates the scene within the realm of Arthurian romance.22Judith Bronkhurst has compared the Lady’s dress with that worn by Isabella in Hunt’s contemporaneous brush and ink drawing Lorenzo at his desk in the warehouse (1848–50), Louvre, Paris. This costume, Bronkhurst argues, was inspired by various plates in Camille Bonnard’s Costumes historiques (Paris, 1829–30) (see Tate Gallery, pp. 246, 249; and Roger Smith, ‘Bonnard’s Costume Historique – a Pre-Raphaelite Source Book’, Journal of the Costume Society, vol. 7, 1973, pp. 28–37). Between the window’s reflected columns can be seen the back of the Lady herself, who, because of the mirror’s distorting surface, appears deceptively close to the more distant figure of the knight on horseback. He can be immediately identified as ‘bold Sir Lancelot’, whose distinctive helmet and helmet-plume have so fatally attracted the Lady’s gaze. This contrasting of reality and mirror-image allows Hunt to convey the dual nature of the Lady’s predicament. For the recoiling gesture of the foreground figure – indicating her fearful recognition of the curse and her vain attempts to ward it off – becomes, in her reflected counterpart, a futile ‘reaching-out’ to the oblivious Sir Lancelot, thus simultaneously emphasising her helpless yearning for love.23More detailed discussions of the reflected figures of the Lady and Sir Lancelot are found in Elizabeth Nelson, ‘Tennyson and the Ladies of Shalott’, in Brown University, p. 11; and in Rodgers, in Brown University, p. 50.

Beyond the figures of the Lady and Sir Lancelot, the mirror shows, in sketchy detail, the river ‘winding clearly, / Down to tower’d Camelot’; this fabled walled city also appears on the horizon,24Tennyson makes clear in his poem that he intends ‘many tower’d Camelot’ to be understood as a fortified township with houses, ‘wharfs’ etc., and not simply as the castle of King Arthur. in part obscured by the window’s tracery, and even the poem’s frequently mentioned fields of grain, together with its reapers and harvested ‘barley-sheaves’, are included in the distant landscape.

All these elements testify to the artist’s desire to be faithful to Tennyson’s text. But this should not be mistaken for a willingness to confine himself to straightforward illustration. As Hunt himself stated, he wished rather to express ‘the spirit … [of] my reading of the author’s meaning’ (italics added).25Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 486. And so, while it might seem that he has depicted a single moment in the story, he has in reality included the events leading up to this scene, as well as those that will follow. He has accomplished this by portraying these incidents in eight small roundels which circle the large central mirror.

These roundels should be read in a clockwise direction, starting from the one at the top, which illustrates the Lady’s grey tower, described in the opening section of the poem. In the past, this tiny image has been wrongly identified as a view of Camelot, but on closer examination of the tower one can clearly discern the elaborate tracery of the Lady’s window.26Samuel Wagstaff was the first to suggest that the roundels depicted ‘scenes from the life of the Lady of Shalott, past, present and future’ (Samuel J. Wagstaff, ‘Some Notes on Holman Hunt and the Lady of Shalott’, Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin, no. 11, Summer 1962, p. 6). This observation was expanded by Mary Bennett, who detailed the subject of each roundel and tentatively identified that at the top as showing ‘?the walls of Camelot’, but regarded it as the final roundel in the cycle (Bennett, p. 70). This view has been challenged by Judith Bronkhurst, who rightly sees the top roundel as the first in the series, but again describes it as ‘a close-up view of one of the towers of Camelot’ (Tate Gallery, p. 249). The long horizontal window with its distinctive ogee tracery, rather reminiscent of the tracery on the windows of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, ensures the identification of the tower as that of the Lady herself. The tiny shape in the foreground of the roundel is possibly one of the ‘heavy barges’ that Tennyson describes sailing past the Lady’s isle. The second roundel introduces the Lady herself, steadily weaving ‘by night and day’ before her mirror, while in the third, she is shown pausing in her labours to gaze directly at the mirror’s ‘magic sights’. This image presumably represents the instant when Sir Lancelot first ‘flash’d into the crystal mirror’, as the next roundel shows a close-up view of that knight, complete with helmet, ‘broad clear brow’ and ‘gemmy bridle glitter[ing] free’.

Judith Bronkhurst has perceptively observed that an escaping thread from the broken loom appears to cut across Sir Lancelot’s chest, thus symbolically linking him to the oncoming catastrophe.27Tate Gallery, p. 249. A similar concept is introduced to the last three roundels, which are all shown as cracked, indicating that they depict events to occur in the ‘future’, after the curse has fallen. (The fifth roundel is concealed by the Lady’s dress, but in terms of the narrative sequence this ambiguously darkened sphere would logically depict the Breaking of the Web – which instead is presented as the principal subject of the drawing itself.) The sixth roundel shows the doomed Lady in her boat, writing her name ‘round about the prow’, while the next portrays her sailing down to Camelot ‘[l]ike some bold seer in a trance’. The final roundel reveals the fulfilment of the curse: the Lady has died ‘ere she reach’d’ Camelot, and the unwitting Sir Lancelot can only muse, as he bends over her ‘dead-pale’ body:

‘She has a lovely face;

God in his mercy lend her grace,

The Lady of Shalott.’

Most scholars agree that these small encircling roundels, which so skilfully encapsulate the poem’s entire story, were inspired by the comparable roundels that surround the mirror in the background of Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage of 1434 (fig. 5).

This Early Netherlandish painting had been in the collection of the National Gallery, London, since 1842, and was one of the few so-called primitives that the Pre-Raphaelites were able to study at first hand.28‘Primitive’ was the general term used during the nineteenth century to describe early Renaissance and fifteenth-century Flemish and German painting. For a discussion of the Victorian taste for the primitives, see David Robertson, Sir Charles Eastlake and the Victorian Art World, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1978, pp. 440–2; and Francis Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France (1976), 2nd edn, Phaidon, Oxford, 1980, pp. 85–106. Hunt later recalled that when he was a student ‘the newly acquired Van Eyck … became dear to me, as [an example] of painting most profitable for youthful emulation’.29Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 1, p. 38. His direct appropriation of the Arnolfini mirror also raises the interesting possibility that Hunt was seeking to establish a second, more serious but less overt, analogy between his image and that of van Eyck. Any viewer who recognised his mirror’s original source could draw a further parallel between the Eyckian mirror, whose roundels represented the Passion of Christ, and their counterparts in Hunt’s design, which became – by association – a depiction of the secular Passion of the Lady of Shalott.

Certainly Hunt was not alone in recognising the potential of an old-fashioned convex mirror to evoke the quaintness of the Middle Ages, while at the same time functioning as a potent symbol for the world and its vanities, and this same device is taken up in several other Pre-Raphaelite compositions.30For the connotations of the mirror in Victorian society, see Jennifer Gribble, The Lady of Shalott in the Victorian Novel, Macmillan, London, 1983, pp. 29-39. Circular mirrors appear, for example, in Millais’s design for Mariana, in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s watercolour The first anniversary of the death of Beatrice (1853–54),31For a discussion of Rossetti’s mirror, see Alastair Grieve, The Art of Rossetti: The Watercolours and Drawings of 1850–1855, Real World Publications, Norwich, 1978, p. 20. and in Elizabeth Siddal’s pen drawing The Lady of Shalott (1853); paintings such as Ford Madox Brown’s Take your son, Sir (1851/1856–57) and Rossetti’s watercolour Lucrezia Borgia (1860–61) show the direct influence of the van Eyck composition – for in these works a convex mirror appears behind the main figures, reflecting the room in front of them. However, all these later examples merely feature round looking-glasses, without the additional Eyckian roundels. Roundels do feature in Edward Burne-Jones’s several versions of Fair Rosamond and Queen Eleanor (executed 1861–62), although in this instance they are small mirrors, showing the same reflection as that in the central glass.32See Susan P. Casteras, ‘Edward Burne-Jones and the Legend of Fair Rosamund’, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Studies, vol. 1, no. 1 (Part 2), Spring 1988, p. 38. Hunt’s image, therefore, appears to be unique in its direct appropriation of the van Eyck device.

In addition to its use of the mirror motif, Hunt’s drawing exhibits other similarities with the work of his Pre-Raphaelite colleagues. The hard linear style and self-consciously naive presentation in the drawing are typical of the Brotherhood’s early graphic work. In fact, as Alastair Grieve has argued, the small body of drawings produced by the group during the period 1848–50 represents the clearest ‘manifestation of a shared Pre-Raphaelite style’.33Alastair Grieve, ‘Style and Content in Pre-Raphaelite Drawings 1848–50’, in Pre-Raphaelite Papers, ed. Leslie Parris, Tate Gallery, London, 1984, p. 42. The Lady of Shalott, with her strongly outlined and angular form, can be compared, for example, with the ‘archaic’ figures in Millais’s Lovers by a rosebush (1848), which, like Hunt’s design, suggests a remote, unsophisticated age. Millais’s pen drawing also conveys a mood of heightened emotion through the use of stiff gestures and awkward poses, which, in the Melbourne drawing, combine with the shallow tilted space to suggest vulnerability and confinement.

The Lady of Shalott can also be directly related to other works that Hunt produced during the years 1848–51. The paintings he exhibited at this time at the Royal Academy, for instance, were all alike in illustrating moments of crisis or internal dilemma,34See Tate Gallery, pp. 67–8, 76–7, 90–2. while his Claudio and Isabella drawing, which depicts the moment when Isabella must decide whether to surrender her virtue to save her brother from death, revealed his new interest in the conflict between sexual passion and moral rectitude – a concern also present in The Lady of Shalott. Aside from their underlying thematic unity, the two 1850 designs reveal some interesting visual similarities. Both drawings are pen and ink, and both are executed in a combination of sharp outline and darker hatching, which is characteristic of Hunt’s early graphic work of c.1849–50.35See Bronkhurst, ‘New Light on Holman Hunt’, pp. 737–8. Both are also vertical compositions, in which figures are shown standing in front of a large barred aperture, and in each image the sense of space is increased by the shadows that fall diagonally across the floor.36Two other graphic works executed by Hunt at this time can be connected to the Melbourne composition. In the double etching My beautiful Lady and Of my Lady in death (1850), the stiffly posed heroine is carefully situated between the curving arc of the water’s edge and the circle of trees in the background. The woman’s averted head and costume can both be related to the Lady of Shalott – but the most telling parallel is in Hunt’s use of echoing rounded forms.

In spite of the time and thought expended on the Melbourne drawing, Hunt gradually came to regard it as merely an ‘embryo design’, which dissatisfied him, ‘except as a preparation for future work’.37Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 101. Although he never painted this image, Hunt was to develop aspects of his composition – the mirror behind, the Lady’s confined arm, and her knotted shawl – in his The awakening conscience (1853–54), Tate Gallery, London. This picture could be regarded as a ‘reversed image’ of the Lady of Shalott story: in Tennyson’s poem, the Lady is doomed for looking out the window; in The awakening conscience she is redeemed by looking out the window and recalling her moral duty. For a discussion of the visual and thematic parallels between the two works, see Wagstaff, ‘Some Notes on Holman Hunt’, p. 14. Indeed, the artist’s friend Emily Patmore was only able to acquire the drawing on the condition it never be exhibited publicly, so anxious had Hunt become that the image not ‘be regarded as my finished idea’.38Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 102. Emily Patmore, and her husband the poet Coventry Patmore, visited Hunt’s studio some time before 1857. As Hunt later recalled: Ί showed them this embryo design … and the lady expressing a violent liking for it, begged it of me, reminding me that I had never given her any design for her album’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 102). The drawing remained in the possession of the Patmore family and was never exhibited by them. Judith Bronkhurst (Tate Gallery, p. 250) notes it was withdrawn from the sale of the late Coventry Patmore’s collection (Christie’s, London, 6 April 1898, lot 7). In December 1920 the Felton Adviser, Frank Rinder, purchased the drawing on behalf of the Felton Bequest for the National Gallery of Victoria.

Fortunately, an opportunity to develop what Hunt would later call ‘this immature invention’39Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 102. Judith Bronkhurst has pointed out that in 1905 Hunt was probably exaggerating his discontent with the 1850 drawing, for by 1857 he had simply ‘outgrown the hard-edge Pre-Raphaelite drawing style’ and wished to proceed with his more mature conception of the Lady of Shalott subject, as embodied in his design for the Moxon Tennyson (Tate Gallery, p. 250). soon presented itself, when, in 1854, Tennyson’s publisher, Edward Moxon, decided to bring out an edition of the poet’s 1842 Poems, illustrated with engravings after the designs of a number of distinguished and lesser known artists.40Moxon first raised the idea of an illustrated edition with Tennyson in January 1854. The artists who contributed to the project were: Hunt; John Everett Millais, ARA; Thomas Creswick, RA; John Callcott Horsley, ARA; William Clarkson Stanfield, RA; Dante Gabriel Rossetti; William Mulready, RA; and Daniel Maclise, RA. Although Moxon chose several of the artists (including Hunt’s bête noire, Thomas Creswick), Tennyson apparently put forward the names of the young Pre-Raphaelites (see H.G. Merriam, Edward Moxon: Publisher of Poets, New York, 1939, p. 182; and June Steffensen Hagen, Tennyson and His Publishers, Macmillan, London, 1979, p. 103). For the history of the book’s publication, see Hagen, pp. 100–7. At Tennyson’s suggestion, Hunt was approached to execute six of the designs, and he elected to illustrate The Lady of Shalott as one of his subjects (it appears that the artists contributing to the project chose their subjects from a list of poems circulated among them by Moxon).41Hunt would also illustrate Recollections of the Arabian Nights (headpiece and tailpiece), The Ballad of Oriana (headpiece and tailpiece) and The Beggar Maid (headpiece) (see Bennett, p. 61). He later provided a headpiece for Godiva, bringing his contribution to a total of seven works. His lengthy visit to the Holy Land in 1854–55 meant, however, that he did not really commence his drawings until his return to England in 1856.42Hunt was commissioned to produce the designs while he was in the Holy Land, some time before 30 January 1855 (see note 43 below). Although he obviously did some background studies for his oriental subjects, such as the Recollections of the Arabian Nights, he told Dante Gabriel Rossetti: ‘I am not able to get on with Tennyson’s designs for want of models – I leave them for the most part to do in Europe’ (letter dated 21 March 1855, quoted in Troxell, p. 41).

As his preliminary studies reveal, he initially experimented with several different scenes from the poem. For instance, he executed two sketches of the verses that describe the Lady lying within her boat, but later relinquished this subject to Rossetti after that artist specifically asked for it.43In a letter to Hunt dated 30 January 1855, Rossetti wrote: The other day I had a visit from Moxon (at Millais’ kind suggestion I believe), asking me to do some of the woodcuts for the new Tennyson, on which I hear you are at work already … By the bye, I have long had an idea for illustrating the last verse of ‘Lady of Shalott’, which I see marked to you. Is that a part you mean to do, and if not and you have only one design in prospect to the poem, could I do another? (Quoted in Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 2, p. 2) Hunt replied that as he would not really start on his commission until his return to Europe, ‘it is nothing to make the alteration, and I hope you will take the subject you speak of from the Lady of Shalott’ (letter dated 21 March 1855, quoted in Troxell, p. 41). In his autobiography, however, he recalls this sequence of events rather differently: [Rossetti] avowed at once that he did not care to do any [of the illustrations] because all the best subjects had been taken by others. ‘You, for instance, have appropriated The Lady of Shalott, which was the one I cared for most of all’, he pleaded. ‘You should have chosen at the beginning: I only had a list sent to me of unengaged subjects’, I said. (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, pp. 99–100) For Hunt’s two sketches of ‘the Lady lying in her boat’, see Bennett, p. 81. Hunt also produced several studies of the Lady seated at her loom, either bending over her handiwork or else looking at the mirror, and these works possibly represent developments of the second and third roundels from his 1850 drawing.44For details of these works, see Rodgers, in Brown University, p. 53; and Bennett, p. 81. It is interesting to note that not one of the studies of ‘the Lady at her loom’ shows Sir Lancelot in the mirror nor gives any indication that the tapestry is unravelling.

It was the Breaking of the Web, however, which continued to hold the most attraction for Hunt, and two revealing studies for the final engraving of this subject also exist.45For a discussion of these studies, see Udo Kultermann, ‘William Holman Hunt’s “The Lady of Shalott”: Material for an Interpretation’, Pantheon, vol. 38, December 1980, p. 387. The first of these (fig. 6) shows the Lady standing, arms upraised, gazing at the reflection of Sir Lancelot. Her still form gives no sense of catastrophe – only the unravelling tapestry indicates that the curse has struck.46This study of the standing Lady of Shalott was illustrated in Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 100, as ‘Trial Sketch for “The Lady of Shalott”’. Hunt was to reuse this standing figure, slightly altered, in his illustration for the poem Godiva (Moxon Tennyson, p. 281), where it conveys an appropriate sense of impending action. The design for Godiva is illustrated in Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 2, p. 77. The artist was obviously dissatisfied with this effect, for his second study (fig. 7) is imbued with a new sense of drama and inner conflict. This Hunt achieves by trapping his heroine’s curving figure within her weaving’s broken strands. Her aura of coiled energy is intensified by her cascading mane of hair. It was this version of the subject which Hunt chose to develop into the design (fig. 8) for the Moxon engraving.47Moxon’s expensive one-volume edition of Tennyson’s Poems appeared in 1857. Hunt’s design for The Lady of Shalott was engraved by John Thompson, and appeared on page 67 as the headpiece for the poem. The actual design for the Moxon engraving no longer exists, as it was drawn directly onto the wood block, and thus destroyed in the process of engraving (see George Somes Layard, Tennyson and His Pre-Raphaelite Illustrators, Elliot Stock, London, 1894, pp. 23–4). Hunt later recalled: ‘I did not have photographs taken of all my completed drawings before they were cut. Those from the “Lady of Shalott”, “Lady Godiva” and “Oriana” I still possess’ (quoted in Mike Weaver, Julia Margaret Cameron, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, 1984, p. 75).

In both the 1850 drawing and the Moxon engraving (fig. 2), Hunt portrays the Lady standing within her loom, in front of the large cracked mirror and confined by the entwining threads of her weaving. However, in the engraving, these three key features – Lady, mirror and loom – have been enlarged both in size and detail, giving them a new significance. The Lady now seems almost too large for the confines of her room, her bent head virtually pressing against the upper border of the composition. This dominating S-shaped figure displays a new voluptuousness, emphasised by the imprisoning threads, and is a far cry from the stiff, girl-like heroine of the 1850 design.48For a detailed discussion of the underlying sexuality of the Moxon engraving, see Stein, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Tennyson’, pp. 294–5. The more rounded forms in the engraving are also in keeping with Hunt’s more naturalistic figure style of the mid-1850s, the early ‘hard-edged’ manner being gradually abandoned by most of the Pre-Raphaelites from about 1852 onwards.49See Grieve, in Parris, pp. 40–3.

During Hunt’s own lifetime, the Lady’s stance and downturned Grecian profile led her to be compared to an Antique caryatid. Hunt strenuously denied this suggestion, stating in 1906: ‘I am told that the original picture had the merit of representing or suggesting one of the Caryatides. That was really a merit I was not conscious of. I had not thought of making her head bow down with the idea of supporting any piece of architecture’.50Quoted in ‘Mr Holman Hunt, Speech at Manchester Exhibition’, Manchester Guardian, 5 December 1906, p. 4. Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe that he was not influenced by some classical prototype. Certainly, the Lady’s undulating form, flowing robes and unrestrained hair are strongly reminiscent of a pagan maenad – a figure whose connotations of abandoned responsibility are perfectly compatible with Hunt’s idea of his subject’s psychological tumult.51The authors would like to thank Ms Vivien Gaston for first suggesting the idea of a maenad figure in connection with the Wadsworth Atheneum painting. Note too that John Flaxman, one of the Brotherhood’s ‘Immortals’, chose to illustrate the concept of violent drapery with the figure of a ‘menade’ (John Flaxman, Lectures on Sculpture, London, 1838, p. 203).

The suggestive figure of the Lady, combined with the composition’s flattened space and linear energy, creates an overwhelming impression of exotic sensuality and claustrophobia. Hunt’s engraving – while still illustrating the Breaking of the Web – thus goes beyond the 1850 drawing in its attempt to convey the Lady’s state of mind at the moment of her fall: caught between her desire for Sir Lancelot and the world, and her inner turmoil as she first comprehends her own destruction.

The two symbols of the Lady’s ‘fall from grace’, the broken web of her weaving and the cracked mirror, are also given new pictorial emphasis in the 1857 version. Hunt’s fantastic loom was a unique feature of both his visualisations; completely non-functional, it symbolises the mysterious bond between the glass and the web by a vivid compositional mirroring of forms.52There appears to be no historical source for Hunt’s circular loom. Certainly, Victorian images of legendary women weaving usually depicted the authentic upright loom (see, for example, Elizabeth Siddal’s The Lady of Shalott (1853), Frederick Sandys’s Morgan-le-Fey (1862–63), and John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s Penelope (1864)). Hunt appears to have been inspired by images of embroidery rather than weaving. His loom is rather like a huge tambour frame, and it is revealing that his studies of the Lady at work show her raising her arm as if with a needle and thread. Two contemporary paintings of women embroidering (Millais’s Mariana (1850–51), and Rossetti’s Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848–49)) show them with their work laid out horizontally. In the 1850 drawing, the Lady’s tapestry appears to hover inexplicably above the floor; however, in the later engraving it takes on a powerful physical existence, and a more sinister element is added by its transformation into an actual spider’s web. Hunt later recalled how he had ‘wanted to express … the way in which this web had, like a spider’s web, circled her about, as if she had been caught in her own toils’.53Quoted in Manchester Guardian, 5 December 1906, p. 4.

The mirror similarly acquires a new significance in the engraving, for the eight roundels of 1850 have been replaced with two large oval panels, which flank the mirror and fill the available wall space, increasing the sense of entrapment. These side-panels are presented as extensions of the mirror itself, but they no longer illustrate scenes from the Lady’s past and future. Instead the right-hand panel depicts Christ on the Cross, while on the left is what appears to be a representation of Christ in Majesty.54It is very difficult to decipher the figure in the left-hand oval panel but it appears to be a seated male personage, who is both crowned and bearded. Most commentators have identified this figure as Christ in Majesty, on the basis of its similarity to the Christ in Majesty panel on the right side of the later Manchester painting (see Bennett, p. 57; and Miriam Neuringer, ‘The Burden of Meaning: Hunt’s Lady of Shalott’, in Brown University, p. 64). This assumption, however, ‘works backwards’ from the artist’s iconography of 1886 – thirty years after he produced his design for the Moxon Tennyson. There is always the possibility that in 1857 Hunt intended the figure to be seen as King Arthur – thus placing the Lady’s earthly and heavenly rulers on either side of her mirror. The three linked ovals of the mirror, in their position above the curved edge of the loom, are so dissimilar to the roundel-encircled mirror of the Melbourne drawing that an alternative visual source seems to have been used.

One possible influence upon Hunt’s design is William Blake’s Job and his daughters (1825) (fig. 9), in which images of the tribulations of Job are presented in a tripartite arrangement strikingly similar to that in the Moxon engraving.55The authors would like to express their gratitude to Ms Irena Zdanowicz for first suggesting Blake’s engraving as a possible source for the Hunt composition and for allowing us to publish her discovery. It should also be remembered that Blake’s Book of Job was particularly admired by the Pre-Raphaelites (its author came second after Jesus Christ in their list of ‘Immortals’). For a discussion of the Pre-Raphaelite circle’s appreciation of Blake, see Alastair Grieve, The Art of D. G. Rossetti: 1. Found 2. The Pre-Raphaelite Modern-Life Subject, Real World Publications, Norwich, 1976, p. 15. The flowing energy of Blake’s engraving appears also to have had an impact on the style of the Moxon design, although Hunt was later to complain that the process of engraving had contributed ‘a certain wirelike character in all the lines’ which he had not intended.56Quoted in Weaver, p. 75. Hunt also spoke of the ‘disappointment’ he felt when he first saw his designs in Moxon’s volume: ‘Undoubtedly each block had been cut with care and skill, but in a few cases I had to have parts removed, and drew details over again on the newly inserted wood. Over those drawings of which no photographs were made, I had less power of correction’ (Weaver, pp. 75–6).

The major compositional changes seen in the engraving are accompanied by the introduction of explicitly Christian symbolism in the flanking panels of the Lady’s mirror. Although Hunt has discarded the visual format of the Arnolfini roundels, their depiction of the Passion cycle appears to have left a mental legacy. Certainly the presence of a Crucifixion image in the right-hand side-mirror is a surprising departure from Tennyson’s straightforward evocation of Arthurian myth. This unexpected juxtaposition of religion and romance is both puzzling and unprecedented, and caused one Victorian critic to question the artist’s right, ‘in his capacity of book-illustrator’, to force ‘his opinions willy nilly upon the reader’.57Layard, pp. 41, 47.

Modern scholars have advanced various explanations for the presence of this Crucifixion panel. On an historical level it can be viewed as an authentic period detail, as similar devotional images occur in other Pre-Raphaelite illustrations for the Moxon Tennyson, for example, Hunt’s Godiva and Rossetti’s Mariana in the South.58Hunt’s illustration for Godiva depicts a small crucifix on the upper left wall of Lady Godiva’s chamber. Rossetti’s design for Mariana in the South (Moxon Tennyson, headpiece, p. 82) represents Mariana kneeling before a carved crucifix, kissing Christ’s feet. In neither poem does Tennyson refer to any image of the crucified Christ. Millais also included a small side-altar in his painting of Mariana (1850–51), an addition that was not warranted by the text of the poem. It has also been suggested that Elizabeth Siddal’s 1853 drawing of the Lady of Shalott – in which a small crucifix appears before the Lady’s window – may have influenced Hunt’s version.59See Jack T. Harris, ‘I Have Never Seen a Naked Lady of Shalott’, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, November 1984, p. 81; and Neuringer, in Brown University, p. 162.

It is usually agreed that Hunt’s inclusion of the Crucifixion was intended to emphasise the allegory underlying the Lady’s choice between good and evil.60See Stein, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Tennyson’, p. 292; and Neuringer, in Brown University, pp. 64, 120. The image of the crucifix implies that her task – that of weaving the magic web – involves some high moral or sacred duty. This she has now abandoned for worldly pleasure, following her choice between a life devoted to spiritual virtue or a surrender to secular passion – as embodied in the figure of Sir Lancelot. As Samuel Wagstaff has aptly remarked: ‘Hunt subverted Tennyson’s sensuous, and essentially non-moralistic romance into a Victorian sermon on the “sinfulness of dereliction of duty”’.61Wagstaff, ‘Some Notes on Holman Hunt’, pp. 12–13.

Such observations on the artist’s purpose are illuminating, but the deeper significance of the Crucifixion motif has been overlooked: it is not merely a minor addition intended to reinforce the ethical dimension of the work, but instead is central to its meaning. As is clearly indicated by the eclipse beneath Christ’s elbow, Hunt has deliberately depicted the moment of the Saviour’s death, when the earth quaked and the sun was darkened.62Some commentators have been puzzled by this inclusion. Stein has wrongly described the panel as ‘an image of the crucified Christ, with a new moon visible under one arm’ (Stein, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Tennyson’, p. 292). According to the Bible it was at this second that ‘the curtain of the Temple was torn in two’ (Luke 22:45). In the Moxon engraving, the unravelling tapestry-web becomes a secular equivalent for the sacred Veil, rent at the moment of Christ’s death. This link with the sacred precinct of the Temple in Jerusalem is further suggested by the shape of the loom’s spiral legs, which distantly echo the helical form ascribed by tradition to the columns of Solomon’s Temple.63For ‘the curious belief, widely entertained during the Renaissance, that Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem featured twisted columns and that these columns were preserved in old St Peter’s in Rome’, see Harold A. Meek, Guarino Guarini and His Architecture, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1988, p. 17. For a contemporary illustration of similar columns, see Millais’s ‘The Pharisee and the Publican’, in The Parables of Our Lard and Saviour Jesus Christ (1864), reprint edn, Dover, New York, 1975, plate opposite p. 68. These subtle religious allusions amplify the meaning of the Lady’s fate, so that she is now seen to participate in a greater tragedy, of cosmic dimensions.

An awareness of these parallels, which are characteristic of Hunt’s high-minded religiosity and idealism, also unlocks additional layers of meaning in this work.64For a discussion of Hunt’s fascination with religious allusions and his inclusion of several levels of meaning within an image, see George Landow, William Holman Hunt and Typological Symbolism, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1979. It was a Victorian commonplace to associate feminine virtue with dutiful attention to domestic tasks. Recently feminist art historians have pointed to the importance of needlework in the nineteenth-century perception of ideal womanhood, according to which, genteel domesticity was felt to effectively sublimate the demon of sexuality.65See Rozsika Parker, The Subversive Stitch (1984), reprint edn, London, 1989, pp. 17–39; and J. Anne George & Susie Campbell, ‘The Role of Embroidery in Victorian Culture and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle’, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, vol. 7, no. 2, May 1987, pp. 55–67. Because of this equation of needlework with virtue, the Lady of Shalott’s abandonment of her loom would be readily connected by a contemporary viewer with her passion for Sir Lancelot. Likewise, her wantonly flowing tresses would clearly underline her casting off of all restraints.

The maenad-like Lady’s fatal rebellion is implicitly contrasted with the situation of those pious women who pursued the gentle arts with unswerving dedication. Chief among ‘these symbols of female excellence’66This was how Rossetti described the Virgin Mary working at her embroidery in his painting The girlhood of Mary Virgin (see Tate Gallery, pp. 64–5). was the young Virgin Mary, who while a handmaiden in the service of the Temple was charged, according to apocryphal accounts, with embroidering the sacred Veil. This legend was well known to the Victorians, and appears in such immensely popular books as Mrs Jameson’s Legends of the Madonna (1852), which records that Mary was ‘chosen by lot to spin the fine purple of the Temple, to weave and embroider it’.67Anna Jameson, Legends of the Madonna (1852), 7th edn, London, 1888, p. 154. Hunt’s allusions to the Veil and the Temple thus set up a telling antithesis between the Lady and the Virgin Mary. This contrast between Tennyson’s Lady and the biblical Mary is made even more explicit in Hunt’s final Wadsworth version of the subject (fig. 3) – where a depiction of the Madonna and Child appears in one of the mirror’s flanking panels.68In his description of the painting’s iconography Hunt writes: ‘The Lady’s chamber is decorated with illustrations of devotion of different orders: on one hand the humility of the Virgin and her Child’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 2, p. 401). For an extensive treatment of the iconography in this painting, see also Hunt, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by William Holman Hunt.

Hunt was later to justify these unprecedented interpolations on the grounds that he was trying to encapsulate Tennyson’s entire poem in one small image. According to the artist’s autobiography, Tennyson himself expressed some surprise at the ways in which Hunt had diverged from the text. As Hunt recalled the conversation:

[Tennyson] said, ‘I must now ask why did you make the Lady of Shalott, in the illustration, with her hair wildly tossed about as if by a tornado?’ … [and] ‘Why did you make the web wind round and round her like the threads of a cocoon?’ … My defence was ‘May I not urge that I had only half a page on which to convey the impression of weird fate, whereas you use about fifteen pages to give expression to the complete idea’.69Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, pp. 124–5. For another version of this conversation, see Layard, p. 41.

However, the elaborate symbolism that Hunt employs gives the lie to this explanation. He introduces material that is extraneous to the story and adds what is, in effect, a new subtext. He has transformed the image of the Breaking of the Web into his own idiosyncratic homily on obedience, responsibility and the true role of women.

Hitherto it has generally been thought that Hunt’s 1850 drawing of the subject was relatively faithful to Tennyson’s verse.70See Sonia Dean, Master Drawings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1986, p. 80. Judith Bronkhurst has noted, however, that the drawing does in fact depart from Tennyson’s verse – ‘She left the web, she left the loom, / She made three paces thro’ the room’ – by depicting the Lady still caught within the loom’s confines (Tate Gallery, p. 249). On the other hand, the engraving, with its religious symbolism and erotic overtones, is usually said to embody the artist’s more personal concerns.71See Layard, pp. 41–2. However, as this study of the iconography in both works shows, the seeds of Hunt’s moralising embellishment are discernible in the Melbourne drawing, where he first presents the life of the Lady of Shalott as a secular analogue for the Passion of Christ. The drawing and engraving in the National Gallery of Victoria both show that Hunt viewed illustration as an essentially independent and inventive process, rather than as an exercise in literal translation. To use the words of one nineteenth-century commentator, Hunt’s work is ‘not an interpretation, it is a creation, and therefore interesting in its very disassociation from the work of the poet’.72ibid., pp. 63–4.

Alison Inglis and Cecilia O’Brien, University of Melbourne (in 1992).

 

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Ms Vivien Gaston, Dr Vera Vines and Ms Irena Zdanowicz for their kind suggestions concerning the text.

 

Notes

1          For a general discussion of these works, see Annette Dixon, Sonia Dean & Irena Zdanowicz, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1978.

2          ibid., pp. 43, 62–3.

3          See Tate Gallery, The Pre-Raphaelites, Tate Gallery & Penguin Books, London, 1984, p. 250; and Richard L. Stein, ‘The Pre- Raphaelite Tennyson’, Victorian Studies, vol. 24, no. 3, Spring 1981, p. 279.

4          William Holman Hunt, The Lady of Shalott (c.1886–1905), tempera and oil on panel, 44.4 x 34.1 cm, Manchester City Art Gallery. For discussions of the ‘precursory’ nature of the early versions, see Mary Bennett, William Holman Hunt, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1969, p. 56; and Timothy R. Rodgers, ‘The Development of William Holman Hunt’s Lady of Shalott’, in Brown University, Ladies of Shalott: A Victorian Masterpiece and Its Contexts, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 1985, pp. 55–60.

5          William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2nd edn, vol. 2, London, 1913, p. 401.

6          In 1905 Hunt published a detailed explanation of the iconography of the Wadsworth Atheneum painting in ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by William Holman Hunt, Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, 1905.

7          The term ‘Immortals’ stood for those ‘great thinkers and workers’ whom the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood most admired (see Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 1, p. 111).

8          Tennyson directly entered the Pre-Raphaelite orbit when Thomas Woolner commenced his portrait medallion of the poet in December 1849. William Michael Rossetti records that Hunt was working on his design for ‘the breaking of the spell from “The Lady of Shalott”’ from the time of the opening of the 1850 Royal Academy Exhibition, while Millais had begun his design for Mariana before early June that year (see William E. Fredeman (ed.), The P.R.B. Journal: William Michael Rossetti’s Diary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 1849–1853, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975, pp. 72–3). Technically, the first member of the Brotherhood to be inspired by Tennyson was Frederic George Stephens, who began work on his painting of Mort d’Arthur in 1849. This picture was left unfinished, and there is doubt as to the actual subject – it might in fact have been intended to illustrate Stephens’s own contemporaneous poem entitled ‘King Arthur’ (see Debra N. Mancoff, Arthurian Revival in Victorian Painting, University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1983, vol. 1, pp. 396–7; vol. 2, n. 65 p. 656). For a general discussion of Tennyson’s impact on the Pre-Raphaelites, see Roger Simpson, Camelot Regained: The Arthurian Revival and Tennyson 1800–1849, D. S. Brewer, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 250–4, 271–5.

9          See William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, vol. 1, London, 1905, p. 326.

10        ibid., p. 211. Hunt’s earliest version of this conversation does not specify the subject matter of Creswick’s commission, simply referring to ‘some picture of a single figure, or two figures only’ (William Holman Hunt, ‘Notes on the Life of Augustus L. Egg’, Reader, vol. 2, no. 44, 31 October 1863, p. 517). In his later recollection of the commission Hunt states that Creswick had put forward the names of Shakespeare and Tennyson (William Holman Hunt, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: A Fight for Art’, Contemporary Review, vol. 49, April 1886, p. 485). In his accounts of this commission, Hunt does not mention Creswick by name, merely describing him as an elder member of the Royal Academy.

11        Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 485.

12        Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 1, p. 211.

13        Judith Bronkhurst raises the possibility that the previously unpublished drawing Daniel praying (c.1849–50) may be the third work that Hunt presented to Creswick for inspection (Judith Bronkhurst, ‘New Light on Holman Hunt’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 129, no. 1016, November 1987, pp. 737–8).

14        This is Hunt’s own explanation for Creswick’s behaviour (Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 486). For a discussion of the bad press reviews after the 1850 RA Exhibition, and the concept of Pre- Raphaelite ‘affectation’, see Robyn Cooper, ‘The Relationship between the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Painters before Raphael in English Criticism of the Late 1840s and 1850s’, Victorian Studies, vol. 24, no. 4, Summer 1981, pp. 413–24.

15        Quoted in Janet Camp Troxell (ed.), Three Rossettis, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1937, p. 34. It has been noted that Hunt’s recollection of this incident becomes increasingly bitter over the years (see Hilarie Faberman, ‘William Holman Hunt’s “Notes on the Life of Augustus L. Egg”’, Burlington Magazine, vol. 127, no. 983, February 1985, n. 10 p. 91).

16        Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 486.

17        Hunt, ‘Augustus L. Egg’, p. 517.

18        See Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 1, p. 214. For a discussion of the painting Claudio and Isabella (1850–53), Tate Gallery, London, and of the study for it, see also Tate Gallery, pp. 103–4, 248.

19        Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, pp. 100–1.

20        In his 1905 version of his conversation with Augustus Egg, Hunt wrote that Egg had declared his designs to be ‘admirable’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 1, p. 214).

21        In his autobiography, Hunt recalls that he told Dante Gabriel Rossetti in c.1855–56: ‘You know I made a drawing from this poem of the “Breaking of the Web” at least four years ago’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 100).

22        Judith Bronkhurst has compared the Lady’s dress with that worn by Isabella in Hunt’s contemporaneous brush and ink drawing Lorenzo at his desk in the warehouse (1848–50), Louvre, Paris. This costume, Bronkhurst argues, was inspired by various plates in Camille Bonnard’s Costumes historiques (Paris, 1829–30) (see Tate Gallery, pp. 246, 249; and Roger Smith, ‘Bonnard’s Costume Historique – a Pre-Raphaelite Source Book’, Journal of the Costume Society, vol. 7, 1973, pp. 28–37).

23        More detailed discussions of the reflected figures of the Lady and Sir Lancelot are found in Elizabeth Nelson, ‘Tennyson and the Ladies of Shalott’, in Brown University, p. 11; and in Rodgers, in Brown University, p. 50.

24        Tennyson makes clear in his poem that he intends ‘many tower’d Camelot’ to be understood as a fortified township with houses, ‘wharfs’ etc., and not simply as the castle of King Arthur.

25        Hunt, ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, p. 486.

26        Samuel Wagstaff was the first to suggest that the roundels depicted ‘scenes from the life of the Lady of Shalott, past, present and future’ (Samuel J. Wagstaff, ‘Some Notes on Holman Hunt and the Lady of Shalott’, Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin, no. 11, Summer 1962, p. 6). This observation was expanded by Mary Bennett, who detailed the subject of each roundel and tentatively identified that at the top as showing ‘?the walls of Camelot’, but regarded it as the final roundel in the cycle (Bennett, p. 70). This view has been challenged by Judith Bronkhurst, who rightly sees the top roundel as the first in the series, but again describes it as ‘a close-up view of one of the towers of Camelot’ (Tate Gallery, p. 249). The long horizontal window with its distinctive ogee tracery, rather reminiscent of the tracery on the windows of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, ensures the identification of the tower as that of the Lady herself. The tiny shape in the foreground of the roundel is possibly one of the ‘heavy barges’ that Tennyson describes sailing past the Lady’s isle.

27        Tate Gallery, p. 249.

28        ‘Primitive’ was the general term used during the nineteenth century to describe early Renaissance and fifteenth-century Flemish and German painting. For a discussion of the Victorian taste for the primitives, see David Robertson, Sir Charles Eastlake and the Victorian Art World, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1978, pp. 440–2; and Francis Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France (1976), 2nd edn, Phaidon, Oxford, 1980, pp. 85–106.

29        Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 1, p. 38.

30        For the connotations of the mirror in Victorian society, see Jennifer Gribble, The Lady of Shalott in the Victorian Novel, Macmillan, London, 1983, pp. 29-39.

31        For a discussion of Rossetti’s mirror, see Alastair Grieve, The Art of Rossetti: The Watercolours and Drawings of 1850–1855, Real World Publications, Norwich, 1978, p. 20.

32        See Susan P. Casteras, ‘Edward Burne-Jones and the Legend of Fair Rosamund’, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Studies, vol. 1, no. 1 (Part 2), Spring 1988, p. 38.

33        Alastair Grieve, ‘Style and Content in Pre-Raphaelite Drawings 1848–50’, in Pre-Raphaelite Papers, ed. Leslie Parris, Tate Gallery, London, 1984, p. 42.

34        See Tate Gallery, pp. 67–8, 76–7, 90–2.

35        See Bronkhurst, ‘New Light on Holman Hunt’, pp. 737–8.

36        Two other graphic works executed by Hunt at this time can be connected to the Melbourne composition. In the double etching My beautiful Lady and Of my Lady in death (1850), the stiffly posed heroine is carefully situated between the curving arc of the water’s edge and the circle of trees in the background. The woman’s averted head and costume can both be related to the Lady of Shalott – but the most telling parallel is in Hunt’s use of echoing rounded forms.

37        Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 101. Although he never painted this image, Hunt was to develop aspects of his composition – the mirror behind, the Lady’s confined arm, and her knotted shawl – in his The awakening conscience (1853–54), Tate Gallery, London. This picture could be regarded as a ‘reversed image’ of the Lady of Shalott story: in Tennyson’s poem, the Lady is doomed for looking out the window; in The awakening conscience she is redeemed by looking out the window and recalling her moral duty. For a discussion of the visual and thematic parallels between the two works, see Wagstaff, ‘Some Notes on Holman Hunt’, p. 14.

38        Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 102. Emily Patmore, and her husband the poet Coventry Patmore, visited Hunt’s studio some time before 1857. As Hunt later recalled: Ί showed them this embryo design … and the lady expressing a violent liking for it, begged it of me, reminding me that I had never given her any design for her album’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 102). The drawing remained in the possession of the Patmore family and was never exhibited by them. Judith Bronkhurst (Tate Gallery, p. 250) notes it was withdrawn from the sale of the late Coventry Patmore’s collection (Christie’s, London, 6 April 1898, lot 7). In December 1920 the Felton Adviser, Frank Rinder, purchased the drawing on behalf of the Felton Bequest for the National Gallery of Victoria.

39        Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 102. Judith Bronkhurst has pointed out that in 1905 Hunt was probably exaggerating his discontent with the 1850 drawing, for by 1857 he had simply ‘outgrown the hard-edge Pre-Raphaelite drawing style’ and wished to proceed with his more mature conception of the Lady of Shalott subject, as embodied in his design for the Moxon Tennyson (Tate Gallery, p. 250).

40        Moxon first raised the idea of an illustrated edition with Tennyson in January 1854. The artists who contributed to the project were: Hunt; John Everett Millais, ARA; Thomas Creswick, RA; John Callcott Horsley, ARA; William Clarkson Stanfield, RA; Dante Gabriel Rossetti; William Mulready, RA; and Daniel Maclise, RA. Although Moxon chose several of the artists (including Hunt’s bête noire, Thomas Creswick), Tennyson apparently put forward the names of the young Pre-Raphaelites (see H.G. Merriam, Edward Moxon: Publisher of Poets, New York, 1939, p. 182; and June Steffensen Hagen, Tennyson and His Publishers, Macmillan, London, 1979, p. 103). For the history of the book’s publication, see Hagen, pp. 100–7.

41        Hunt would also illustrate Recollections of the Arabian Nights (headpiece and tailpiece), The Ballad of Oriana (headpiece and tailpiece) and The Beggar Maid (headpiece) (see Bennett, p. 61). He later provided a headpiece for Godiva, bringing his contribution to a total of seven works.

42        Hunt was commissioned to produce the designs while he was in the Holy Land, some time before 30 January 1855 (see note 43 below). Although he obviously did some background studies for his oriental subjects, such as the Recollections of the Arabian Nights, he told Dante Gabriel Rossetti: ‘I am not able to get on with Tennyson’s designs for want of models – I leave them for the most part to do in Europe’ (letter dated 21 March 1855, quoted in Troxell, p. 41).

43        In a letter to Hunt dated 30 January 1855, Rossetti wrote:

 

The other day I had a visit from Moxon (at Millais’ kind suggestion I believe), asking me to do some of the woodcuts for the new Tennyson, on which I hear you are at work already … By the bye, I have long had an idea for illustrating the last verse of ‘Lady of Shalott’, which I see marked to you. Is that a part you mean to do, and if not and you have only one design in prospect to the poem, could I do another? (Quoted in Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 2, p. 2)

 

Hunt replied that as he would not really start on his commission until his return to Europe, ‘it is nothing to make the alteration, and I hope you will take the subject you speak of from the Lady of Shalott’ (letter dated 21 March 1855, quoted in Troxell, p. 41). In his autobiography, however, he recalls this sequence of events rather differently:

 

[Rossetti] avowed at once that he did not care to do any [of the illustrations] because all the best subjects had been taken by others. ‘You, for instance, have appropriated The Lady of Shalott, which was the one I cared for most of all’, he pleaded. ‘You should have chosen at the beginning: I only had a list sent to me of unengaged subjects’, I said. (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, pp. 99–100)

 

For Hunt’s two sketches of ‘the Lady lying in her boat’, see Bennett, p. 81.

44        For details of these works, see Rodgers, in Brown University, p. 53; and Bennett, p. 81.

45        For a discussion of these studies, see Udo Kultermann, ‘William Holman Hunt’s “The Lady of Shalott”: Material for an Interpretation’, Pantheon, vol. 38, December 1980, p. 387.

46        This study of the standing Lady of Shalott was illustrated in Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, p. 100, as ‘Trial Sketch for “The Lady of Shalott”’. Hunt was to reuse this standing figure, slightly altered, in his illustration for the poem Godiva (Moxon Tennyson, p. 281), where it conveys an appropriate sense of impending action. The design for Godiva is illustrated in Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 2, p. 77.

47        Moxon’s expensive one-volume edition of Tennyson’s Poems appeared in 1857. Hunt’s design for The Lady of Shalott was engraved by John Thompson, and appeared on page 67 as the headpiece for the poem. The actual design for the Moxon engraving no longer exists, as it was drawn directly onto the wood block, and thus destroyed in the process of engraving (see George Somes Layard, Tennyson and His Pre-Raphaelite Illustrators, Elliot Stock, London, 1894, pp. 23–4). Hunt later recalled: ‘I did not have photographs taken of all my completed drawings before they were cut. Those from the “Lady of Shalott”, “Lady Godiva” and “Oriana” I still possess’ (quoted in Mike Weaver, Julia Margaret Cameron, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, 1984, p. 75).

48        For a detailed discussion of the underlying sexuality of the Moxon engraving, see Stein, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Tennyson’, pp. 294–5.

49        See Grieve, in Parris, pp. 40–3.

50        Quoted in ‘Mr Holman Hunt, Speech at Manchester Exhibition’, Manchester Guardian, 5 December 1906, p. 4.

51        The authors would like to thank Ms Vivien Gaston for first suggesting the idea of a maenad figure in connection with the Wadsworth Atheneum painting. Note too that John Flaxman, one of the Brotherhood’s ‘Immortals’, chose to illustrate the concept of violent drapery with the figure of a ‘menade’ (John Flaxman, Lectures on Sculpture, London, 1838, p. 203).

52        There appears to be no historical source for Hunt’s circular loom. Certainly, Victorian images of legendary women weaving usually depicted the authentic upright loom (see, for example, Elizabeth Siddal’s The Lady of Shalott (1853), Frederick Sandys’s Morgan-le-Fey (1862–63), and John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s Penelope (1864)). Hunt appears to have been inspired by images of embroidery rather than weaving. His loom is rather like a huge tambour frame, and it is revealing that his studies of the Lady at work show her raising her arm as if with a needle and thread. Two contemporary paintings of women embroidering (Millais’s Mariana (1850–51), and Rossetti’s Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848–49)) show them with their work laid out horizontally.

53        Quoted in Manchester Guardian, 5 December 1906, p. 4.

54        It is very difficult to decipher the figure in the left-hand oval panel but it appears to be a seated male personage, who is both crowned and bearded. Most commentators have identified this figure as Christ in Majesty, on the basis of its similarity to the Christ in Majesty panel on the right side of the later Manchester painting (see Bennett, p. 57; and Miriam Neuringer, ‘The Burden of Meaning: Hunt’s Lady of Shalott’, in Brown University, p. 64). This assumption, however, ‘works backwards’ from the artist’s iconography of 1886 – thirty years after he produced his design for the Moxon Tennyson. There is always the possibility that in 1857 Hunt intended the figure to be seen as King Arthur – thus placing the Lady’s earthly and heavenly rulers on either side of her mirror.

55        The authors would like to express their gratitude to Ms Irena Zdanowicz for first suggesting Blake’s engraving as a possible source for the Hunt composition and for allowing us to publish her discovery. It should also be remembered that Blake’s Book of Job was particularly admired by the Pre-Raphaelites (its author came second after Jesus Christ in their list of ‘Immortals’). For a discussion of the Pre-Raphaelite circle’s appreciation of Blake, see Alastair Grieve, The Art of D. G. Rossetti: 1. Found 2. The Pre-Raphaelite Modern-Life Subject, Real World Publications, Norwich, 1976, p. 15.

56        Quoted in Weaver, p. 75. Hunt also spoke of the ‘disappointment’ he felt when he first saw his designs in Moxon’s volume: ‘Undoubtedly each block had been cut with care and skill, but in a few cases I had to have parts removed, and drew details over again on the newly inserted wood. Over those drawings of which no photographs were made, I had less power of correction’ (Weaver, pp. 75–6).

57        Layard, pp. 41, 47.

58        Hunt’s illustration for Godiva depicts a small crucifix on the upper left wall of Lady Godiva’s chamber. Rossetti’s design for Mariana in the South (Moxon Tennyson, headpiece, p. 82) represents Mariana kneeling before a carved crucifix, kissing Christ’s feet. In neither poem does Tennyson refer to any image of the crucified Christ. Millais also included a small side-altar in his painting of Mariana (1850–51), an addition that was not warranted by the text of the poem.

59        See Jack T. Harris, ‘I Have Never Seen a Naked Lady of Shalott’, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, November 1984, p. 81; and Neuringer, in Brown University, p. 162.

60        See Stein, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Tennyson’, p. 292; and Neuringer, in Brown University, pp. 64, 120.

61        Wagstaff, ‘Some Notes on Holman Hunt’, pp. 12–13.

62        Some commentators have been puzzled by this inclusion. Stein has wrongly described the panel as ‘an image of the crucified Christ, with a new moon visible under one arm’ (Stein, ‘The Pre-Raphaelite Tennyson’, p. 292).

63        For ‘the curious belief, widely entertained during the Renaissance, that Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem featured twisted columns and that these columns were preserved in old St Peter’s in Rome’, see Harold A. Meek, Guarino Guarini and His Architecture, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1988, p. 17. For a contemporary illustration of similar columns, see Millais’s ‘The Pharisee and the Publican’, in The Parables of Our Lard and Saviour Jesus Christ (1864), reprint edn, Dover, New York, 1975, plate opposite p. 68.

64        For a discussion of Hunt’s fascination with religious allusions and his inclusion of several levels of meaning within an image, see George Landow, William Holman Hunt and Typological Symbolism, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1979.

65        See Rozsika Parker, The Subversive Stitch (1984), reprint edn, London, 1989, pp. 17–39; and J. Anne George & Susie Campbell, ‘The Role of Embroidery in Victorian Culture and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle’, Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, vol. 7, no. 2, May 1987, pp. 55–67.

66        This was how Rossetti described the Virgin Mary working at her embroidery in his painting The girlhood of Mary Virgin (see Tate Gallery, pp. 64–5).

67        Anna Jameson, Legends of the Madonna (1852), 7th edn, London, 1888, p. 154.

68        In his description of the painting’s iconography Hunt writes: ‘The Lady’s chamber is decorated with illustrations of devotion of different orders: on one hand the humility of the Virgin and her Child’ (Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1913), vol. 2, p. 401). For an extensive treatment of the iconography in this painting, see also Hunt, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by William Holman Hunt.

69        Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism (1905), vol. 2, pp. 124–5. For another version of this conversation, see Layard, p. 41.

70        See Sonia Dean, Master Drawings from the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1986, p. 80. Judith Bronkhurst has noted, however, that the drawing does in fact depart from Tennyson’s verse – ‘She left the web, she left the loom, / She made three paces thro’ the room’ – by depicting the Lady still caught within the loom’s confines (Tate Gallery, p. 249).

71        See Layard, pp. 41–2.

72        ibid., pp. 63–4.