Collection Online
La Belle Dame sans merci
oil on canvas
153.7 × 123.0 cm
inscribed in red paint l.l.: ARTHUR HUGHES 1863
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1919
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
Not on display

Commissioned by Thomas E. Plint (1823–61), Leeds, before his death in 1861; Estate of Thomas Plint, 1863–65; exhibited Cosmopolitan Club, Berkeley Square, London, 1863; included in the sale of the remainder of the Thomas E. Plint estate, Christie's, London, 17 June 1865 (no lot no.); from where purchased by Ernest Gambart (dealer), 1865;  purchased, on the advice of Robert Ross, for the Felton Bequest, 1919.

Exhibited Cosmopolitan Club, Berkeley Square, London, 1863.

This tragic tale was popularised by the English poet John Keats (1795–1821). His sensual and romantic poetry, often drawn from medieval narratives, helped to make such themes relevant to a modern audience. Here the knight falls in love with a beautiful woman who lures him to ‘her elfin grot’. There he sleeps and suffers a nightmare, seeing ‘pale kings and princes too, Pale warriors, death-pale were they all; They cried – “La Belle Dame sans Merci, Thee hath in thrall!”’. The knight wakes to find that he is one of many victims of her unrequited love, and is condemned to an eternally lonely existence. At the moment captured by Hughes, the knight is unaware of his impending doom.


This frame is one of a group of C19th. Pre-Raphaelite frames that take their cue from the presentation of religious pictures in the Renaissance.
These are frames that take the tabernacle form and modify it to create settings that carry the impact of an altarpiece or singular devotional work though the subject of the painting is secular.

Unknown - 19th century

timber, composition and gold leaf


good original condition