Collection Online
Fair Rosamund
Medium
oil on cardboard
Measurements
40.3 × 30.5 cm
Inscription
inscribed in white paint l.l.: A. Hughes
Accession Number
3334-4
Department
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Eva Gilchrist in memory of her uncle P. A. Daniel, 1956
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
19th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International
Provenance

Exhibited Winter Exhibition, French Gallery, London, 1854; collection of Peter Augustine Daniel (d. 1917), London, 1854–1917; by descent to Miss Eva K.  Gilchrist (d. 1956), 1917; by whom donated to the NGV, 1956.



Exhibited Winter Exhibition (The Sketch Exhibition), French Gallery, London, 1854; Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition, no. 4, London, 1857, no. 36, as private collection, Cambridge; American Exhibition of English Art, National Academy of Design, New York, October–December 1857, no 86; loaned to the Tate Gallery, London 1920–56; Pre-Raphaelite Art, Adelaide Festival & State Art Galleries of Australia 1962, no. 31; Praraffaeliten, Baden-Baden and Frankfurt, 1973–4, no. 80.

Legend has it that in 1176 Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II of England, poisoned ‘Fair’ Rosamund Clifford, the king’s beautiful mistress and true love. Henry had created a secret garden for Rosamund at Woodstock, a Royal estate in Oxfordshire, accessible only via a maze. Hughes has painted the moment when Eleanor, seen lurking in the background, discovers the entrance to the garden, gaining the opportunity to commit murder. The deeply romantic medieval tale of ‘Fair’ Rosamund was a favourite story for artists and poets during the nineteenth century, particularly for members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their associates.

Poison was the weapon of choice for murderesses during the nineteenth century, with arsenic implicated in nearly a third of all criminal cases in Victorian Britain. It is not surprising, then, that the story of Rosamund, mistress of Henry II of England, resonated with artists and poets during this period. According to legend, Henry created a secret garden for Rosamund, accessible only by a maze on his property at Oxfordshire. The garden was discovered by the king’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who then poisoned Rosamund. Here, Hughes uses deadly foxgloves to symbolise the unfolding narrative.

Colourmen

Colourman
ROBERSON
Location of stamp
Centre reverse of board
Transcript
CHARLES ROBERSON & CO./ARTISTS' COLOURMEN,/MANUFACTURERS OF WATER AND OIL COLOURS,/Materials for Drawing & Painting,/51,LONG ACRE, LONDON.
Medium
Paper label
More Information
National Portrait Gallery