Monday, May 18, 2009

Ford Madox Brown - Byron's Dream

pen and ink and pencil
signed with monogram
inscribed 'A Dream'
4 1/4 x 4"
A design for the 1870 Moxon edition of 'Poetical Works of lord Byron'.
for the version in oil
This is different and more closely shows Byron's dog Boatswain. The oil was commissioned c. 1874-5 by William Michael Rossetti and is now in the Manchester City Art Gallery.

See: F. M. Hueffer, Ford Madox Brown, A Record of his life and Work, 1896, p. 298¬300

"January 1875 saw the completion of the oil picture of Byron and Mary Chaworth, a sufficiently important representative of Madox Brown's style at this period. The design had formed the 'title-vignette' for the Moxon's 'Byron.' The treatment of the subject is simple. The circumstances of the poet's attachment to the beautiful Mrs. Musters, then Mary Chaworth, granddaughter of the man whom Byron's great-uncle had killed in a duel, are sufficiently well known.

Byron is represented in the picture as a somewhat early matured youth of sixteen or seventeen years of age. He has ridden over from Newstead to Annesley, and in company with the dog Boatswain has taken a stroll with the heiress of the latter place. The day is a hot one, and the poet and his beloved have seated themselves on a little knoll overlooking the great plain in Nottinghamshire. Byron has told of Mary Chaworth's hand and is pouring out impassioned nothings, whilst Mary has only cars for the distant sound of hoofs of that sturdy Nimrod Jack Muster's horse, and eyes for that scarlet-coated gentleman himself. Boatswain, too, looks in the direction whence the sounds come, just preparing to cock his ears and perhaps utter the bark that will bring Byron to a sense of the world around him, and, to a certain extent, to his own senses.

He only realised the unprofitableness of his passion when subsequently, standing in the hall at Annesley, he heard the fair Mary refer to him, speaking to her old nurse on an upper landing, as that 'lame schoolboy'. She seems, indeed, only to have regarded him as an interesting and rather amusing lad. On Byron, however, the attachment made a very lasting impression, to which he referred to infrequently to the day of his death, deeming that a marriage with her might have made him a better man."

This is a design for the title vignette of Moxon's 1870 edition of the 'Poetical Works of Lord Byron', in which it is reproduced almost exactly, but without the inscription 'A Dream'. This volume was edited by William Michael Rossetti who later commissioned an oil of the same composition (circa 1874-5, now in Manchester City Art Gallery). There is also a watercolour replica (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) and other copies by his son Oliver.

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