Image of the Month: ‘Edward the Black Prince; or, the Battle of Poictiers’ (Mariana and Arnold) 1791

Illustration to William Shirley's 'Edward the Black Prince', scene 3, from Bell's 'British Theatre' series; at the door of a tent, a girl kneels in pleading with a knight turning from her to right, another girl standing behind in round frame with elaborate frame; sheet trimmed and pasted within platemark in imitation of an india proof. 1792. British Museum. Museum no. 1875,0710.3387 http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3041464&partId=1&searchText=edward+the+black+prince&page=1

Illustration to William Shirley’s ‘Edward the Black Prince’, scene 3, from Bell’s ‘British Theatre’ series; sheet trimmed and pasted within platemark in imitation of an india proof. 1792.
British Museum.
Museum no.
1875,0710.3387
http://www.britishmuseum.org/ research/collection_online/ collection_object_details.aspx? objectId=3041464&partId= 1&searchText=edward+the +black+prince&page=1 Used under a Creative Commons License http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/

This month, Anne Musset (PhD Candidate, History of Art, University of Warwick/Université Paris-Diderot) discusses an illustration to Bell’s British Theatre:

‘This image, engraved by Joseph Collyer after William Hamilton, is an illustration of William Shirley’s historical tragedy Edward the Black Prince; or, the Battle of Poictiers. It is taken from the 1791 edition of the play in the hugely popular series Bell’s British Theatre. Shirley’s play, “attempted after the Manner of Shakespear”, was first performed in 1750 and remained popular thanks to its combination of romance and heroic action.[1] It is based on the Battle of Poitiers (1356) and stages the Black Prince as a charismatic military leader and a tender friend. A second plot focuses on the tragic love between English knight Arnold and his French prisoner Mariana. The play afforded moments of heroism and of pathos, as well as opportunities for political parallelisms and medieval pageantry.

As an illustrator, Hamilton contributed to all the major literary and historical galleries of the period. In the 1780s and 1790s he realised several vignettes and portraits for Bell’s British Theatre. The passage illustrated takes place in Act III, when Mariana and Arnold have defected to the French camp, but Arnold feels remorse at betraying his country and the Prince’s friendship. He resolves to leave Mariana and return to the English camp. Mariana, whose violent passion constantly places her on the brink of madness, attempts to prevent his departure.

The costume in Hamilton’s scene evinces a combination of styles. Mariana’s dress is rather Baroque in style, but the high waists of the ladies’ dresses correspond to the fashion of the 1790s. The slashed sleeves and ruffled collar of Mariana’s attendant are historicising details commonly found in eighteenth-century theatrical costuming to signify an earlier historical period, from the Middle Ages to the seventeenth century.[2] For Hamilton, slashed sleeves seem to be a prerequisite to the illustration of the past. Arnold’s costume is inspired by seventeenth-century rather than medieval armour. By the end of the eighteenth century, few works on costume and armour had been published in Britain, and historical painters often sought inspiration from the armouries in the Tower of London – but none of the exhibits were older than the sixteenth century. What the image achieves is an evocation of the past as the background for the sentimental drama, rather than an archaeological reconstruction of the middle ages.

The function of referring to the fourteenth century with more precision is devoted to the image’s frame: there we find direct allusions to France and England, in the form of an elaborate display of arms, armour and standards. The display has both a decorative and a narrative function. It features the banners of England and France along with a pike, a sword and a pair of gauntlets, on either side of a helmet crowned with the three ostrich feathers of the Prince of Wales and bearing his motto “Ich dien”. The frame firmly reinforces the political drama unfolding in the background, suggesting that the situation depicted originates in the political choices of monarchs, or conversely, that individual, private decisions can affect events in the political sphere. The hangings in the picture seem to merge with the armorial display of the frame, which reinforces the connection between the sentimental and the historical plots. The gauntlets on either side of the helmet appear to be holding the picture, as if presenting the image to the viewer, or exerting control over the scene. The slightly ominous gauntlets, shadow under the helmet and agitated clouds (which seem a continuation of the French standard) suggest that war will get the upper hand over the lovers.

An illustration of the historical tragedy, the image also participated in the construction of the genre of historical romance, balancing theatrical references and antiquarianism in a pathetic farewell scene. While the play claims to be staging historical fact, the illustration focuses on romance. At the same time, it retains a strong connection to the battle and the figure of the Prince of Wales thanks to its background and its highly decorative frame. Visually, the scene is reminiscent of other famous farewell scenes, such as Hector parting from Andromache or Regulus returning to Carthage – both subjects that had been regularly depicted by European artists in the second half of the century. Through such associations, the book illustration takes on aspects of history painting. As a consequence, Mariana, Arnold and British history are aligned with ancient Greek and Roman history, just as Shirley was aiming to align his own tragedy with the works of Shakespeare.’

Anne Musset
University of Warwick/Université Paris-Diderot

[1] See Jeffrey Kahan, Shakespeare Imitations, Parodies and Forgeries, 1710-1820 (Taylor & Francis, 2004), vol. 1.

[2] Diana De Marly, Costume on the Stage 1600-1940 (London: Batsford, 1982), pp.52-23.

Illumination: How the Visual Captures the Imagination (Senate House Library, London 28 Sept – 19 Dec 2015)

Illumination: How the Visual Captures the Imagination
Senate House Library, London

28 Sept – 19 Dec 2015

http://senatehouselibrary.ac.uk/visiting-the-library/exhibitions/illumination/

How do ideas move from the mental to the physical? From centuries old vases and painted canvasses to books and the virtual, creative ideas manifest themselves visually and allow us to understand such diverse worlds as cartography and astronomy to music and philosophy. Artists have drawn inspiration from themes which have transcended time such as the study of the human body and the natural world, to give them physical presence. The earliest printed books contained illuminations and later illustrations in which image and word converged to generate new visual forms for the reader. Technology also impacted on the ability to interpret objects moving from the naked eye to the scientific instruments designed to enhance optics. This exhibition will explore connections between these developments and how the gestation of the creative idea contributes to our understanding of visual culture. The exhibition draws together for the first time materials from Senate House Library with those of all of the Institute Libraries of the School of Advanced Study.

Over the three months, the Illumination Series will host over twenty events: lectures, symposia, workshop and performances which explore aspects of the visual through different disciplinary perspectives to bring new insights into the materials on display in the exhibition and the Library’s wider collections. Admission to the exhibition and events are free. However, due to space limitations, tickets are required for admission for the events. Click on the Eventbrite link for each event for ticket availability. For further information on the exhibition and the Series, contact the Curator and Research Librarian, Colin J.P. Homiski (details on the website).

Autumn issue of ‘Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly’ now online

“And I only am escaped alone to tell thee”: the autumn issue of Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly is now online.

http://blake.lib.rochester.edu/blakeojs/index.php/blake

Blake Illustrated Quarterly

It is dedicated to two articles on Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. Mei-Ying Sung describes in detail for the first time the set of pre-publication Job proofs at the Beinecke Library at Yale, and Sibylle Erle talks about Alfred Tennyson’s copy of Job: how and when he acquired it and how he used it.

For past issues, see http://bq.blakearchive.org/

Early Career Researchers network for historians of British art

We would like to invite you to join our new Early Career Researchers network for historians of British art. The aim of this network is to provide a forum for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) working in the field of British art history to meet and connect, share work and provide supportive criticism. The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art will host regular afternoon gatherings where members can present short papers, offer one another feedback, discuss their experiences and share information about career-related topics. 

Meetings in the coming semester will held on 12th November, 26th November, and 10th December 2015 between 4.30-6pm at the Paul Mellon Centre, 15-16 Bedford Square, WC1B 3JA. Meeting 1 will be a chance for us to get to know one another, to talk a bit about our work, and for some of us to present research and gain feedback.

At Meeting 2 Oriana Baddeley, Dean of Research at University of the Arts London, will be on hand to discuss REF and how best to approach it. We will also have time to share research. Meeting 3 will be our last before Christmas, and Samuel Bibby, Associate Editor of Art History, will join us to discuss preparing manuscripts for submission to journals. Again, we will also have time to discuss our own research. We anticipate that this session will end with a sociable trip to the pub.

Members are invited to share their research journeys and profile information via our blog. Please contact us via ecrbritart@gmail.com.

We define Early Career Researchers as post-doctoral scholars who are within 5 years of receiving their doctorate, or preparing for their viva. This definition can be flexible, so please do get in touch if you think the ECR network might be useful for your situation.

With very best wishes,

Dr Hannah Leaper, Paul Mellon Centre for British Art

Dr Sophie Hatchwell, University of Bristol

Registration open: Artist and Empire: New Dynamics, Tate, 24-6 Nov. 2015

International conference
Artist and Empire: New Dynamics: 1790 to the present day

Tate Britain, Clore Auditorium
24 – 26 November 2015

We are pleased to announce that Tate is holding a major conference in collaboration with Birkbeck, University of London and Culture at King’s College London, to mark the opening of the exhibition Artist and Empire. Scholars, curators and artists from around Britain and the world will consider art created under the conditions of the British Empire, its aftermath, and its future in museum and gallery displays. Scholarship has expanded over the last two decades across a span of disciplines and locations. This conference takes the historic opportunity of the exhibition, featuring diverse artists from the sixteenth century to the present day, to bring together people to meet and share the latest research being developed around this subject. The papers, roundtables and audience discussions will consider the cosmopolitan character of objects and images, and the way geographical, cultural and chronological dislocations have in many instances obscured, changed or suppressed their history, significance and aesthetics. We will also explore how approaches to contemporary art, archives, curation and collecting can help develop new ways to look at them now.

24 November – Exhibition preview and Keynote Lecture
25 November, Day One – Artist & Empire: The Long Nineteenth Century
26 November, Day Two – Artist & Empire: Curating in a Transnational Context

For further information please contact the conference administrator, Jessica Knights, at jessica.knights@tate.org.uk

Artist and Empire: New Dynamics is convened by Tate, Birkbeck and Culture at King’s College London. The conference has been generously supported by Culture at King’s College London, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Birkbeck School of Arts, The British Association of Victorian Studies, The Association of Art Historians, Creative Victoria and the Australia Council for the Arts. ’Parallel Perspectives: Curating in London’s transnational contexts’ is a Culture at King’s College London project in collaboration with the British Library, Tate and V&A Museum.

Full program details will be announced shortly. Book now to secure your place: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/conference/artist-and-empire-new-dynamics

Sincerely,
Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies

Image of the Month: William Blake, Sealing the Stone and Setting a Watch (c.1800-1803).

Blake Sealing the Stone

William Blake, Sealing the Stone and Setting a Watch (c.1800-1803). Watercolor, with pen, in gray ink, black ink and graphite on moderately thick, slightly textured, wove paper. Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, Everett V. Meeks, B.A. 1901 Fund.

In an ‘Image of the Month’ in February, I wrote about Blake’s watercolour Mary Magdalen at the Sepulchre (c.1805). In this post, I’m jumping back a bit to another of Blake’s watercolour illustrations to the Bible, Sealing the Stone and Setting a Watch (c.1800-03), which depicts a moment slightly earlier in the biblical narrative, and was probably also produced several years earlier (the exact dates of these works are not known, but they have been assigned dates based on stylistic features).

The text illustrated is Matthew 27:66 which describes the sealing of Jesus’ tomb on the day after his death and burial. The chief priests and Pharisees had heard Jesus say that he would rise again on the third day, and they feared that the disciples would try to take away the body to fabricate a resurrection. They therefore asked Pilate to secure the tomb, so he sent a watch and instructed them make the tomb as sure as they could (27:62-65).

In Blake’s illustration, the task is being undertaken very diligently. At the centre of the design is a young man balancing on a ladder, holding a palette of cement and a knife. He is turning to his right, directed by a priest standing below who appears to be pointing out a gap in the cement for the young man to seal. There are two more priests to the left of the ladder, and five soldiers are standing guard.

This is a relatively unusual subject, which is perhaps unsurprising; illustrators of the New Testament have tended to focus on the acts of Jesus and his disciples, not on those of Jesus enemies. We cannot be certain whether the subject was chosen by Blake or by his patron, Thomas Butts; either way, its inclusion in the series of biblical illustrations emphasises that the tomb was firmly shut. Thus, when Blake added The Angels Hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre (c.1805, V&A) to the series, he was giving the viewer privileged access to a scene inside the firmly-sealed tomb, and then in The Angel Rolling Away the Stone from the Sepulchre (c.1805, V&A) and The Resurrection (c.1805, Fogg Art Museum), Blake depicts Christ bursting that seal.

As a stand-alone design the subject may not have obvious appeal, but in a series of illustrations to the narrative of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Sealing the Stone and Setting a Watch plays a key role.

Naomi Billingsley (Manchester)

REGISTRATION OPEN: The Arts And Feeling in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture, Birkbeck, University of London, 16-18 July 2015

The Arts And Feeling in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture
Birkbeck, University of London, 16-18 July 2015

Keynote Speakers: Caroline Arscott, Tim Barringer, Meaghan Clarke, Kate Flint, Hilary Fraser, Michael Hatt, Lynda Nead, Jonah Siegel, Alison Smith

This conference will explore the ways in which nineteenth-century authors, artists, sculptors and musicians imagined and represented emotion and how writers and critics conceptualised the emotional aspects of aesthetic response. It aims to map the state of the field in this growing area of interest for nineteenth-century scholars by locating recent interdisciplinary work on sentimentality and art and writing and the senses within wider debates about the relationship between psychology and aesthetics in the long-nineteenth century.

Speakers will investigate the physiology and psychology of aesthetic perception and the mind/body interactions at play in the experience of a wide range of arts. Key questions include: How did Victorian artists represent feeling and how were these feelings aestheticised? What rhetorical strategies did Victorian writers use to figure aesthetic response? What expressive codes and conventions were familiar to the Victorians? Which nineteenth-century scientific developments affected artistic production and what impact did these have on affective reactions?

Registration is now open for the main conference. To register, please visit: https://www2.bbk.ac.uk/artsandfeeling/

For more information, please visit the conference website: http://www.artsandfeeling.com/

Event Report: ‘The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturised Gallery’, RIN 4, Saturday 6 June 2015

The fourth Romantic Illustration Network symposium took place at the House of Illustration on Saturday the 6th of June. Once again the event was well-attended with a friendly mix of regulars and new faces, local and international.house-of-illustration-logo-kids-in-the-halls-column-arts-agency

We had two inter-related themes for the symposium:

1.Miniaturization: Drawing on Peter Otto’s work on virtual culture in the Romantic period, is the illustration a form of virtual gallery? How does visual meaning change when an image is resized?
2.The Art of Quotation: How were literary quotations used to conceptualise visual images? How important are framing devices to the meaning of an image?

However, speakers were free to interpret the terms ‘quotation’ and ‘miniaturised gallery’ in any way they saw fit, and to raise any other questions they chose.

We kicked off with David Worrall (Roehampton/Nottingham Trent) who presented us with his concept of ‘locations of curation’. After crediting William St Clair in RIN 3 for inspiring his quest for a new theory of illustration, Worrall explored what he described as two currently disconnected narratives – Romanticism and eighteenth-century theatre – to consider the changing moments when images interact with other objects, such as the people who view them. He used the example of theatrical portraits to demonstrate how images moved from stage, to page, to prints, to household objects.

Susan Matthews’s (Roehampton) paper interrogated questions of scale, domesticity, and artistic encounter, the idea of ‘meeting’ an artist though their illustrations. She pointed out that the name ‘House of Illustration’ (as opposed to ‘Gallery of Illustration’) is significant: we often seem to want to give illustration a ‘home’. She focused on Fuseli’s illustrations to an edition of Cowper’s popular poem The Task (1785), and revealed the awkward tensions between Fuseli’s depictions of domestic scenes and Cowper’s lines, whilst also showing that Fuseli could produce powerful images on a small scale when he really wanted to. Matthews drew parallels between Fuseli’s techniques and the recent exhibition of Paula Rego’s work at House of Illustration.

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Plate 17, The Book of Urizen William Blake Archive

From here we zoomed in still further, with Peter Otto’s (Melbourne) paper on plate 17 of Blake’s The Book of Urizen (1794). Otto gave a detailed and original reading of the plate which encompassed The Terror and images of decapitation by guillotine, the story of Adam and Eve, Perseus and the Gorgon, and the Narcissus myth to show how the plate connects primal history with events unfolding in the present through an art of visual and textual quotation. He argued that the plate illustrated a turning point in society, represented as a decapitation, and that Blake was constructing an imagined reality through quotation which in turn tries to shape or frame what reality is.

From royal executions to royal collections, Kate Heard (Royal Collection) showed us how George III and George IV both engaged with the reproductive print market, albeit in very different ways, as prints enabled middle-class consumers to gain access to items in the Royal Collection. We saw how Royal Collection items circulated as prints, so much so that satirical caricaturists could imitate them, and she argued that the print market played a crucial role in the public sense of the King. We also saw what a fantastic resource the Collection is for scholars.

Taking us through to the Victorian period, Bethan Stevens (Sussex) spoke about her work on the albums of proofs put together by the dominant mid-century London wood-engraving firm, the Dalziel family. The firm of Dalziel produced the illustrations to a vast range of literary and non-literary texts, including such classics as the Alice books and Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Stephens showed how, in the albums, the exclusion of words affects the status, form and narrative of illustration, and provokes a new attention to illustrations as images which enables all kinds of subversive and intriguing readings.

Three Bibliographical Society Studentships were awarded: Anne Musset (Warwick/Paris-Diderot), Tessa Kilgariff (National Portrait Gallery/Bristol), and Naomi Billingsley (Manchester). We ended the day, as usual, with a period of open discussion about the broader themes of the event and the future of the network (upcoming ventures include the panel at BARS 2015 in Cardiff and the digitised Shakespeare Gallery, currently under construction). After that we adjourned to the pub, to round off a successful and fun day with a friendly drink.

Details of the BARS panel will be appearing on the blog and website soon: we hope to see you there!

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REMINDER: RIN 4: The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery. Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm, The House of Illustration, London

The Art of Quotation and the Miniaturized Gallery.
Saturday 6 June 2015, 10 – 5pm 
The House of Illustration, London
Peter Otto (Melbourne), David Worrall (Roehampton/Nottingham Trent), Kate Heard (Royal Collection), Susan Matthews (Roehampton), Bethan Stevens (Sussex).
Supported by the University of Roehampton and the Bibliographical Society. Organised with the assistance of House of Illustration.

This session follows two themes:
1.Miniaturization: Drawing on Peter Otto’s work on virtual culture in the Romantic period, is the illustration a form of virtual gallery? How does visual meaning change when an image is resized?
2.The Art of Quotation: How were literary quotations used to conceptualise visual images? How important are framing devices to the meaning of an image?

…and other related questions.

Registration is free, and includes free entry to the main exhibition. You can download the full programme here.

To register, please email Mary.Shannon@roehampton.ac.uk, giving your name, job title, and institution (if applicable).

Birkbeck Arts Week Starts: Monday, 18 May

Birkbeck Arts Week Starts: Monday, 18 May

We start on Monday 18 May with sessions on Curiosity (with Marina Warner and others), Coffee and Commonwealth, illustrator and caricaturist Chris Riddell‘s reflecting on Gulliver’s Travels and Diderot on Monday, to discussions of Ruins, productions of S.T.Coleridge‘s Ancient Mariner and Blake‘s Illuminated manuscript Vala or the Four Zoas, Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner with members of the film team, and we end on Friday with sessions on the enlightenment art of Shadow Portraits and a Magic Lantern Show. And this is just a couple of examples.

Do visit the Birkbeck Arts Week’s webpage, choose your events, and book seats. It’s all free. And please spread the word.
http://www.bbk.ac.uk/arts/about-us/events/arts-week