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An image of Chaucer at the court of Edward III by Ford Madox Brown

Ford Madox Brown

(England 16 Apr 1821 – 06 Oct 1893)

Chaucer at the court of Edward III
Other titles:
Geoffrey Chaucer reading the "Legend of Custance" to Edward III and his court, at the palace of Sheen, on the anniversary of the Black Prince's forty-fifth birthday
Media category
Materials used
oil on canvas

372.0 x 296.0 cm stretcher; 391.0 x 315.0 x 8.0 cm frame

Signature & date
Signed l.r., brown oil "F. MADOX BROWN". Not dated.
Purchased 1876
Accession number
19th c European art
Further information

Though never officially a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, this colleague of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris was, by inclination and practice, sympathetic to the realist ambitions of the movement. Born in Calais, Madox Brown studied in Belgium and was influenced by the German Nazarene painters in Rome before his first liaison with Pre-Raphaelitism. Working with pure colours and clear contours on a dazzling white ground, and carefully composing his subjects from well-lit life, Brown achieved a sense of pageantry in this tableau. Its lower portions are especially immediate, an extensive cleaning having revealed the glorious condition of the original paintwork. Though Brown began his original composition in Rome, the final canvas was begun in London in 1847, and completed in 1851. Rosetti modelled for Chaucer, while others of the Pre-Raphaelite circle appear as supernumeraries. It was Brown's desire in this, surely one of the greatest modern British paintings in Australia, to encapsulate an historical moment: the birth of the English language in the person of Chaucer. The Tate Gallery in London possesses a study for the work, exact in detail but much reduced in scale.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

Provenance (3)

Robert Dickinson, 1850-1855, London/England, [dealer] Sold to Dickinson for 85% of any future sale. Dickinson paid £20 on account to Madox Brown.

D.T. White, 1855-Nov 1863, [dealer] Failed to sell at unspecified auction, thence sold to White for £50. Brown retreived the painting from White, November 1863, in exchange for six paintings.

Ford Madox Brown, Nov 1863-Jun 1876, England, Purchased by the AGNSW from the artist 1876

Bibliography (39)

Keith Andrews, The Nazarenes, 1964, 167.

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 1999, 'Director's Introduction', pg. 5-7, Sydney, 1999, 6.

Art Gallery of New South Wales (Editor), Pre-Raphaelite art: paintings, drawings, engravings, sculpture, tapestries, chintzes, wallpapers, Sydney, 1962, (illus.). 3

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Acquisitions 1975, Sydney, 1975.

Tim Barringer, Men at work: art and labour in Victorian Britain, 2004, (illus.).

Timothy Barringer, Love and death: art in the age of Queen Victoria, 'Historical & Modern? Ford Madox Brown's Chaucer', pg.63-69, Adelaide, 2001, 62 (colour illus.), 63, 66, 67 (colour illus.), 86, 194, 195 (colour illus.). the illustrations on page 62 and 67 are details

Percy Bate, The English Pre-Raphaelite painters, London, 1901, (illus.).

Mary Bennett, Ford Madox Brown: a catalogue raisonné, 2010, 53-54, 55 (colour illus.), 56-59. A40

Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, Catalogue of Drawings, 1939.

Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'European art in the old courts', pg. 14-23, Sydney, 1984, 14, 15 (colour illus.).

Patricia Crawford, History and legend in some selected paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1980, 15.

Renée Free, The Art Gallery of New South Wales Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 108, 132 (colour illus.), 133.

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales Handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 44, 45 (illus.).

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 20 (illus.), 21.

Doug Hall, Brought to light: Australian Art 1850-1965, 'Learning from the First Lesson: George Folingsby and Genre Painting. G.F. Folingsby The first lesson', pg. 22-25, South Brisbane, 1998, 22.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales Handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 35 (colour illus.).

Manchester City Art Gallery, Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893, Manchester, 1964, (illus.). 11

John McDonald, Art of Australia. Vol. 1: Exploration to Federation, ‘Shelter of freedom and boast of the world’, pg. 225-270, Sydney, 2008, 250, 251 (colour illus.).

Hal Missingham (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Oct 1962.

National Art Gallery of New South Wales, New South Wales Art Gallery Pictures, Sydney, 1931, (colour illus.). plate no. 11

John Nicholl, The Pre-Raphaelites, 1970.

Lucy Rabin, Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite History Picture, New York, 1978, (illus.).

William Michael Rossetti, Pre-Raphaelite Diaries and Letters, 1900.

Sam Smiles, Visions of antiquity, 'Art and antiquity in the long nineteenth century', pg.123-145, 2007, 136, 137 (illus.). fig.45

Jane Somerville, Look, 'The Chaucer Tales', pg.18-19, Newtown, Mar 2006, 18 (colour illus.), 19.

Allen Staley, The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape, 1973.

Allen Staley and Christopher Newall, Pre-Raphaelite vision: truth to nature, 2004, 66, 67 (illus.). fig.16, illustrated in reference to 26

F.G. Stephens, Rossetti, 1894.

Sir Roy Colin Strong, And when did you last see your father, 1978.

Wendy Symonds (Editor), Look, 'Chaucer Gets A Facelift', pg. 9, Heidelberg, Feb 1993, 9 (colour illus.).

Tate Britain, The Pre-Raphaelites, London, 1985. 7

Daniel Thomas, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'The Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 10-15, Sydney, Jan 1960, 13.

Peter Tomory and Anne Kirker, British painting 1800-1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 10 (colour illus.), 58. 271

J. Treuherz., Pre-Raphaelite Papers, 'The Pre-Raphaelites and Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts', London, 1985.

Christopher Wood, The Pre-Raphaelites, London, 1981.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 26 (colour illus.).

Author Unknown, Adventures in Art, Sydney, circa 1945, 4.

Editor Unknown (Editor), Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1954.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1962: Special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'The Pre-Raphaelites and their circle', Adelaide, 1962. not paginated, cat. no. 3

Exhibition history (8)

Royal Academy of Arts, 1851, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1851–1851

Paris Exposition Universelle, 1855, Exhibition Venue Unknown, 15 May 1855–15 Nov 1855

Liverpool Academy, 1858, Liverpool Academy, 1858–1858

The exhibition of work and other paintings by Ford Madox Brown, Piccadilly Gallery, London, 1865–1865

The Pre-Raphaelites and their Circle: Adelaide Festival of Arts 1962, National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Mar 1962–Mar 1962

Pre-Raphaelite art: paintings, drawings, engravings, sculpture, tapestries, chintzes, wallpapers, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Oct 1962–28 Oct 1962

Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893:

Love and death: art in the age of Queen Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 16 Mar 2002–12 May 2002