Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sundays Art: The Black Brunswicker by John Everett Millais

John Everett Millais
Oil on Canvas
104 cm x 68.5 cm or 41 in x 27 in

I know it has been a long time since I have posted a Sundays art, I figure this one will be a little bit easier than the Pre-Raphaelites. Millais is one of the prominent Pre-Raphaelites artists and has created some of my favorite works. This one though has a special place in my heart becasue of the hidden clues in the picture. There are many things about this piece that screem to me tragity. One of them is the picture of Napoleon on the wall, the red ribbon on her arm and the tiny ribbons on his uniform. The way in which he is leaning from her is unusual for her pose.

Here is what the web says:

"It was inspired in part by the exploits of the Black Brunswickers, a volunteer corps of the Napoleonic Wars, during the Waterloo campaign and in part by the contrasts of black broadcloth and pearl-white satin in a moment of tender conflict.The painting was originally exhibited with the plural title The Black Brunswickers, but is most commonly known by the singular form of the title.

The painting depicts a Brunswicker about to depart for battle. His sweetheart, wearing a ballgown, restrains him, trying to push the door closed, while he pulls it open. This suggests that the scene is inspired by the Duchess of Richmond's ball on 15 June 1815, from which the officers departed to join troops at the Battle of Quatre Bras.

In a letter to his wife, Effie Gray, Millais described his inspiration for the work, referring to a conversation with William Howard Russell, the war correspondent of The Times:

My subject appears to me, too, most fortunate, and Russell thinks it first-rate. It is connected with the Brunswick Cavalry at Waterloo...They were nearly annihilated but performed prodigies of valour... I have it all in my mind's eye and feel confident that it will be a prodigious success. The costume and incident are so powerful that I am astonished it has never been touched upon before. Russell was quite struck with it, and he is the best man for knowing the public taste. Nothing could be kinder than his interest, and he is to set about getting all the information that is required". Wiki

Study piece

"Millais spent three months painting ‘The Black Brunswicker’. Studies for the work exist both in the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s archives as well as in Tate Britain. Millais used Charles Dickens’s daughter Kate as the model for the girl and a private in the Life Guards for the soldier. Each had to model separately using a lay figure to lean against.

Millais wished to be historically accurate in making the girl’s dress look quite antique (it is actually a compromise between the fashions of 1859 and 1815 when waists were still kept high). The intensity of emotions is well conveyed in the close encounter of the couple, the girl’s body attempting to obstruct the soldier from his task and prevent his destiny.

The dark and enclosed space enhances the tragedy of the scene. The work appeals both to spectators’ patriotism and sentimentality. The only distraction is perhaps the brilliant shine of the girl’s dress, its creases tempting spectators’ tactile senses. The dog at the soldier’s feet also draws attention to the humanity of the subject. On the wall of the room an engraving of a painting by JL David, depicting Napoleon crossing the Alps serves as a reminder of Waterloo while also alluding to current events in 1860, when Napoleon III entered upon a war in Northern Italy in an attempt to expel the Austrians". Liverpool Museums

Be sure and check out the CSN giveaway for your chance to win a gift code for sixty dollars. Giveaway ends 7.24.10 at 12pm.
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  1. Ooh, I love Millais but hadn't known the story of this painting -- I love the drama of it.

  2. Beautiful! One of our very finest painters, Millais.
    The model, Katherine (Katey) Perugini, and her second husband Carlo where also accomplished painters, in fact very fine ones. Katey earned a good living as a painter in her own right and was a very strong character.

  3. Very beautiful, emotional, passionate and sad all in one.

  4. Love this! I don't remember ever having seen it before. Thank you for sharing!

    Oregon Kimm

  5. Audra, I love Millais too and came upon this one by chance when I was browsing the web trying to read more about him.

    Robert, how nice of you to pay a visit I look forward to your insightful comments on Sunday's art, you always bring unique point to the table. I did not know that she was a painter that makes it even more interesting. I will have to check into her.

    Oregon Kimm, that is what I thought when I saw it. I love the clothing, I wish we still wore dresses like that and men had elaborate military uniforms. Nobody can resist a man in uniform.

  6. You know when I first saw it, I thought it was another Victoria/Albert painting. Kind of reminds me of them.

  7. What a heartbreakingly touching scene. Sadly it has been repeated many, many times throughout history.

  8. My Eclectic Reads, You hit the nail on the head with that one, I did not even realize it until you said it. Yes it is like Victoria and Albert. Very pretty.

    Librarypat, it is heartbreaking that it will go on through out time and the only thing that will change through out the ages will be the man/woman who wears the uniform and the uniform itself.


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