Perseus and Andromeda

Perseus and Andromeda by Sir Edward John Poynter Bt PRA RWS (1839-1919). 1872. Oil on canvas, 6 1/4 x 18 inches.

Commentary by Anthea Brooke

This is the oil sketch for the original painting exhibited RA 1872 (505). The figure of Andromeda only was previously exhibited RA 1870. The original oil was one of a series of four paintings commissioned by the Earl of Wharncliffe for the new billiard room at Wortley Hall. The other three paintings were: The Fight between More and More Hall and the Dragon of Wantley, Atalanta's Race, and Nausicaa and her Maidens playing at the Ball. Poynter also completed the decor with designs in colour on the walls and ceiling; the decoration of the room was completed in 1881 with the portrait of the Earl, dressed for the Shoot. The combination of two quasi-mediaevally treated subjects, two Neo-Classical ones, together with the solid figure of the Earl himself, apparently did not appear incompatible to their owner. The design of this oil sketch shows the influence of Michaelangelo in the dynamic right-to-left design and of Burne-Jones' Pre-Raphaelitism in style; but it recalls Leighton's earlier treatment of the same theme. The critics did not miss either fact, and complained that the hero, though elegant, lacked heroic proportions, "an appearance utterly incapable of coping with the beast" (Art Journal 1872, p. 182). Yet the oil sketch has Poynter's feeling for colour and atmospheric effect and has incomparably more freshness and attack than the completed version.

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Brooke, Anthea. Victorian Painting. Catalogue for exhibition November-December 1977. London: Fine Art Society, 1977.

Last modified 5 November 2004