FAMAG 1923.15

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Waterhouse, John William RA (1849-1917): The Lady of Shalott - from the poem by Tennyson, oil on canvas, 121 x 69 cms. Presented to the Corporation of Falmouth in 1923 by Alfred A. de Pass, in memory of his sons. Picture adopted by Lynne and Louisa Brunton.

About the frame

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A rare late nineteenth-century French artist's frame; reverse profile with gently canted frieze surmounted by torus moulding with applied plaster garland of imbricated (overlapping) bay leaves-&-berries, centred, and bound at centres and corners; round and hollow stepped mouldings to sight edge; finished in matt and burnished water-gilding; supplied by Paul Mitchell Limited. (r)

More information

THIS painting is known throughout the world and is Falmouth Art Gallery Collection?s most famous work. It is the study for the finished painting in Leeds Art Gallery, although many critics prefer the vitality and freedom of brushwork shown in this picture.

Based on Lord Tennyson?s poem, which is closely related to the story of Elaine ? The Lily Maid of Astolat, it illustrates the moment when she breaks a curse forbidding her from looking through the window and down upon Camelot. She stops weaving the view reflected in the mirror and glances through the window to see Sir Lancelot.

Elaine of Astolat is an innocent maiden who falls deeply in love with Sir Lancelot after encountering him at a jousting match. According to the legend, Sir Lancelot is sent from Camelot to find the Holy Grail but is unsuccessful due to his un-pure heart and his love for Queen Guinevere. He happens upon the small court at Astolat where he is asked to joust in a tournament. Wanting to remain anonymous, he borrows a suit of armour from Elaine and wins the match. He and Elaine embark on an affair which results in a baby; Galahad. When Elaine reveals the child and her love to Lancelot, he spurns her due to his love for Guinevere. When he does not return her love, she dies of grief and requests to be floated in a barge down the river to Camelot, clutching a letter addressed to Lancelot. When she is discovered by the knights of Camelot. They eject Lancelot from the Round Table and he travels to France to start a rival court.

Elaine?s story is found in important works of literature by authors such as Malory and Tennyson, and she is also frequently represented in artwork. A favourite of illustrators, Elaine in her barge is a recurring theme among many artists, especially the pre-Raphaelites. Her youth, pure love, and death aroused widespread admiration and pity in the Victorian audience. Though she is often critiqued by feminist critics as a passive figure, her part in Lancelot?s demise and the contempt from his fellow knights is due to Elaine?s careful manipulation of her story, even in death.