Rossetti, W[illia]m M[ichael]. "Art News from England. Letter XIV." Crayon 2 (25 Jun 1856), 181-183.

excerpt

While these [foregoing] exhibitions are open, the more important one of the Royal Academy is near opening. There will be a capacious representation there of the principle Pre-Raphaelites. Hunts sends his picture of the Scapegoat–the only completed oil-picture which he has brought home from the East. Three water-colors; one from Jerusalem by moonlight, very grave, luminous, and beautiful; the Great Sphinx in the Desert, and the Plains of the Dead Sea. The Scapegoat consists simply of the figure (life size) of the young goat, his head bound with a red fillet, sent out to perish in the dreary, lifeless borders and salt ooze of the Dead Sea, or to save himself as he may, bearing upon him the burden of the sins of the congregation into "a land not inhabited." Sunset reddens the background with the broken from of the Idumean mountains. To me the picture is a very solemn and impressive one; and, like all works in which these qualities are genuine, it becomes the more impressive the more I know it. Millais sends no fewer than five pictures. The largest is named "Peace Concluded;" an officer come home from the Crimea, seated with his wife and children, and reading the news of peace in the Times. One of the little girls has brought out her Noah’s ark to show papa, and has selected the four symbolic animals of the warring nations–lion, cock, turkey, and bear–closing the series with the dove bearing the olive branch. How far an invention of this calibre is to be approved, coming from a man who would invent the Huguenot, the Ophelia, and the Rescue, is a matter of serious question. The tenderness of expression in the wife is very lovely, and the children’s heads are splendidly painted. In elaboration, the picture does not compete with Millais’s previous master-pieces, but for vigor and certainty, it could not well be surpassed. The second picture–which I rate considerably higher–has still less subject, being only a group of young girls burning a heap of autumn leaves; but the whole treatment is of that intense order–intense and splendid color in glowing sunset, and a certain passionate feeling and tone throughout–where one does not demand subject, but recognizes the thing as a complete and noble artistic achievement of an order apart. For the qualities upon which the painter does rely here, he has never produced anything more admirable. The third picture is the most pathetic of all–a blind girl seated by a wayside bank, while a heavy shower is drying up, a sweep of sunshine brightening the lustrous fields, and a double rainbow shining in the sky. The blind girl’s sister is turning round to wonder and enjoy, while her own poor lightless eyes are set motionlessly forward, under their drooping lids. The suggestion is a touching one, and most touchingly conveyed. This is Mr. Millais’s most elaborately finished picture of the year. The fourth represents an old church attacked (as one may suppose), during the French revolution, and defended by a party of soldiers. A little girl has got wounded in the scuffle, and has been laid down to sleep on the effigy of an old Gothic Knight. The work is of minor importance, but very agreeable, and painted with great exquisiteness. The background figures, however, are not studied with a solidity worthy of Millais. The fifth picture is quite a small one–a portrait of a little boy looking over Leech’s book of sketches from Punch. Besides these two dii majores of the P. R. B. reform, there is Mr. Hughes, a young painter full of capacity and of a charming sense of beauty; and Mr. Inchbold, a first rate rising landscape painter. Hughes contributes first, a picture of Keats’s Eve of St. Agnes in three compartments–the arrival of Porphyro at the castle by moonlight, the awakening of Madeline, and the flight of the lovers; and second, a picture named "April Love," of a pretty girl in a summer-house, having her hand kissed by a young fellow through the wicket, and seeming to say to herself, "Shall I forgive him?" There has, evidently, been a bit of a quarrel, and now comes the pleading for reconciliation.


This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas J. Tobin.

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