By the kindness of my good friend Colin, Charlotte and I managed to go to Oxford ostensibly to see Grace Jones at the Kite Festival. We did not want to spend the day in a field for the one artist we wanted to see, so we spent most of the day in Oxford. Among our wonderful and unforgettable dalliances, we visited the Ashmolian. Heading straight for the art after having seen a beautiful sculpture of Antinous and Hadrian (Memoirs of Hadrian was by Marguerite Yourcenar was one of the first books we shared), we happened upon a Pre-Raphaelite room. My interest in them was non-existent prior to meeting Charlotte but, as with many now sacrosanct parts of my life, they have brought me tremendous joy. The below represents the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Some historical context below:
Holman Hunt was among the crowd on London Bridge on the night of 10 March 1863, celebrating the marriage of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to the future Edward VII. He made sketches of it, but did not complete this painting until 16 May 1864, retouching it in 1866. He was fascinated by the contrasts of natural and artificial light and by the ‘Hogarthian humour’ of the crowds. He introduced portraits of several friends and acquaintances, including Thomas Combe in a top hat on the extreme left, arm in arm with the artist himself; and Mrs Combe with Millais’s father and brother and the artist Robert Braithwaite Martineau. The frame was designed by Hunt to combine emblems appropriate to a wedding and the arms of the royal families of Denmark and England. Art UK
This painting transfixed me in Oxford. I stood in front of it for many minutes in awe. The colours and lighting is so vivid. The smoke, fire, clothing and even the cloth on the flags all add up to a splendid procession of movement and celebration. Charlotte is right to label this as a man’s painting. It has a brooding, dark and smokey atmosphere. In fact on second review, it appears almost haunting.
I am glad to have brought this painting to your attention. This is yet another of the innumerable examples of wondrous beautiful things which Charlotte and I enjoy together. Thank you, my dearest, as ever for having introduced me to Holman Hunt.