Friday, 16 March 2018

Painters of the Faerie Queene

The illustrated history of the Faerie Queene actually begins in 1751 with a book illustrated by William Kent, then almost all the way through the late 18th/19th Century we get painting after painting after painting.

Then in 1895 Walter Crane is the next major person to illustrate the whole thing, producing more than any other person ever has and becoming, probably the primary visual voice for the Faerie Queene.

And then in the early to mid 20th Century we get a run of illustrations from A.G. Walker (quite bad) through to Agnes Miller Parker (my personal favourite) in 1953.

I will do a guide to the illustrators in another post as there are only a handful of individuals and they all produce multiple images and I thought it would be interesting to compare them.

(And after that I promise I will never talk about the FQ again and you will all be free.)

But for now, here is a guide to every painting I could find of the Faerie Queene, and a few windows, in very rough chronological order.

I'm not a painting expert so if anyone has any I have missed, (paintings, not illustrations, then comment and let me know.)

Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice, with Talus, the Iron Man.
1778 John Hamilton Mortimer
This is one of the very few paintings of events in the last three books which, as you know, suck. In particular I think this is the only painting I can think of of that utter asshole Arthegal and his murder machine Talus. According to wikipedia; In the 1770s Mortimer was associated with more masculine, and criminal, presentation of the male form after a period of more effete images. His painting Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice, with Talus, the Iron Man is used as an example of this style.

The Cave of Despair

Fidelia and Speranza

Una and the Lion
Everyone loves drawing that goddamn lion. Many of West's paintings are better than these. Check is patriotic stuff. There's one of an Anglo/American treaty (this was around the War of Independence)  where the Brits refused to stand so the painting remains incomplete.

Prince Arthur and the Faerie Queene
Fusilli did some excellent paintings of witches and murderers. If I've got this right, the painting above was done right around the start of his career, and the one below very close to his death.

People love painting Britomart kicking ass.

Britomart Delivering Amoretta from the Enchantment of Busirane 1824

The Flight of Florimell 1819
Remember how many guys were chasing Florimell? There were a whole bunch and she ended up knocking about for two whole books.

Britomart kicking ass again.

Britomart redeems Faire Amoret 1833
Etty really liked drawing hot people with amazing bods, often tied up. We can all respect that. Very nobly he didn't just draw hot girls tied up but also hot guys tied up and also wrestling; DIVERSITY.

Una Alarmed by FaunsWilliam Edward Frost (1843, lithograph by Thomas Herbert Maguire 1847).

For people who thought Etty was too much of a prude and shouldn't have wasted his time not painted hot girls ever, his follower Frost was ready to take over, and ONLY paint hot naked chicks.

Sir Guyon with the Palmer Attending, Tempted by Phaedria to Land upon the Enchanted Islands


Palmer was another guy who was almost forgotten after his death, only to be rediscovered later. I get the sense that a lot of these 19th Century painters were not well liked by the generations that directly followed them.

The Red Cross Knight Overcoming the Dragon
Watts was a very big deal at the time. I think this is on a wall in Parliament.  He planned a Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice to commemorate the courage of ordinary people. A highly Victorian project, made more Victorian by the fact that he died doing it.

Una and the Red Crosse Knight

I don't know if this is the same Mammon as in the Faerie Queene but he looks damn AMAZING so I snuck him in anyway.

Una and the Lion 1860
I think this is my preferred painted Una.

So Cheltenham Ladies College has an entire set of stained-glass windows with various Britomart scenes in them, called the 'Britomart Windows' and I cannot get good photos of them anywhere. 

Thompson and Shields both had their own careers and collaborated on the windows.

Una and the Lion 1880
Apparently this guy just loved painting animals.

Acrasia in the Bower of Blisse 1888
Acrasia was hotter in the poem. But then the whole bower of bliss situation is borderline-porn anyway. The illustrators generally tone down the sex stuff.

The Golden Thread
This isn't specifically from the FQ but it does reference a line right at the end where Jove is talking to MVTABILITY.

Britomart and Amoret 1898
Mary F Raphael brings us to the borders of the 20th Century with a scene that pretty much every commentator I could find thinks is deliberately gay as hell. I couldn't find a Wiki for Raphael, and this is the latest painting of the Faerie Queene I could discover.

Next; the illustrators, going back to William Kent, then hopping forwards.

And after that, we are all free of this. I promise.


  1. "I get the sense that a lot of these 19th Century painters were not well liked by the generations that directly followed them."

    This was no accident, and it had nothing to do with the quality of their work.