‘Chaucer at the Court of Edward III’, by Ford Madox Brown

Dublin Core


‘Chaucer at the Court of Edward III’, by Ford Madox Brown


Alice Perrers (1348-1400), anniversary, art, artwork, birthday, Black Prince (1330-1376), Court, Custance, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Edward III (1312-1377), English language, Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400), history painting, jester, John of Gaunt (1340-1399), knight, ‘Legend of Custance’, Lute, palace of Sheen, poetry, Pre-Raphaelite, reading, royalty, troubadour.


This large oil on canvas history painting by Victorian artist Ford Madox Brown was purchased (directly from the artist) by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1876. Subtitled “Geoffrey Chaucer Reading the ‘Legend of Custance’ to Edward III and his Court, at the Palace of Sheen, on the Anniversary of the Black Prince’s Forty-Fifth Birthday”, the painting depicts Geoffrey Chaucer reading aloud to King Edward III and his Court. In addition to Chaucer and Edward III, other fourteenth-century figures featured in the painting include the King’s two sons, Edward the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, and his mistress Alice Perrers. The figure of Chaucer has been modelled on the famous Pre-Raphaelite and Brown’s close friend, Dante Gabriel Rosetti. However, scholars have noted the lengths to which Brown went to ensure historical accuracy in both costuming and facial resemblances, which included consulting and purchasing antiquarian volumes on medieval furniture and dress and also visiting tombs and effigies (see, for example, Angela Thirwell, Tim Barringer & Laura MacCulloch, Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite, D. Giles, 2008). Chaucer was a common subject for Ford Madox Brown (and the nineteenth-century medieval revival more generally) on account of his prominent role in popularising the English language (over French and Latin) and his widely-held reputation as the ‘Father of English poetry’. This enabled the Victorians, Velma Bourgeois Richmond has argued, to revere him as a Protestant hero, because “the development of the English language was crucial to breaking the hold of the Catholic Church by the clergy and to the formation of national identity” (Velma Bourgeois Richmond, “Ford Madox Brown’s Protestant Medievalism: Chaucer and Wycliffe”, Christianity and Literature, Vol.54, Issue 3, Spring 2005, p.366). The image was originally designed as the central panel in a triptych entitled The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry, and was to be flanked by portraits of famous poets such as Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare and Burns.


Ford Madox Brown


The Art Gallery of New South Wales




The Art Gallery of New South Wales


Oil on Canvas, 372cm x 296cm