La Belle Yseult

Dublin Core


La Belle Yseult


Art, Arthurian, Arthurian legend, Arthurian romance, Béroul, chivalry, Cornwall, Iseult, Isolde, Isolt, John Bedford (1823-1886), knight, legend, Mark, medieval poetry, nostalgia, Pre-Raphaelite, romance, Tristan, Tristram, ‘Tristram and Iseult’, Tristran, Tristrem, Victorian, Yseult


This oil on panel painting, by English artist John Bedford, is held by the National Gallery of Victoria. Dating from 1863, the painting depicts a woman with long flowing hair wearing a blue medieval style dress and a garland of flowers. The title identifies her as Yseult, from Béroul’s late twelfth-century medieval romance ‘Tristram and Iseult’. The story of Tristram and Iseult is a tale of adulterous love between Tristram, a Cornish Knight, and Yseult, the Irish bride of his uncle - King Mark. Bedford’s choice of medieval subject matter is typical of the mid- nineteenth century, and was popularised especially by the Pre-Raphaelites in the 1850s. However, it also fits with a wider Victorian tendency to romantically view and revive the Middle Ages as an idyllic alternative to the drastic changes experienced in both lifestyle and the British landscape during the Industrial Age. As Malcolm Warner suggests, “Medieval history and legend, above all the adventures of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, provided both escape and inspiration to an age in which, for all its successes, there seemed so few certainties to act upon, so little occasion for real heroism, such a lack of romance and glamour in life” (Malcolm Warner, The Victorians: British Painting, 1937-1901, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1996, p.31).


Bedford, John


National Gallery of Victoria




National Gallery of Victoria


Painting - oil on wood panel, 35.4 x 27.9cm;

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“La Belle Yseult,” Medievalism in Australian Cultural Memory, accessed June 20, 2021,