- Museum number
Study of armour for the painting 'Warwick Castle'; study of upper half of German sixteenth-century suit of armour viewed from behind. 1860
Brush and watercolour with bodycolour over graphite
- Production date
Height: 252 millimetres
Width: 348 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The painting, now lost, was exhibited at the summmer exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1861 (no.451) and was the artist's only historical composition executed in oil. According to Brett's diary, this was purchased by Thomas Edward Plint at the asking price of £420 before it was completed.There is a sketchbook inscribed 'Warwick Castle' in the National Maritime Museum, which suggest that Brett started work on it in the summer of 1859, after finishing 'The Hedger'. From June to November 1860 he was in Warwickshire and painted directly on the canvas in the open air between July and September, and then in a greenhouse. It depicted a knight crossing the river in a ferry boat with his squire, his lady love awaiting him on the opposite bank. Brett went to London to study the armour in London in October, when this drawing was made. The painting was intended to establish his reputation as an historical painter and to gain commercial success after the failure to sell 'The Val d'Aosta'. It was, however, not critically well received, and remained the only historical work he ever made.
One reviewer, in 'The Spectator', noted that "Mr.Brett, too scarcely holds his own in 'Warwick Castle' (451), where a medieval knight crosses the river in a ferry-boat propelled by his squire. His ladye [sic] love awaits him on the opposite bank. The evening sky is admirably painted. The effect is one very difficult to catch, but the painter has succeeded well. Generally speaking the picture would have borne greater solidity of treatment. How comes it, moreover, that the owner of the castle does not keep it in better repair? The knight, by the fashion of his armour, must have lived in the fifteenth century, while the building is represented as it now stands in the nineteenth [century]" (1 June 1861, p.587). 'the Athenaeum' reported: “Mr. J Brett’s ‘Warwick Castle’ (451), a view of that time-honoured and historic fortress, not as it might have been of old, but as it is now, disappoints greatly our expectations grounded on the artist’s former works, being rather dry and faint in execution; and, although clearly and carefully done, not so rich in colour and tone as it might have been. Surely Mr. Brett has committed an error in taste in showing the castle thus modern, while coming across the [River] Avon in a punt are a boatman, a knight in full armour, and a horse. The sky in this picture is softly luminous, and the grey half-tint, full of reflected light, which lies upon the building is admirably rendered” (‘Fine arts: Royal Academy’, The Athenaeum, 25 May 1861, pp.698-700 (698-9)).
The painting, which measured 39.5 x 49.5 inches, was last sold at Christie's London, 19 May 1919 (lot 118) for 16 guineas to Dale.
See the Penlee House Gallery and Museum exhibition catalogue: 'John Brett ARA (1831-1902): A Pre-Raphaelite in Cornwall' (2006), by Charles Brett and Michael Hickox, p.37; and see C. Payne, 'John Brett, Pre-Raphaelite Landscape Painter', Yale, 2010, pp. 64-5, and no. 369, p. 206.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 May-Sep BM, P&D, 'Paper Assets' (no cat.)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number