- Museum number
A woman in flowing drapery riding side-saddle (right) a knight on horseback holding sword and shield to her left: A scene from Spenser's 'Faerie Queene,' 1790.
Graphite, pen and brown ink
- Production date
Height: 219 millimetres
Width: 306 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The drawing is mounted on laid paper with a border (handpainted and ruled) in black and brown tones.
It has been sold under the title 'Florimel on her Palfrey' from Book III, Canto V of Spenser's 'Faerie Queene' (circa 1590). The poem was written in honour of Queen Elizabeth I and illustrates twelve different virtues through the adventures of twelve knights. Book III, Canto V explores the virtue of chastity through by Florimel who rejects all suitors due to the constancy of her love for the Knight, Marinell.
However, the details of the drawing suggest it is based on the First Canto of the 'Faerie Queene':
"A gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Ycladd in mightie armes and a silver shielde
Wherein old dints of deepe woundes did remaine
The cruel markes of many a bloody fielde;
Yet armes til that time did he never wield;
His angry steed did chide his foaming bitt,
As much disdaining the curbe to yield;
Full iolly Knight he seemd and faire did sitt
As one for knightly guistsand fierce encounters fitt.
And on his brest a bloodie crosse he bore
The deare remembrance of the dying Lord."
"A lovely ladie rode him faire beside
Upon a lowly asses more white than snow-
Yet she much whiter; but the same did hide
Under a vele that wimpled was full low;
And over all a black stole shee did throw,
As one that inly mournd; so was she sad,
And heavy sate upon her palfrey slow;
Seemed in heart some hidden care she had;
And by her, in a line, a milk white lamb she lad."
This drawing was acquired from the collection of John Christian which included two impressions of an etching of the same subject by Percy Jacomb-Hood 2019,7015.227 and 2019.7015.228.
Label text from, John Christian: Collecting the Last Romantics, 2019:
Richard Cosway (1742-1821)
Scene from Spenser’s Faerie Queene, 1790
Graphite pen and brown ink
This drawing closely follows the text of Book I, Canto I of Edmund Spenser’s epic poem written in 1590 in honour of Elizabeth I and illustrative of knightly “virtues.” In this case, the knight is described as riding his “angry steede” beside a veiled lady on a white donkey who leads a “milk-white lamb” beside her.
This work from the 1790s may have interested Christian as a forerunner to the 19th century fascination with knights and chivalry.
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the John Christian Collection and allocated to the British Museum, 2019
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2019 Sept 3- Nov 12, London, BM G90A, John Christian: Collecting the Last Romantics.
- Badly discoloured paper, otherwise in good condition.
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Faerie Queene
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- John Christian did not retain an invoice related to this drawing. However, his files contain a handwritten note which states that a large batch of Richard Cosway's drawings were acquired by Commander Gerald Barnett from the Cosway Foundation at Lodi and subsequently sold to DS Lavender, Bob Wood and Alec Stirling. John Christian notes that this drawing was purchased from Bob Wood, "having seen it when Alec [Stirling] took me there about 2001."
Acquired by the British Museum in a plastic case with with a typewritten a label with the following information: "1155A, B2201 Florimel riding her Palfrey (Spenser's Faerie Queen, Book III, Canto V.") A photograph of the label has been retained with John Christian's file on Richard Cosway.
This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
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