Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites (part 3)
The first works with the mysterious monogram “PRB” appeared at exhibitions only in 1849. These were Lorenzo and Isabella by Milles, The Virginity of Mary by Rossetti, and Rienzi Hunt. The last picture is inspired by the novel of the same name by Bulwer-Lytton. Its full name: “Rienzi over the body of a murdered brother takes an oath to take revenge on tyrants.” Hunt chose this topic after the April beating of the Chartists, which he turned out to be an eyewitness, which made a huge impression on him. Hunt recalled: “Like almost all young people, I was inspired by the idea of freedom of that revolutionary time … I first wrote Rienzi’s face from one friend …. but I realized that it would be more accurate to take Gabriel (Rossetti) as a model … and, having cleaned the canvas, I made his portrait, giving him the strong character of a man of action. ” Rienzi’s murdered brother is written from Milles.
From the words of Hunt, it seems that the picture was painted in the open air with the degree of accuracy which, in his opinion, was the difference between the Pre-Raphaelite method. But the main mistake of the artist was the desire to fix both close and distant objects with equal clarity. This gave his things airless harshness, depriving them of spatial depth. The meticulous working out of every little thing in “Rienzi” is not yet as intrusive as in later paintings. Conquers the excitement and sincerity of the feelings of the heroes, outraged by the unjust structure of the world, and some youthful angularity of their movements.
Beginning artists decided not to resort to the help of professional sitters, which often made academic paintings look alike. They thought that it’s easier to convey the similarity if you portray well-known and close people, especially since it was cheaper. All characters are written from real people in Lorenzo and Isabella, the first Milles painting with the code “PRB”, carved in Isabella’s chair. For a twenty-year-old artist, the canvas was written quite well. The plot is taken from the poem of the remarkable romantic poet Keats. It tells of the villainous brothers who killed the poor lover of their sister Isabella.
The whole family gathered at the dinner table. Isabella is sitting modestly downcast to the right, and Lorenzo offers her a dish of orange oranges. She gently strokes her beloved dog, which the opposite brother kicks with her foot. No one pays attention to what is happening. The old man wiping his lips is written from the father of Milles, Isabella – from his sister-in-law, drinking from a glass – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lorenzo – perhaps William Rossetti or his handsome friend Deverell.
Skewered one after another, turned in profile, heads, as was customary in Italian art of the fourteenth century, seem flattened. People are too crowded: there are seven people on the right at the table, and four on the left, but the faces themselves are chosen well, and each is different in its own way. Sunlight fills the picture, falls on a golden damask wall with a large pattern typical of Italian Renaissance fabrics. But the pale sky behind the terrace balustrade is not at all Italian, but northern. The work does not yet have the unpleasant sharpness of local colors characteristic of the later things of the Pre-Raphaelites. It manifests the same youthful diligence as in “Rienzi”. Both paintings were shown in 1849 at an academic exhibition.
One Rossetti decided not to take risks, fearing a jury refusal, and exhibited his picture at the Free Exhibition, which opened a week earlier, where it was enough to pay for a place on the exposition. Rossetti was greeted as the dawn of a new school, praising her sincerity and seriousness. The works of Hunt and Milles met cooler. This was especially offensive to Hunt, who considered Rossetti his student. But the friendship of the members of the fraternity is still preserved.