Yeames and his circle - Charles Landseer

Men in cavalier outfits stand around a table outside a farmhouse|

'The Eve of the Battle of Edgehill, 1642' 1845

Charles Landseer (1799 - 1879)

Oil on canvas, 141 x 213.7cm

Charles I held a council of war at Edgecote, about ten miles east of Edgehill on the day before the battle. The council was inconclusive because neither side knew where the other was. Indeed, they did not find out until that night when Royalist and Parliamentarian detachments both tried to find sleeping quarters in the same house at Wormleighton.

In this painting, Charles I stands immediately in front of the tree; Prince Rupert is seated; the Earl of Lindsey, the commander-in-chief, has his baton on the map; Sir Edmond Verney holds the king's standard as he did on the battlefield and the two young princes, the future Charles II and James II, play with a dog on the left. Landseer has tried to express the action by pose and gesture. Rupert's self-assurance is shown by having him seated, even in the presence of the king. The bitter rivalry between him and Lindsey is demonstrated by the apparent confrontation between them, which the king is mediating.

This painting is probably Landseer's masterpiece, but it received some criticism when first exhibited. It was felt that, although well painted and composed, it lacked drama. This is perhaps true, its technical brilliance let down by a timidity of expression.

The painting has an interesting history. Charles's more famous brother, Edwin Landseer, originally painted the two dogs. Edwin was especially noted for his animal portraits. The dogs from this painting were cut from the canvas for re-sale as separate works of art, probably by the dealer Henry Wallis in 1861. Replicas of the two dogs were painted by an unknown artist and put back in the canvas. Thus reconstructed, the work was sold anonymously at Christies 11 years later.

Examples of Edwin Landseer's animal paintings are on display at Sudley House|.