Sophie Anderson, 1870

WAG 110

About this object

Elaine fell in love with Sir Lancelot, one of King Arthur’s knights. He abandoned her in favour of Queen Guinevere. Elaine died of unrequited love and here her faithful servant is rowing her to King Arthur’s palace at Camelot. She is holding a lily, representing purity, and a letter expressing her undying love for Lancelot.

The artist’s source was Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’ of 1859 which popularised the Arthurian romances in Victorian England. It was unusual for a woman artist to paint grand history pictures such as this one as early as 1870. The reviewers at the time were predictably patronising, with one commenting: 'a very able work on a scale seldom attempted by a female artist, yet revealing no trace of weakness or technical immaturity'. It is noteworthy that Liverpool City Council was broad minded enough to select this major work by a female artist for purchase at the first Liverpool Autumn Exhibition.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Sophie Anderson (French, born:1823, died:1903-03-10)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Canvas; Oil paint
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 158.4 cm x 240.7 cm x 15.5 cm
  • Physical description
    A depiction of a young lady lying on a bier (a stand on which a corpse is placed to lie in state) which is placed on a rowing boat. She is covered with a decorative blanket and holds a lily in her hand. Her long red hair is draped over a pillow with Lancelot's shield hanging above her head. A man is seated in the front of the boat holding an oar in one hand and his head in the other. The boat is making its way along a river that is surrounded by trees.
  • Related people
    Sophie Anderson (Artist/maker, previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 110
  • Credit line
    Purchased from the LIverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1871
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 08
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • Sophie Anderson

    Owned from: 1870
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1871
    Disposal method: Sold to the Walker Art Gallery from the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: Sophie Anderson 1870
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right
Object view = Fine Art
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