About this object

This painting marked Millais’s departure from the original principles explored by the Pre-Raphaelites. He moved away from a truthful representation of nature and experimented with more painterly surfaces and theatrical compositions.

At the Royal Academy the painting was exhibited with lines of poetry by the playwright and critic Tom Taylor (1817-80). His poem described how the old knight ‘Sir Ysumbras’ was persuaded to let two children ride with him. 'A Dream of the Past' was satirised by the artist Frederick Sandys in an engraving entitled 'A Nightmare'. Millais, alongside fellow Pre-Raphaelites Rossetti and Hunt, is shown riding a long-eared donkey recognisable as John Ruskin.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
    Sir Isumbras at the Ford
  • Artist(s)
    John Everett Millais (British: English, born:1829-06-08, died:1896-08-13)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Oil paint; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 125.5 cm x 171.5 cm; frame: 160.5 cm x 205.5 cm x 16.5 cm
  • Physical description
    A knight wearing armour rides on a horse. He has two children with him, a young girl who sits in front him and a young boy who sits behind him. They are crossing a river. There is a bridge visible in the background behind the knights' shoulder and two nuns can be seen strolling beside the water on the right.
  • Related people
    William Hesketh Lever (Previous owner) ; John Everett Millais (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    Accession Number: LL 3625
  • Credit line
    Purchased by William Hesketh Lever in 1913
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the Lady Lever Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • William Hesketh Lever

    Owned from: 1913
    How acquired: Purchased from Christie's through Gooden
    Owned until: 1925
    Disposal method: Lady Lever Art Gallery


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: 18JM57
    Inscription method: Monogram
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location:
Object view = Fine Art
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