Sir John Everett Millais, P.R.A.
- Sir John Everett Millais, P.R.A.
- Original Study for A Huguenot
- signed with monogram and dated 1852 l.r.
- pencil with watercolour wash
- 19 by 13cm., 7½ by 5in.
Possibly Mr Albert Wood of Bodlondeb, Conway by 1899;
Leggatt Brothers, London;
Herbert Young Esq. of ‘Arnprior’ 27 Montpelier Road, Ealing and thence in 1922 to his widow Mrs Helena Sarah Young, sold by her executors, Christie’s, 9 December 1933, lot 34 (with A Venetian Flower Girl by Luke Fildes), where bought by the grand-father of the present owner
CATALOGUE FOR THE GROSVENOR GALLERY, 1886
Perhaps second only in fame to the contemporary Ophelia (Tate), Millais’ A Huguenot, on St Bartholomew’s Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge (Makins Collection) is one of the great masterpieces of Pre-Raphaelite art. Relatively simple in composition, truthful in its depiction of nature and intense in romantic sentiment, it ‘was the first of a series of highly successful paintings that focus on the constraints placed on lovers in situations of civil conflict.’ (Jason Rosenfeld and Alison Smith, Millais, exhibition catalogue for Tate, 2007, p.94). It depicts a Catholic woman pleading with her Huguenot lover to protect himself from the slaughter of several thousand Protestants at the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of August 1572. She desperately entreats him and is attempting to bind a white cloth around his arm to identify him as a Catholic. He gently resists and looks tenderly into her face, silently showing that he would rather die than renounce his faith.
When the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy, it was accompanied by lines from Anne Marsh's The Protestant Reformation in France of 1851; 'When the clock of the Palais de Justice shall sound upon the great bell, at day break, then each good Catholic must bind a strip of white linen round his arm, and place a fair white cross in his cap.'
A Huguenot began as a faithful depiction from nature of an ivy-clad wall at the bottom of the garden of Worcester Park Farm near Cheam, in the later summer of 1851 when Millais was staying with William Holman Hunt. He originally intended to paint characters from a poem by Tennyson against the wall but Hunt dissuaded him, arguing that the subject was maudlin. It was not until Millais recalled a scene from act 5 of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots, in which a white armband is tied to the arm of Raoul de Nagis by Valentine, that he found his subject. Although the picture was inspired by the opera it was not intended to be a depiction of these lovers, but a more general study of the pathos. The model for the woman was a professional named Anne Ryan, whose hair Millais turned from raven-black to blonde. The Huguenot himself was based upon Arthur Lempriere the sixteen-year-old son of Millais’ friend William Charles Lempriere who lived at Ewell near Worcester park Farm.
The inscription on the frame of the present picture identifies it a study made before the oil painting, rather than a replica of which several are known. An undated oil replica made between 1852 and 1855 (Collection of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) which has a letter pasted to the reverse that reads ‘I have painted 2 or 3 watercolour drawings of it’. In his biography and survey of his father’s work of 1899 John Guille Millais listed three contemporary versions of A Huguenot, the primary oil, the oil replica (described as a ‘sketch’ and owned at that time by J. Pierpoint Morgan) and a ‘study’ owned by ‘Mr A. Wood’. He then lists two pictures under the year 1857 as ‘small copy’ (both owned by Gambart). One of these is probably that owned by Charles Langton (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford) whilst an oval replica of the heads was apparently made in 1860 (Fogg Art Gallery, Harvard University). The only listed watercolour dated 1852 was the one belonging to Albert Wood who also owned another of Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces The Blind Girl (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) and a version of The Eve of St Agnes. He made a fortune manufacturing anchors and cables at Saltney in Cheshire. He also owned Lear and Cordelia and Cromwell and the Vaudois (Nottingham City Art Gallery) by Ford Madox Brown and The Wounded Cavalier by William Shakespeare Burton (Guildhall Art Gallery, London).