An image of Chaucer at the court of Edward III

Ford Madox Brown

(England 16 Apr 1821 – 06 Oct 1893)

Chaucer at the court of Edward III

Other titles:
Geoffrey Chaucer reading the "Legend of Custance" to Edward III and his court, at the palace of Sheen, on the anniversary of the Black Prince's forty-fifth birthday
19th c European art
Further information

Though never officially a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, this colleague of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris was, by inclination and practice, sympathetic to the realist ambitions of the movement. Born in Calais, Madox Brown studied in Belgium and was influenced by the German Nazarene painters in Rome before his first liaison with Pre-Raphaelitism. Working with pure colours and clear contours on a dazzling white ground, and carefully composing his subjects from well-lit life, Brown achieved a sense of pageantry in this tableau. Its lower portions are especially immediate, an extensive cleaning having revealed the glorious condition of the original paintwork. Though Brown began his original composition in Rome, the final canvas was begun in London in 1847, and completed in 1851. Rosetti modelled for Chaucer, while others of the Pre-Raphaelite circle appear as supernumeraries. It was Brown's desire in this, surely one of the greatest modern British paintings in Australia, to encapsulate an historical moment: the birth of the English language in the person of Chaucer. The Tate Gallery in London possesses a replica of the work created by Madox Brown in 1856-68, exact in detail but much reduced in scale.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

oil on canvas
372.0 x 296.0 cm stretcher; 391.0 x 315.0 x 8.0 cm frame
Signature & date

Signed l.r., brown oil "F. MADOX BROWN". Not dated.

Purchased 1876
Accession number
Robert Dickinson, 1850-1855, London/England, [dealer] Sold to Dickinson for 85% of any future sale. Dickinson paid £20 on account to Madox Brown.
D.T. White, 1855-Nov 1863, [dealer] Failed to sell at unspecified auction, thence sold to White for £50. Brown retreived the painting from White, November 1863, in exchange for six paintings.
Ford Madox Brown, Nov 1863-Jun 1876, England, Purchased by the AGNSW from the artist 1876