Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus

Based on Shakespeare’s Two Gentleman of Verona, this was one of William Holman Hunt’s most successful paintings. Lizzie Siddal, one of my favorite Pre-Raphaelite models, modeled for Sylvia. We can not see her features in this image, though.  Hunt repainted them after criticism from John Ruskin.

Hunt painted this piece outdoors in the Surrey countryside in order to capture the natural light. And since he embraced the Pre-Raphaelite principle of truth to nature, I would love to know if Elizabeth Siddal actually wore that stunning embroidered gown we see her wearing in this painting. I’m inclined to believe that she did, knowing that Rossetti regularly collected jewelry and fabric for his models to wear and Millais had Lizzie wear an antique embroidered gown when she modeled for Ophelia.

Lizzie Siddal as Sylvia
Hunt repainted Lizzie’s face, so this is not an original representation

5 thoughts on “Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus”

  1. ‘Tis a most beautiful painting, Stephanie, and the gown seems to be springing from the ground itself, methinks… Gifts offered from the heart have a staying power in our memory, just like the homemade card…

  2. The most comprehensive and very well thought out write up I have found on this subject on the net. Keep on writing, I will keep on coming by to read your new content. This is my fourth time coming by your blog.

  3. The background landscape was painted in Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent – not in Surrey. (See Fredeman, OUP 1975, and the catalogur to the Tate exhibition of 1984)

    • Thank you and I believe you are correct. I just took a quick glimpse at Elizabeth Prettejohn’s The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites and the background was painted in Sevenoaks. Perhaps I was thinking of The Hireling Shepherd? Wasn’t that painted in Surrey?


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