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Description: orlando signed with monogram AHughes u.r. beneath the mount, oil over pencil on board, shaped top 20 by 9 cm.; 8 by 3 1/2 in. This oil sketch by Arthur Hughes shows Orlando carving the name of his beloved Rosalind on the trunk of a tree, as described in Act 3, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It. The painting is unrecorded in the modern literature, but may be identical with the work sold at Christie's in 1937 (see provenance below). It is to appear as no. 15.2 in Leonard Roberts's forthcoming catalogue raisonne of Arthur Hughes's paintings. Hughes's interest in the Shakespearian theme dates back at least as far as the spring of 1854, for on 13 March of that year George Price Boyce described the artist working on a subject from As You Like It in the studio of D.G. Rossetti: 'A young man of the name of Hughes was painting a picture of Orlando inscribing his mistress' name on a tree. Parts nicely painted.' (The Diaries of George Price Boyce, edited by Virginia Surtees, 1980, p. 12) In 1911 Hughes himself recalled how at this time he had 'painted with much care a background for an ''Orlando and Rosalind,'' but wiped out the figures before they were completed and substituted modern lovers, and called the picture ''The Long Engagement''. (Letters to William Allingham, edited by H. Allingham and E. Baumer Williams, 1911, p. 299) The Long Engagement is now in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery. The question remains which painting by Hughes of this subject Boyce actually saw in 1854. Boyce seems to describe a single-figure composition, while Hughes indicates that the subject he worked up as The Long Engagement always showed two figures. In his catalogue entry for this last painting in the Tate Gallery Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of 1984, Leslie Parris speculated about the possibility of 'Hughes having painted two ''Orlando'' pictures' (The Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, 1984, p. 171), and if this was the case the present sketch must be related to the alternative, single-figure, composition. A painting in oil on panel, entitled Amy and showing a single figure of a young woman looking at her name carved on a tree, also now in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, may derive from Hughes's experiments with the single-figure treatment. Provenance: Sidney Morse (?); Christie, London, 19 March 1937 (part of lot 110, identified as 'Orlando by Hughes) (?); Private collection. We are grateful to Leonard Roberts for his kind assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.
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Victorian Paintings

March 27, 1996, 12:00 AM EST

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