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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Romeo and Juliet” by Ford Madox Brown

"Romeo and Juliet" by Ford Madox Brown

“Romeo and Juliet” by Ford Madox Brown

“Romeo and Juliet” by Ford Madox Brown depicts the romantic and poignant moment in the early dawn on Juliet’s balcony when Romeo needs to depart from his love. Romeo has one leg over the balcony rail, with his foot woven into the rope ladder. His left arm and hand indicate his desperate need to depart before he is discovered. But his right arm continues to embrace his Juliet not wanting to end the embrace. Juliet holds him, fingers tightly grasping his body, not wanting to release her Romeo.

The Pre-Raphaelite artists revered Shakespeare’s work and “Romeo and Juliet” was just one of several characters from Shakespeare’s plays depicted by the Pre-Raphaelite. In the Pre-Raphaelite tradition, Madox Brown illustrates historically accurate early Italian Renaissance costumes together with intense attention to detail. The apple blossoms, are an example of the Pre-Raphaelites’ emphasis on close observation and depiction of the natural world.

Romeo and Juliet

This painting depicts the famous “balcony scene” from “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare about the two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare’s most popular plays during his lifetime and is one of his most frequently performed plays to this day.

In what is now called the “balcony scene,” Romeo sneaks into Juliet’s family orchard and overhears Juliet at her window. Juliet vows her love for him in spite of her family’s hatred of his family. Romeo then makes himself known to her, and they agree to be married.

“Romeo and Juliet” belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity. The plot is based on an Italian tale translated into verse in 1562 and retold in prose in 1567. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from these previous works but expanded the plot by developing several supporting characters.

“Romeo and Juliet” is one of Shakespeare’s most-illustrated works in art.

Ford Madox Brown

Ford Madox Brown (1821 – 1893) was a French-born British painter of moral and historical subjects, notable for his distinctively graphic Pre-Raphaelite style. Brown spent the latter years of his life painting the twelve works known as The Manchester Murals, depicting Mancunian history, for Manchester Town Hall.

Ford Madox Brown was married twice. His first wife died in Paris, aged 27, on a journey back to England from Rome. Emma Hill became a frequent model for Brown, six years after his first wife’s death. Emma became his mistress, and they shared a house in London, but social convention made him unable to marry an illiterate daughter of a bricklayer. After the birth of his first daughter, they were married.

Romeo and Juliet

  • Title:                    Romeo and Juliet
  • Artist:                  Ford Madox Brown
  • Date:                   1870
  • Medium:             Oil on canvas
  • Style:                   Pre-Raphaelite
  • Dimensions:        Height: 53.3 ″ (135.5 cm); Width: 37 ″ (93.9 cm)
  • Museum:            Delaware Art Museum

Ford Madox Brown

  • Name:            Ford Madox Brown
  • Born:              1821, Calais, Kingdom of France
  • Died:              1893 (aged 72), London, England
  • Nationality:     English
  • Notable works:

Pre-Raphaelites

The Pre-Raphaelites focused on painting subjects from modern life, and literature often used historical costumes for accuracy. They painted directly from nature itself, as accurately as possible and with intense attention to detail. The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their art, and published a periodical to promote their ideas.

The Pre-Raphaelites was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848. The group intended to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by the artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo, hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite.” The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colors and complex compositions of Pre-Raphaelite Italian art.

Exploring Pre-Raphaelite Art

Quotes from Romeo and Juliet

~~~

“But, soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
– Romeo

~~~

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
– Juliet

~~~

“That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.”
– Juliet

~~~

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
– Juliet

~~~

“Under loves heavy burden do I sink.”
– Romeo”

~~~

“But, soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
– Romeo

~~~


Photo Credit: Ford Madox Brown [Public domain]

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