This is one of the earliest sketches for Brown's discarded triptych 'The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry.' The central panel of the triptych was a depiction of Chaucer reading to Edward III and his court. This was flanked by two wings filled with the figures of great English poets. He began studies for the painting whilst in Rome with his wife Elizabeth who was terminally ill with tuberculosis. However, after her death and on his return to England Brown realised the project was too big and abandoned the wings. The central panel went on to become 'Chaucer at the Court of Edward III' (1851, oil on canvas, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney). A small oil study for the triptych is now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. These life studies were for three figures in the wings. On the left is Byron holding a shield 'to symbolise his support for the Greek war of independance' (Wildman, 1993), Burns is in the centre and Shakespeare is on the left. The blockish simplicity of the nudes is unusual in Brown's oeuvre and suggests that he was inspired by the muscularity of the classical sculpture he saw in Rome. Between Byron and Burns is some faint, illegible writing which may be the name of the model who posed for Brown.LM

  • Purchased and presented by subscribers, 1906.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist Ford Madox Brown -


Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
Ford M Brown Rome/45
Signature and date bottom right Handwritten 1845 Also an illegible inscription in pencil between the left and middle figures.. Brown ink.


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
9 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 2008-08-27 - 2008-12-14


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Catalogue of the Permanent Collection of Drawings
A E Whitley 1939 Bemrose & Sons Ltd, Derby p. 32
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Laura MacCulloch, Tessa Sidey 2008 D. Giles Limited, London pp. 9, 64; repr. p. 47

Associated people

Name Type
Lord Byron Associated with
William Shakespeare Associated with
Robert Burns Associated with

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