In 1845 Ford Madox Brown was in Rome having brought his wife to a gentler climate for health reasons. Inspired by competitions back in England to redecorate the Houses of Parliament in a medieval style, and the nineteenth-century Northern Italian tradition of venerating literary figures, Brown came up with the idea of painting a triptych in honour of English poetry. The original design was to have a central scene of Chaucer reading to Edward III and his Court and two side wings filled with the figures and names of famous British poets. In the end the wings were abandoned as the project had become to big to complete. This is one of two very early compositional studies for the central panel at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Many of the figures in this early drawing appear in the final painting and it is interesting to see how soon Brown had settled on a composition. On the back of the drawing is a sketch for the figure of Milton for the left wing and two tomb designs which are likely to be designs for the headstone of his wife Elizabeth who died in 1846 shortly after Brown made this drawing.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/4[5]
Signature bottom right Handwritten 1845 The date has been cut off but it is highly likely to be 1845 as Brown was in Rome that year and this is the earliest of two preparatory sketches for 'Chaucer at the Court of Edward III' (the other is 1906P681).. Brown ink.


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
The Exhibition of Works by Ford Madox Brown
190 (?) Grafton Galleries, London 1897 - 1897


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
The Exhibition of Works by Ford Madox Brown
1897 Grafton Galleries, London p. 49
City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Catalogue of the Permanent Collection of Drawings
A E Whitley 1939 Bemrose & Sons Ltd, Derby p. 31
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Laura MacCulloch, Tessa Sidey 2008 D. Giles Limited, London p. 64

Associated people

Name Type
Geoffrey Chaucer Depicted
The Black Prince Depicted
King Edward III Depicted
John of Gaunt Depicted

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