This is a drapery study 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 became 'Chaucer at the Court of Edward III' (1851, Art Gallery of South Wales, Sydney). A smaller oil study for the triptych is now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. This drawing is for the figure of Shakespeare who was one of the poets in the left wing of the triptych. He holds the masks of tragedy and comedy, symbolising his work as a playwright.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 London/47
Signature and date bottom right Handwritten 1847 Brown ink.


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. 64-65

Associated people

Name Type
William Shakespeare Associated with

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