Information

In 1856, on Rossetti's recommendation, the wood engravers George and Edward Dalziel asked Brown to design an illustration to Byron's poem 'The Prisoner of Chillon', for an anthology edited by the Rev. R. A. Willmott, 'The Poets of the Nineteenth Century'. Brown was a lifelong admirer of Byron, and had already painted the subject in 1843. The stoical hero of the poem is imprisoned in a dungeon with his two brothers, each chained to a column, and is forced to watch both die.To make his illustration as realistic as possible Brown asked his friend John Marshall, an assistant surgeon at University College Hospital, London, to arrange access to a cadaver. Brown spent two days making this study of the dead body, arranging the corpse as he wanted it, even including a rope to stand in for the chain that ties the dead brother to the wall. On 13 April 1856 he described the sombre task in his diary: 'Out shopping, then to University hospital to ask John Marshall about a dead boddy [sic]. He got the one that will just do. It was in the vaults under the dissecting room. When I saw it first, what with the dim light, the brown & parchment like appearance of it & the shaven head, I took it for a wooden imulation [sic] of the thing. Often as I have seen horrors I really did not remember how hideous the shell of a poor creature may remain when the substance contained is fled. Yet we both in our joy at the obtainment of what we sought declared it to be lovely & a splendid corps [sic]. Marshall evidently loves a thing of the kind.'The next day he finished the study noting with a sense of macabre, 'draw the corps [sic] till ½ past 2. Got on quite merrily & finished it 2 hours sooner than was obligate on me. As I was going met Marshall who could not keep away from the sweets of the charnel house' (Virginia Surtees, ed., 'The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p. 137).In a rather macabre pursuit of Pre-Raphaelite truth to nature, Brown asked his friend John Marshall, an assistant surgeon at University College Hospital, London, to arrange access to a real corpse. 'Often as I have seen horrors', he confided in his diary, 'I really did not remember how hideous the shell of a poor creature may remain when the substance contained is fled. Yet we both declared it to be lovely & a splendid corpse.'LM

  • Bequeathed by James Richardson Holliday, 1927.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Makers

Association Artist Organisation
Artist Ford Madox Brown -

Inscriptions

Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
FMB University Hospital / Study for prisoner of / Chillon / from Corpse FMB
Notes bottom right Handwritten 1856 Pencil.
 

Exhibitions

Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893
78 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1964 - 1964
 
-
- Malvern Further Education College 1966-06-15 - 1966-07-11
 
Death, Heaven and the Victorians
47 Brighton Museum & Art Gallery 1970 - 1970
 
Byron
S25 Victoria and Albert Museum 1974-05 - 1974-08
 
Lord Byron
- Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna 1988-08-06 - 1988-10-31
 
Visions of Love and Life: Pre-Raphaelite Art from the Birmingham Collection, England
37 Seattle Art Museum 1995-03-09 - 1995-05-07
37 Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio 1995-05-27 - 1995-07-16
37 Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington 1995-08-11 - 1995-10-15
37 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas 1995-11-04 - 1996-01-02
37 High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia 1996-01-23 - 1996-04-10
37 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1996-05-25 - 1996-09-29
 
The Quick and the Dead: artists and anatomy
37 Royal College of Art 1997-10-28 - 1997-11-24
37 Mead Gallery 1998-01-10 - 1998-03-14
37 Leeds City Art Gallery 1998-03-28 - 1998-05-24
 
Exposed: The Victorian Nude
114 Tate Britain, London 2001-11-01 - 2002-01-27
114 Haus Der Kunst, Munich 2002-02-18 - 2002-05-26
 
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
34 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 2008-08-27 - 2008-12-14
 

Literature

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.42
 
Ford Madox Brown 1820-1893
1964 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool p. 43
 
Byron
1974 Victoria and Albert Museum, London repr. pl.81
 
Lord Byron
1988 Biblioteca Classense, Ravenna repr. Fig 103
 
Visions of Love and Life: Pre-Raphaelite Art from the Birmingham Collection, England
Stephen Wildman 1995 Art Services International p. 150-51
 
The Quick and the Dead: artists and anatomy
Deanna Petherbridge 1998 Cornerhouse Publications, London pp. 14-15
 
Exposed: the Victorian nude
Alison Smith 2001 Tate Publications p. 188; repr. p. 188
 
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Laura MacCulloch, Tessa Sidey 2008 D. Giles Limited, London pp. 57, 68; repr. p. 35

Associated people

Name Type
Lord Byron Character created by

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