Hidden Meanings
Hidden Meanings

Femmes Fatales
Femmes Fatales

The Pre-Raphaelite Portrait


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Sandys and the Pre-Raphaelites
A Nightmare
A Nightmare

A Nightmare

When this caricature of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was published in 1857 the identity of the artist behind it was a mystery.

‘A Nightmare’ was based on Millais’ painting ‘A Dream of the Past; Sir Isumbras at the Ford’ which had been savaged by critics. It shows the three main members of the PRB – John Everett Millais as the knight, Dante Gabriel Rossetti the first child and William Holman Hunt the small child clinging at the back. They are riding a braying donkey who represents John Ruskin (‘JR’ appears on its fur) the influential art critic and champion of the PRB. Paint pots, feathers and brushes swing from the saddle whilst on the far shore the figure of Raphael, the painter most despised by the PRB, weeps.

The witty and rather nasty caricature took London by storm – everyone wanted to know whom the artist was - especially the PRB. Eventually the secret was discovered – a young painter from Norwich named Frederick Sands owned up.

It hardly seems likely that Sandys was to become a follower and friend of the PRB after this incident, but he was soon producing paintings in a Pre-Raphaelite style and becoming a regular figure at Pre-Raphaelite parties.

Text ©
Norwich Castle Museum
& Art Gallery

Image ©
William Morris Gallery
(London Borough of Waltham Forest)