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Portrait of Adelaide Bedingfeld
portrait of adelaide bedingfeld


Oil on oak panel.
42.6 x 33.8cm

Portraits of Adelaide Bedingfeld and her husband Philip were both begun by Sandys in 1859, soon after he became friends with the Pre-Raphaelites and began to work in a similar style to them.

Typically of a Pre-Raphaelite picture, it is painted as realistically as possible and is bright and full of light. Pre-Raphaelite painting was extremely fashionable at the time and this may explain why Adelaide choose Sandys to paint her portrait rather than another more conventional artist.

Sandys had a great ability to glamourise people. Here, Adelaide looks more like a romantic heroine than the wife of a south Norfolk J.P.!

The castle in the background suggests a legend or story in which she is a princess, whilst the bay leaves on her head hint at a symbolic meaning. Adelaide is surrounded by bushes of bay leaves, blue irises and red columbines - these symbolise the biblical seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and virginity, suggesting that this was a wedding portrait. In fact, the landscape is Italy, where the Bedingfelds had just spent their honeymoon. The wreath could also be a whimsical reference to the Roman practice of crowning victors with laurels. Adelaide is perhaps telling us that she is a victor in having snared Philip as a husband!

Museum number  NWHCM : 1942.26.2 : F

Image ©
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery