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The Eve of St Agnes

Photo credit: Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

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Hughes painted a large triptych of 'The Eve of St Agnes' in 1855–1856 (Tate Britain). This reduced version, on paper rather than canvas, was perhaps begun around the same time, but completed and exhibited in 1858. The triptych illustrates three episodes of Keats's poem of the same title. On the left, Porphyro is shown into Madeline's chamber by her nurse; in the centre, Madeline wakes from her dream and finds her imaginary lover is real; on the right, the pair escape from the castle. The panels are arranged like a medieval altarpiece. Holman Hunt had illustrated the last episode in a painting of 1848 (Guildhall Art Gallery), but Hughes's version shows a sensitivity to the text that is lacking in Hunt's.

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology





oil on paper on panel


H 26 x W 16 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by John Arthur Ruskin Munro, 1944

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The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

Beaumont Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2PH England

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