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Edward Reginald Frampton (1870-1923)

Our Lady of Promise (La Madonna di Promessa)

Edward Reginald Frampton (1870-1923)
Our Lady of Promise (La Madonna di Promessa)
signed and inscribed 'Our Lady of Promise'/E. Reginald Frampton 1 Brook Green Studios Brook Green London W14 £600.00'
oil on canvas
50 x 46 in. (127 x 117 cm.)
with Dicksee & Co., Liverpool, 1915.
with Dicksee & Co., Glasgow, 1917, no. 850.
Aymer Vallance, 'The Paintings of Reginald Frampton, R.O.I.', The Studio, no. 75, 1919, p. 72, illus. in colour facing p. 68.
London, Royal Academy, 1915, no. 1147.
Paris, Salon, 1921.
Nottingham, City of Nottingham Art Museum, Special Exhibition, 1922.
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Lot Essay

The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1915 (the Italian form of the title appearing in the catalogue), and is discussed and illustrated in the article on Frampton by Aymer Vallance that was published in the Studio four years later. Vallance describes it as 'a variant' of a slightly earlier work, The Gothic Tower, that was shown at the Royal Academy in 1913 and offered in these Rooms on 11 June 1993 (lot 97, illustrated in catalogue). 'In both paintings', he writes, 'the Madonna, with her Child, is seated in front of a lofty belfry-tower'. 'The broken classic columns' that are seen to the left and right of the Madonna in Our Lady of Promise 'are meant to symbolise the decay and ruin of the old paganism', while the Gothic tower represents 'the flourishing character of Christianity and its aspiring architecture. A slender tree beside the tower conveys the same message of vigorous growth'.

According to Vallance, the tower in Our Lady of Promise is 'a fairly literal rendering of the south-west tower of Rouen Cathedral, universally known as the Tour de Beurre' because it was erected either with 'the proceeds of market dues on the sale of butter' or with 'the money paid for indulgences to eat butter during Lent'. He might also have observed that the compositions of both pictures are indebted to Jan van Eyck's well-known drawing of St Barbara in the Museum at Antwerp. In this the Saint is seen seated in front of a Gothic tower that is being built to serve as the prison in which she is to be incarcerated by her father to protect her from the attention of importunate suitors.

As all this implies, there was a pronounced 'early Flemish' dimension to Frampton's later work. It is traceable again in A Maid of Bruges, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1919 (illustrated in The Last Romantics, exh. Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1989, cat. p. 100). He evidently shared the romantic attachment to Bruges that was felt by many Symbolists, perhaps finding its clearest expression in Georges Rodenbach's novel Bruges-la-Morte (1892) but also reflected in certain works by Fernand Khnopff and in Alfred Gilbert's retreat to this intensely picturesque old Flemish town following his bancruptcy in 1901.

In fact Frampton's art, which embraced not only easel pictures but mural painting and stained glass, was the product of many a love-affair with 'primitive' styles. As a young man he had travelled in Italy and studied the work of Puvis de Chavannes and Burne-Jones, whose retrospective exhibition at the New Gallery in 1892-3 struck him, according to Vallance, 'with the force of a revelation'. In later life he was moved not only by early Flemish painting but by the ethos of Brittany. His landscapes tell us that he travelled in this region, and it is clear that, like Gauguin and his followers a generation earlier, he responded both to its deeply religious character and to the local artistic tradition. Just as his Flemish sympathies are embodied in the two 'tower' pictures and A Maid of Bruges, so the Breton influence emerges in A Madonna of Brittany of 1911 (Bradford Art Gallery; illustrated in Vallance, p. 77) and Brittany 1914 of 1920 (Tate Britain), in which a French soldier and a Breton girl are seen praying at a wayside shrine. This last work is particularly interesting since it shows that his reponse to Breton culture was partly a product of the Great War, and no doubt this was also true of his identification with early Flemish art. However, the war cannot have been wholly reponsible since some of the pictures in question pre-date the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.

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