Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus bu… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)

Alain Chartier Margaret of Scotland, Dauphine of France, one day discovered Alain Chartier, the poet, asleep. In the prescence of her attendants, she stopped and kissed his lips, saying, "Parce qu'elles avaient dit de si belles choses."

Details
Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)
Alain Chartier

Margaret of Scotland, Dauphine of France, one day discovered Alain Chartier, the poet, asleep. In the prescence of her attendants, she stopped and kissed his lips, saying, "Parce qu'elles avaient dit de si belles choses."

signed and dated 'E. BLAIR LEIGHTON, 1903' (lower left), and signed and inscribed 'Alain Chartier Margaret of Scotland, Dauphine of France, one day discovered Alain Chartier, the poet, asleep. In the presence of her attendants she stopped and kissed his lips, saying "Parce qu'elles avaient dit de si belle choses". E Blair Leighton 14, Priory Road Bedford Park W.' (on an old label on the reverse)
oil on canvas
63½ x 44 in. (161.3 x 111.8 cm.)
Provenance
H.R. Hill; Christie's, London, 4 February 1949, lot 73 (145 gns to Cassells).
with The Leger Galleries, London, February 1966.
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, London, 28 October 1982, lot 73 (£22,000).
Literature
Royal Academy Illustrated, 1903, p. 40.
Pall Mall Magazine Extra, 'Pictures of 1903', 1903, p. 63 illustrated.
Art Journal, 1903, pp. 168 and 174, illustrated.
Exhibited
London, Royal Academy, 1903, no. 311.
Special notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.
Post lot text
Fig. numbers refer to comparative illustrations in the printed catalogue.

Lot Essay

When this picture was exhibited in 1903, Royal Academy Notes published the following explanatory text: 'The Dauphine Margaret, eldest daughter of James I of Scotland kisses the poet's lips for the beautiful things they had said - "la praecieuse bouche de laquelle sont issus et sortis tant de bons mots et vertueses sentences". Alain Chartier (born at Bayeux about 1386, died 1458) was the most distinguished French man of letters of his time; he was secretary to Charles VII, arch-deacon of Nôtre Dame and envoy to the Scottish Court. Margaret of Scotland was married in 1436 at the age of twelve to the future Louis XI who was only a year older. It was an unhappy marriage, and she died in 1445 through grief at the slanderous imputation of Jamet de Villy, one of her courtiers'.

As charming as this story is, it is probable that it was a 19th-century invention. Dates of birth and death were rarely recorded in the 19th century and modern scholarship suggests that Alain Chartier lived between 1385 and 1433 (rather than 1458 as thought when our picture was painted). Margaret of Scotland is now thought to have lived between 1425 and 1445. As the date of her marriage to the Dauphin is clearly recorded as 1436, three years after Chartier's supposed death, it is even possible that they never met.

It is easy to see how such a fable might have originated however, for Margaret was known to be of a dreamy and romantic disposition, and Chartier was the original author of La belle dame sans merci, an allegorical love poem which was allegedly translated by Chaucer and included in early editions of his works. It inspired Keats to entitle a poem of the same name in 1819, which began 'O what can ail thee, knight at arms, Alone and palely loitering'. This verse which conjours up a medieval world of enchantment and knight errantry, inspired many artists. It describes the wasting power of love, when love becomes not a blessing but a curse. Rossetti, Waterhouse (fig. 2) and Dicksee all painted 'La belle dame sans merci', and it was no doubt the popularity of their pictures that led to a revival of interest in Chartier, Keats's original source.

The fable of Chartier's encounter with Margaret of Scotland, would have greatly appealed to Blair Leighton who in the four years before this picture was painted showed four works with medieval themes at the Royal Academy: A King and a beggar maid, (1898), God Speed, (1900), The Accolade, (1901), and The end of the song, (1902). All of these have appeared in Christie's Important British Art sales in the last two years, and all have been sold for substantial sums. The record for Blair Leighton currently stands at ¨£707,750) for God Speed, sold on 14 June 2000, lot 16.

Although not specifically Arthurian in subject matter, these pictures represent a late phase of the Victorian revival of the national legend in which such abstract concepts as religion, chivalry, generosity and mercy were given pictorial form. They were hugely popular among contemporary audiences and were widely reproduced: Blair Leighton's Times obituary noted that his pictures were 'in photogravure form, ... seen in so many homes'. Our picture is visually reminiscent of God Speed, both in the prominence given to the balustraded stone steps, surmounted by griffins, and the concentration given to the medieval costumes. In our picture the heroine wears a headress such as Blair Leighton might have seen in the Portinari altarpiece of Hugo van der Goes (fig. 3).
;

More from Important British & Irish Art

View All
View All