These four roundels provide an intriguing instance of an artist mediating between various artistic discourses, fusing elements of Pre-Raphaelitism, Arts and Crafts, with an aestheticism inspired by the Book of Hours.
An enigmatic figure whose work rarely appears on the market, Stanley North was a painter, illustrator, stained glass designer and professional restorer. The son of a London omnibus driver, North flamboyantly claimed aristocratic origins, and was from all accounts an individual of great charm. He was also a highly talented and disciplined worker with wide-ranging interests, and was appointed to 'Keeper of the King's Pictures', a role later made famous by Sir Anthony Blunt.
Uncompromisingly modern in so many respects, North nevertheless celebrated antiquarian traditions in his paintings, as can be seen in the present lot: the four roundels are sophisticated amalgams of old and new. The narrative depicted appears to be generic rather than relating to a specific text, although North was evidently inspired by the courtly love tradition, exemplified by English language texts such as Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and Spenser's Renaissance epic The Faerie Queene. We can read the narrative chronologically, as a tale of courtship: a princess arriving at a new city with her maid, becoming acquainted with the resident prince, accepting his hand in marriage, and finally joining him at the wedding feast. The princess on a unicorn provides a whimsical gloss on the ideal bridal car.