The subject of this remarkable oil painting by Simeon Solomon is somewhat ambiguous. Previously sold as the winged messenger Mercury, the symbolism here is more Christian than mythological. There is a related drawing of an armed figure holding a banner decorated with a chalice which Solomon titled The Knight of the Lord's Passion, although in the drawing the banner also shows the nail, spear of destiny and crown of thorns which are the Instruments of the Passion of Jesus, and it is perhaps these to which the title refers. Solomon must also have taken inspiration from The Order of the Passion of Christ, a French knighthood order which was founded by King Richard II of England and his father-in-law, King Charles VI of France. The order was intended to take a Crusade of over one hundred thousand knights to the Holy Land, in the biggest Crusade in history, although it was an ambition rather than a reality. The Order was, however, well documented, and it is very possible that Solomon, with his interest in medieval knights, may well have known about it. Compositionally, the stylised, Symbolist profile view of the head is typical of Solomon’s work in the 1880s and 1890s.
We are grateful to Colin Cruise for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.