… two favourites from The PreRaphaelite Room …


The star which dominates the room is The Prioress’s Tale Cabinet, designed by Philip Webb and decorated by Edward Burne-Jones. He gave it as a wedding present to William Morris on his marriage to Jane Burden in 1858. However I like to truffle out some of the more over looked pieces in this gallery – and discover their histories.

tortoise martinware oxford

For example, I didn’t know that the Martin Brothers, famous for their “Wally” birds which are now highly collectable, also produced a line in whimsical tortoises. Their distinctive modelling and finish is instantly recognisable. This salt-glazed stoneware is created with high temperatures firings and salt thrown into the kiln during the process. This piece is dated 1898 and I can’t find another in any saleroom catalogues. I like it … in a sort of screwed up, wincing kind of way.

rodin oxford thinker satan

The second piece, the dejected Satan, sits hiding in the middle of the room. (My image is a close up.) Exhibited in 1834, Jean-Jacques Feuchère‘s work was highly praised: ‘a personification, with plenty of verve and ardour, of the evil genius at odds with being powerless.’  With his wings folded around him, Satan gnaws on his fingers, plotting the next move. Curator of European Art at the Ashmolean, Matthew Winterbottom said when receiving the donation that: Feuchère’s Satan is one of the most forceful and expressive examples of brooding melancholy in Romantic art and is often seen as a precursor of Rodin’s Thinker.”

If you would like to know more about the Ashmolean, here’s their website.

Room image ©Ashmolean Museum