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Interview of Edgar and Elfrida after her Marriage to Athelwold

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1770 - 1771 (exh at RA)

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

1537 x 2146 mm (60 1/2 x 84 1/2 in)

Place of origin

England

Order this image

Collection

Saltram, Devon (Accredited Museum)

NT 872179

Caption

According to legend, King Edgar sent his favourite servant, Earl Athelwold, to meet his intended bride Elfrida (daughter of Ordgar, Earl of Devonshire). Athelwold was smitten and immediately married her himself. He told Edgar that she was no beauty but the King’s suspicions were aroused and he decided to pay her a visit. He was so angry at being deceived and she at being denied the opportunity of marrying a king, that he killed Athelwold. Elfrida became Queen and was the mother of King Etheldred II. When this painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1771, it was said to have raised Angelica Kauffman’s reputation to the highest point. Ironically, the artist was reportedly not able to sell it for some time; it was bought by John Parker, later Lord Boringdon, by August 1775.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Interview of Edgar and Elfrida, after her marriage to Athelwold by Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807). Elfrida stands on the left, with her attendants one of whom holds a curtain aside and reveals her to King Edgar who is accompained by two courtiers and a dog. According to the legend, Edgar the Peaceable in 963, sent his favourite and most trusted Earl Athelwold to meet Edgar’s intended bride Elfrida, the daughter of Ordgar the Earl of Devonshire. On meeting Elfrida, Athelwold was smitten with her beauty and married her. The scene painted shows the moment when King Edgar, suspicious, arrives at their castle in Devon to meet Athelwold's wife and is angry at being deceived by his trusted servant who claimed she was no beauty. She was also angry at being denied the opportunity of marrying a king. Later on a hunt in the Harewood Forest, Edgar kills Athewold and marries Elfrida, who becomes Queen and subsequently the mother of King Etheldred II, having killed Edgar's first son by his first marriage, Edward 'the Martyr' after his death.

Provenance

Commissioned by an unknown client, but reportedly 'left on the artist's hands', and bought by John Parker, later Lord Boringdon, before August 1775;thereafter by descent;accepted by HM Treasury in part payment of death-duties from the executors of Edmund Robert Parker, 4th Earl of Morley (1877-1951) and transferred to the National Trust in 1957

Credit line

Saltram, The Morley Collection (accepted in lieu of tax by HM Government and transferred to the National Trust in 1957)

Makers and roles

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), artist

References

Lady Victoria Manners and G. C. Williamson, Angelica Kauffmann, 1924, p.38 Boerner 1979 C.G. Boerner, Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1810) und ihre Zeit: Graphik un Zeichungen von 1760- 1810, Neue Lagerliste 70, Dusseldorf 1979, no.68 Irwin 1968 D. Irwin, Burlington Magazine, CX, 1968, p.534 , -this was the first occasion on which a 'medieval' as opposed to classical historical picture was exhibited in London

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