Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus William Holman Hunt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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William Holman Hunt displays his love for nature in his painting, Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus. Like the rest of the Pre-Rapaelite Brotherhood, Hunt sought to be true to nature in every piece that he created.

This work of art is no exception and the artist is reputed to have made sure even the clothing of his models was painted using the real effects of natural sunlight in that setting.

The subject of Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus is taken from Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. The players in the scene painted by Hunt are, from left to right: Julia, Sylvia, Valentine and Proteus.

Julia is masked as a page. Sylvia is next to Valentine and kneeling to the furthermost right of the painting is a repentant Proteus who is enamoured with Sylvia. Sylvia is the daughter of the Duke of Milan. He can be seen with a gathering of supporters in the painting.

Hunt started to paint this scene in Knole Park, Seven Oaks, after which he started to chip away at the figures in his studio. It was important to him and the rest of the Pre-Rapaelite Brotherhood to make sure their paintings were accurate.

To this end he often travelled far in order to display the natural beauty of a setting. Sylvia was based on Elizabeth Siddal.

Also known as Lizzie Siddal, she was one of the most loved Pre-Raphaelite models and appeared in other paintings. Viewers cannot see her face in detail clearly in this picture.

Hunt received feedback from John Ruskin which caused him to repaint her later. Proteus is painted with the features of James Aspinal. He was a legal counselor and companion of Hunt. Valentine is based on James Lennox Hannay. Hunt did an oil piece related to this composition which is a part of the Makins Collection.

Hunt painted this piece outside in the Surrey field so that he could catch the normal light. Furthermore, since he grasped the Pre-Raphaelite guideline of truth to nature, the artist probably asked Elizabeth Siddal to wear that beautiful dress.

It blends beautifully with the colours in the natural setting. William Holman Hunt did several pieces which have a double meaning or convey some moral truth. Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus tells a story of many relationships intertwined. The painting was obtained by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 1887.