Sir John Everett Millais Bt. PRA, Tracing of a medieval Milanese noblewoman from Camille Bonnard's Costume Historique

Tracing of a medieval Milanese noblewoman from Camille Bonnard's Costume Historique, pre-1849

Attributed to Sir John Everett Millais Bt. PRA (1829 - 1896)

RA Collection: Art

These delicate drawings of figures in medieval dress were traced from Camille Bonnard's influential book Costume Historique (1829-30). Some editions of the book had coloured plates but most were black and white. These tracings were probably copied from a coloured edition although it is possible that they were traced from the monochrome illustrations and then coloured according to the commentary provided on each costume in the text.

In the late 1840s, Millais, and other members of the newly formed Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, used Bonnard's book to research appropriate historical costume, hairstyles and decorative details for their paintings. Several of Millais's early Pre-Raphaelite works - in particular Lorenzo and Isabella (1849; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (1849-50; Makins collection) - indicate that he used costumes and also poses from Bonnard's illustrations to create convincing medieval figures.

Further copies by Millais from Bonnard's book are in the Walker Art Gallery and in the ownership of the artist's family. However, the art historian Malcolm Warner has recorded an inscription by Millais's daughter, Alice, which states that the tracings were made not by Millais but by his father who was an amateur watercolourist. This is entirely plausible as Millais employed the help of friends and family to research costumes for his compositions throughout his life. Millais's parents were very closely involved with his work while he was a young student, living at the family home in Gower Street, London.

Further reading

William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, London 1905, vol I, p.61

Malcolm Warner, The Drawings of John Everett Millais, Exhib. Cat., Arts Council of Great Britain 1979 pp. 26-27

Roger Smith 'Bonnard's Costume Historique - A Pre-Raphaelite Source Book', Costume - The Journal of the Costume Society No. 7, 1973, p.28-37

Camille Bonnard, Costume Historique, Paris 1829-30

Mary Bennett, Artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle - the First Generation: Catalogue of Works in the Walker Art Gallery, Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley Art Gallery, London 1988, p.118-127

Barlow, Paul, Time Present and Time Past: The Art of John Everett Millais, Aldershot 2005, pp.9-10.

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Object details

Tracing of a medieval Milanese noblewoman from Camille Bonnard's Costume Historique
Attributed to Sir John Everett Millais Bt. PRA (1829 - 1896)
Object type
Pen and ink and watercolour (?) paint on tracing paper

20.8 cm x 13.5 cm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Mary, Lady Millais 1945

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