Gladstone’s Lost Pre-Raphaelite Painting Emerges

An exquisite early Pre-Raphaelite painting, purchased by Prime Minister W.E. Gladstone from the Royal Academy exhibition in 1857, has been rediscovered and will go on show at the St James’s galleries of Bagshawe Fine Art as part of London Art Week (December 1-6).

The picture, a Shakespearian scene depicting Slender’s Wooing of Ann Page from The Merry Wives of Windsor, is the work of the tragically short-lived and hence almost completely unknown Adolphus Madot (1833?–1861). Madot, initially a Royal Academy student, had just begun to send a few works to the Academy for exhibition when he was struck with consumption and died while still in his twenties. Yet Slender’s Wooing of Ann Page, painted in 1856 and shown at the Academy the following year, demonstrates just how accomplished Madot had already become. Had he lived, he would surely have become an artist of considerable reputation.

Connoisseurs of the first phase of Pre-Raphaelitism will be quick to see how completely this young painter has absorbed the lessons of early Millais in particular. His picture is thus a fascinating addition to that rare and select group of English Pre-Raphaelite works of the 1850s painted in the spirit of the Italian quattrocento. That Gladstone, already a considerable connoisseur himself and a friend of Millais, should have bought this work by a young unknown artist, straight from its showing at the Academy, is endorsement enough of this tragic young artist of very great promise.