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Wilhelmus Conquistador (The Body of Harold)
painting

Brown, Ford Madox
Europe, France, Île-de-France, Paris
1844-1861

1907.9

oil paint
105.0 x 123.1 cm

More Details

The Body of Harold
brought before William the Conqueror 1844-61
Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893
Oil on canvas

Brown represents the end of the Battle of Hastings
as a monumental and muscular figure arrangement.
Harold's renowned physical bulk is emphasised
by the difficulty the Normans have in lifting him.
Holy relics hang around the Conqueror's neck.

At the bottom-left of the canvas
a Norman and a Saxon fight to the death:
one stabs the other in the back as his throat is bitten.
The landscape of Beachy Head, Sussex is in the distance.

In 1844 the work was shown in a competition,
held to commission large mural designs
for the newly-built Houses of Parliament.
Brown's design was not selected,
but he re-worked the painting and sold it in 1861.

Most of the winning designs have perished.
They were executed in the fresco medium,
which is painted onto wet plaster
and is more suited to the Italian climate than the British.
The project spelt the end for the Grand Style in Britain.

Purchased 1907.9