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Bertuccio’s Bride, Edward Robert Hughes - Description of the Painting



Bertuccio’s Bride - Edward Robert Hughes. Paper, watercolor. 100.3 x 76.2 cm


"Bertuccio’s Bride" by E. R. Hughes belongs to the genre of literary painting. The picture presents an episode of one of the novels by D. Straparola of the “Pleasant Nights” series.

There are two young men shown in the center of the scene, one of them standing proudly by a tree and leaning on a massive sword. His appearance and manner are aristocratic, but his attire is dilapidated, and he is barefoot.

The second one is luxuriously dressed. Standing on his knees, he presents the precious gifts to a strange nobleman. In the background of the painting, in the shade of the foliage, there is a bride in a wedding dress staring at this amazedly.

According to the story, the son of a notary, named Bertuccio, inherits a small fortune. While being expected by his mother to invest the money in a profitable business, Bertuccio spends some part of it on buying the body of the killed tradesman from the robber and on his worthy burial. The remainder of the funds he gives to the soldiers so that a young girl lost in the forest gets released. The subject young beauty turns out to be the king’s daughter.

When Bertuccio makes a decision to ask her to marry him, a mysterious rider comes to help and changes clothes with him. Once the welding is over, the young man presents royal gifts to the rider as a sign of gratitude. But the stranger does not accept gifts, since he turned out to be the spirit of the same killed tradesman, whose body was saved by Bertuccio. That is how, having expended his whole inheritance on the salvation of others, the good-hearted young man was subsequently rewarded by heavens with wealth during his lifetime and also cleared his soul for the future ascension to paradise.

The master of watercolor painting E. R. Hughes reproduces the drapery of fabrics with realistic accuracy, with the great attention paid to the tiniest details of the outfits of the characters. The gestures and poses of the characters clearly express their emotions. The scene is live and filled with motion and bright colors.

At the first exhibition, critics were not too flattering about this painting. Although the artist was praised for his high painting technique, he was accused of wasting his talent on depicting a little-known story.

In the opinion of “The Times” newspaper journalists, all the massive efforts to create the canvas have been in vain, as the depicted plot will be incomprehensible to the broad audience.

Despite the mixed feedback received, in the summer of 1895 "Bertuccio’s Bride" took one of the best places at the exhibition, where the paintings of the most outstanding members of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors are traditionally placed.
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