Artwork - Griselda\'s first Trial of Patience

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  • Title: Griselda\'s first Trial of Patience
  • Artist: Charles West Cope
  • Date: 1848--
  • Medium: Fresco painting
  • Categories: British history
  • Catalogue number: WOA 2882
  • Description: This illustrates a scene from Chaucer\'s \'Canterbury Tales\', The Clerk\'s Tale, Part III: Griselda\'s first Trial of Patience, the moment when the Marquis causes her child to be taken from her.

    Geoffrey Chaucer borrowed the story of patient Griselda, told as the Clerk\'s Tale in his Canterbury Tales, from Petrarch and Boccaccio. The Marquis of Saluzzo in northern Italy bends to the pleas of his people to marry. He selects Griselda, a peasant\'s daughter, extracting from her a promise of unquestioning obedience. In order to test her constancy, he has their recently born baby daughter taken away apparently to be put to death. Six years later, he repeats this exercise for their baby son. In both cases Griselda unwaveringly consents. The Marquis has the children brought up elsewhere; eventually they are restored to her. In the centre the disconsolate Griselda is shown with her attendants, next to the baby\'s empty cradle. The sergeant removes the child, a dagger in his hand. The Marquis observes from a window, and in the background can be glimpsed the towers of Saluzzo and the foothills of the Alps.

    This was one of the first paintings in the series to be completed in October 1848. Cope went on to paint many more murals in the palace of Westminster.

    Originally named the Poets Hall the Upper Waiting Hall was a hotbed of activity between 1848 and 1854 as six artists competed with each other to paint scenes from some of Britain\'s greatest literature. The Hall was a space in which artists without previous experience in the technique could develop and learn the medium of fresco whilst observed by the Fine Arts Commission. The artists were selected having displayed work in the Westminster Hall exhibitions. As a result of a number of technical problems, the paintings were subject to damage and decay to such an extent that in 1894 they were hidden from view behind wooden panelling. Conservation has since taken place saving the paintings and allowing them to once again be viewed and appreciated.

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