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Medieval Monday | A Story Inside a Painting

Welcome to Medieval Monday!

No matter how many times I view this watercolor painting hanging above my writing desk, I search for tiny details I might have overlooked. From the crushed flower on the stone step, the slight signs of facial hair on the knight’s face, or to the light filtering in through the arrowslit. Or is it a window?

What is happening here? Does the maiden turn away from the knight's ardent kiss out of fear or sorrow? Or is she saddened her knight must leave on a quest again? My mind begins to seek a story with this simple pose of an artist’s stroke.

I’ve had this particular framed picture for decades. When I’m unable to write, I’ll sit back and look at my couple. I set aside the original background story of these ill-fated lovers from different worlds, and I weave my own tale of a happy ever after.

Now for the original story…

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic Burton (1816 – 1900) are the subjects taken from a medieval Danish ballad translated by Burton’s friend Whitley Stokes. The painting tells the story of Hellelil, who fell in love with Hildebrand, a knight who was guarding her. Yet her father disapproved and ordered her seven brothers to kill the man.

The poet's sister Margaret Stokes later presented the painting to the National Gallery of Ireland.

As a lover of art, I do like to know the background, but often, I want to create my own interpretation before reading the historical information.

Do share your thoughts!

Don't forget to see if these Ladies of Medieval Monday have something to share as well:

Until next Monday, get lost in a medieval painting.


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