The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Ransom

Object Details


The Ransom


John Everett Millais (English, 1829 - 1896)






Oil on canvas

Object Number:



134 × 115.9 cm (52 3/4 × 45 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

An armored knight, still in his riding boots and accompanied by his page in mud-splattered stockings, seems to have hastily gotten off his horse to meet for this ransom exchange. The knight’s daughters embrace him while he tries to hand over precious jewels, but their arms are still being held by the kidnapper, whose plainer clothing contrasts with their finery. The page in a blue and white striped ensemble is watching closely and reaches into his purse, sensing that the kidnappers will demand more ransom. These characters—not based on any historical or literary source, but invented by the artist—dramatize a narrative through their expressive gestures and glances. The outcome still seems uncertain and even the dog looks expectantly at the central figures for the resolution of the story.

British artist John Everett Millais set this imaginary drama in the 1500s and looked to his family, friends, and surroundings to stage the painting. His wife Effie researched and made the period costumes; his friend Mr. Miller posed for the head of the knight; a railway guard named "Strong" was the model for the knight's body; and the two girls were painted from a single model, Helen Petrie. The tapestry in the background was based on a Flemish tapestry in the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) not far from the artist’s home.

1862 - possibly 1864

Gambart, probably purchased from the artist, 1862; sold to Charles P. Matthews, possibly 1864.

possibly 1864 - 1891

Charles P. Matthews (London, England; Essex, England) [sold, Matthews sale, Christie's, London, June 6, 1891, lot 90, through Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., to William Kenrick.]
Source: JPGM Paintings Department, curatorial files, letter from Agnew's (Aug. 18, 2000).

1891 - 1919

William Kenrick, 1831 - 1919 (The Grove, Harbourne, Birmingham, West Midlands, England), by inheritance to Wilfred Byng Kenrick, 1919.

1919 - still in 1947

Wilfred Byng Kenrick, 1872 - 1962 (Birmingham, England)

- 1963

Private Collection [sold, Christie's, London, February 15, 1963, lot 108, to Leger Galleries.]


Leger Galleries (London, England), sold to James Graham & Sons, probably with Victor D. Spark, 1963.

1963 - 1972

James Graham & Sons (New York, New York) and Victor D. Spark, American, 1898 - 1991 (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972.

Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts: MDCCCLXII. The Ninety-Fourth. (1862)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1862
Works of Sir John E. Millais, Bart., R.A. (1886)
  • Grosvenor Gallery (London), 1886
Exhibition of Works by the Late Sir John Everett Millais (1898)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1898
Loan Exhibition of Works by Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelites (September 14 to November, 1911)
  • City Art Gallery (Manchester), September 14 to November 1911
"The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" (1848-1862) (June 7 to July 27, 1947)
The Pre-Raphaelites (February 16 to May 31, 1964)
  • Herron Museum of Art (Indianapolis), February 16 to March 22, 1964
  • Gallery of Modern Art (New York), April 27 to May 31, 1964
Artists of Victoria's England (February 2 to March 14, 1965)
  • Cummer Gallery of Art (Jacksonville), February 2 to March 14, 1965
Millais, P.R.B., P.R.A. (January 14 to April 30, 1967)
  • Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, January 14 to March 5, 1967
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), March 15 to April 30, 1967
The Victorian Rebellion: A Loan Exhibition of Works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Their Contemporaries (September 12 to October 26, 1971)
  • Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences (Peoria), September 12 to October 26, 1971
The Revolt of the Pre-Raphaelites (March 5 to April 9, 1972)
  • Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami (Coral Gables), March 5 to April 9, 1972
Millais (September 26, 2007 to May 18, 2008)
  • Tate Britain (London), September 26, 2007 to January 13, 2008
  • Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam), February 15 to May 18, 2008
Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters (June 30 to September 30, 2018)
  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor (San Francisco), June 30 to September 30, 2018

"Fine Arts. Royal Academy." The Athenæum, no. 1801 (May 3, 1862), p. 602.

"The Royal Academy. Exhibition, 1862." The Art Journal, n.s., 24 (June 1, 1862), pp. 129-30.

"The Royal Academy Exhibition." The Times, London (May 8, 1862), p. 8.

The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts. MDCCCLXII. The Ninety-Fourth, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1862), p. 12, no. 198.

Rossetti, William Michael. Fine Art, Chiefly Contemporary: Notices Re-Printed, with Revisions (London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1867), pp. 223-24.

Clement, Clara Erskine, and Laurence Hutton. Artists of the Nineteenth Century and Their Works. Rev. ed. 2 vols. (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1884; repr., St. Louis: North Point, 1969), vol. 2, p. 115.

Armstrong, Walter. "Sir John Everett Millais." The Art Annual: The Christmas Number of "The Art Journal" (1885), p. 15.

Armstrong, Walter. "The Millais Exhibition." The Art Journal, n.s., 48 (February 1886), p. 62.

Ruskin, John. Notes on Some of the Principal Pictures of Sir John Everett Millais Exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, 1886 (London: William Reeves, 1886), p. 35, no. 116.

"The Grosvenor Gallery. (First Notice)." The Athenæum, no. 3036 (January 2, 1886), p. 41.

Stephens, F. G. Exhibition of the Works of Sir John E. Millais, Bart., R.A., exh. cat. (London: Grosvenor Gallery, 1886), p. 69, no. 116.

Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Catalogue of the Highly Important Collection of Modern Pictures, Formed by Charles P. Matthews, Esq. June 6, 1891, p. 20, lot 90.

Spielmann, M. H. Millais and His Works, with Special Reference to the Exhibition at the Royal Academy, 1898 (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1898), pp. 62, 64, 67, 87, no. 30; p. 169, no. 67.

Exhibition of Works by the Late Sir John Everett Millais, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy, 1898), no. 30.

Millais, John Guille. The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais. 2 vols. (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1899), vol. 1, pp. 360, 362, 364, 365-66, 371; vol. 2, p. 471.

"A Study for 'The Ransom'." The Magazine of Art (February 1899), p. 155, ill. facing p. 144.

Millais, John Guille. The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais. 3rd ed., abridged (London: Methuen, 1905), pp. 188, 189-90, 192.

Loan Exhibition of Works by Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelites, exh. cat. (Manchester: Manchester City Art Gallery, 1911), p. 77, no. 270.

Fish, Arthur. John Everett Millais, 1829-1896 (London and New York: Cassell, 1923), p. 108.

Wadsworth, Mary, et al. Paintings and Drawings of the Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA: Fogg Museum of Art, 1946), p. 63, under no. 56.

"The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" (1848-1862), exh. cat. (Birmingham: City Museum & Art Gallery, 1947), p. 19, no. 63.

Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Pictures and Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries. February 15, 1963, p. 17, lot 108.

The Pre-Raphaelites, exh. cat. (Indianapolis: Herron Museum of Art, 1964), unpaginated, no. 51, ill.

Artists of Victoria's England, exh. cat. (Jacksonville: Cummer Gallery of Art, 1965), unpaginated, no. 36, ill.

Graham Gallery advertisement. Art Journal 25, no. 4 (Summer 1966), p. 355, ill.

Potter, Beatrix. The Journal of Beatrix Potter from 1881 to 1897 (London and New York: Frederick Warne & Co., 1966), p. 183.

Lutyens, Mary. Millais and the Ruskins (London: John Murray, 1967), p. 38.

Millais, P.R.B., P.R.A., exh. cat. (Liverpool: Walker Art Gallery; London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1967), pp. 45-46, no. 61.

Kinney, Vilma. The Victorian Rebellion, exh. cat. (Peoria: Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, 1971), pp. 42, 66, no. 53, ill.

The Revolt of the Pre-Raphaelites, exh. cat. (Coral Gables: Lowe Art Museum, 1972), pp. 20, 44, no. 65, ill.

Sotheby's, London. Fine Victorian Paintings. June 20, 1972, p. 36, under lot 52.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), p. 132, ill.

Rossetti, William Michael. The P.R.B. Journal: William Michael Rossetti's Diary of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1849-1853. William E. Fredeman, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975), pp. 98, 248.

Robertson, David. Sir Charles Eastlake and the Victorian Art World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. 410.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), unpaginated, no. 50, ill.

Talbot, William. "A Victorian Portrait by Frederick Sandys." The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art (December 1980), pp. 304-5, fig. 11.

Warner, Malcolm John. "The Professional Career of John Everett Millais to 1863, with a Catalogue of Works to the Same Date." Ph.D. diss. (Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, 1985), pp. 11, 127-28, 490-96, no. 594, fig. 82.

Cohen, Michael. Sisters: Relation and Rescue in Nineteenth-Century British Novels and Paintings (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1995), pp. 92, 94, ill.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 86, ill.

Fleming, G. H. John Everett Millais: A Biography (London: Constable, 1998), pp. 190, 191, 194, 196, 198.

Ormond, Leonée. "Millais and Contemporary Artists." In John Everett Millais: Beyond the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Debra N. Mancoff, ed. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 34.

Christie's, London. British Art on Paper. November 17, 2005, p. 132, under lot 177.

Rosenfeld, Jason, and Alison Smith. Millais, exh. cat. (London: Tate, 2007), pp. 114-15, 252, no. 69, ill., entry by Alison Smith.

Rosenfeld, Jason. John Everett Millais (London: Phaidon, 2012), pp. 114-15, 122, 132, 133-34, 136, fig. 76.

Fredericksen, Burton B. The Burdens of Wealth: Paul Getty and His Museum (Bloomington: Archway Publishing, 2015), p. 134.

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




Looking at Narrative Art Lesson 2: What's the End of the Story?

Students will create a story based on an image.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; ESL (English as a Second Language)

Adult Learners

Single Class Lesson