The Ransom

Object Details

Title:

The Ransom

Artist/Maker(s):

John Everett Millais (English, 1829 - 1896)

Culture:

English

Date:

1860 - 1862

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Dimensions:

129.5 x 114.3 cm (51 x 45 in.)

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Standing on the right, a kidnapper firmly grasps the arm of a young girl while an armored knight tries to hand over precious jewels. In this theatrical painting, John Everett Millais depicted a sixteenth-century scene of a father paying ransom for his two daughters.

The subject matter and technique are typical of the Pre-Raphaelite movement founded by Millais. Although he wanted to express a moral seriousness in his work, the drama is unconvincing: the figures are stiff and too large for the room they inhabit. The Ransom received criticism of this kind when it was exhibited, but no one could find fault with Millais's painting technique. The sharp, near-photographic rendering of objects, materials, and individuals display Millais's technical brilliance.

Millais's painting was a group effort of sorts. His mother made and designed the costumes, his friend Mr. Miller posed for the head of the knight and he drew the body from a gigantic railway guard named "Strong." The girls were painted from one model, Miss Helen Petrie, and Major McBean posed as one of the kidnappers. The artist, however, did not much care for the painting and referred to it as "the picture with the dreadful blue-and-white page in the corner."

Provenance
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]

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]

1963

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

1963 - 1972

James Graham Gallery (New York, New York)

1963 - 1972

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

Exhibitions
Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts. MDCCCLXII. The Ninety-Fourth (1862) (Cat. 198)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1862
Works of Sir John E. Millais, Bart., R.A. (1886) (Cat. 116)
  • Grosvenor Gallery, (London), 1886
Exhibition of Works by the Late Sir John Everett Millais (1898) (Cat. 30)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1898
Loan Exhibition of Works by Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelites (September 14 to November, 1911) (Cat. 270)
  • City Art Gallery (Manchester), September 14 to November, 1911
"The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" (1848-1862) (June 7 to July 27, 1947) (Cat. 63)
  • Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, (Birmingham), June 7 to July 27, 1947
The Pre-Raphaelites (February 16 to May 31, 1964) (Cat. 51)
  • 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) (Cat. 36)
  • Cummer Gallery of Art, (Jacksonville), February 2 to March 14, 1965
Millais, P.R.B., P.R.A. (January to April 1967) (Cat. 61)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), January 1 to April 1, 1967
  • Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, January 1 to April 1, 1967
The Victorian Rebellion: A Loan Exhibition of Works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Their Contemporaries (September 12 to October 26, 1971) (Cat. 53)
  • 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) (Cat. 65)
  • Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, (Coral Gables), March 5 to April 9, 1972
Millais (September 26, 2007 to May 18, 2008) (Cat. 69)
  • Tate Britain, (London), September 26, 2007 to January 13, 2008
  • Van Gogh Museum, (Amsterdam), February 15 to May 18, 2008
Bibliography

"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 (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.

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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.

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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.

Talbot, William S. "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.

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