Presented as a dramatic contrast of two parts, Egg's The Life and Death of Buckingham shows the Duke surrounded by nobles and debauchery on the one hand and alone in a more than humble dwelling on the other. Compared to the party scene, Buckingham on what is presumably his deathbed, though a smaller scene, has greater perspective; the colors are less numerous and posses greater depth; the light of the sun has a definite source and texture lacking in the interior glow offered by moonlight and candles

The most striking contrast is the Duke's expression in the paintings; his barely-visible profile on the bed shows a marked agony of greater veracity than any expression in the other painting, striking in its departure from his thoroughly vacant expression. For all its subjects and detail, the festive painting is full of emptiness; the deathbed is similarly consumed with a dense lack. In precisely balancing the images against one another, Egg sharply criticizes courtly frippery while calling into question which painting truly depicts a living subject.

Questions

1. What does the light in the deathbed scene suggest? What is the purpose of the door? The clothing on the stool?

2. What role to the window and mirrors on the back wall in the party scene play as symbols?

3. Where are everyone's eyes directed in the party; what or who exactly is Buckingham looking at?


Victorian Web Homepage Visual Arts Augustus Leopold Egg Discussion Questions

Last modified 4 February 2008