The White Doe of Rylstone (At Bolton)
John William Inchbold
Oil on canvas, arched top
27 x 20 inches
Leeds City Art Gallery
Commentary by George P. Landow
Inchbold's painting, which illustrates William Wordsworth's poem with the same title, provides an obvious parallel to W. Holman Hunt's The Scapegoat, since, like Hunt's animal, the White Doe is also emblematic of a suffering Christ and his redemptive powers (see Heffernan). Although Inchbold draws upon Wordsworth, his frequent source of texts accompanying his paintings, rather than the Bible as does Hunt, he also uses a humble animal as symbol. Although Inchbod employs a vertical, rather than a horizontal, format, palcing his animal before a series of stone arches rather thasn within an open space, the effect of his work is much like that of The Scapegoat. Hunt, who was always jealous of his own compositions and original conceptions, give no evidence that he ever encountered the picture that bears such an uncanny resemblance to his own.
The painting has other points of convergence, here with Ruskin, who often acted as Incbold's mentor, critic, and publicist. Like the author of Modern Painters, Inchbold was much influenced by Wordsworth. James Heffernan's discussion of The White Doe of Rylstone," a poem which Ruskin praises highly for its truth, grace, and imaginative power (Works, 4.392), explains that the poet's
statements on the imagination — and particularly those of his later years — seem to point substantially in one direction: that the primary effect of imaginative power is the evocation of meaning from the material world. the manifestation of a visible object as the emblem of invisible truth. . . . Wordsworth read all of nature as a living testament, a world whose material forms had been consecrated by their appearance in Scripture; and in its achievement of the eternal through the temporal, of the infinite through the finite, and of the invisible through the visible, poetry was for him the brother of religion, bearing witness to the World made flesh. Its nature and purpose were evangelical. (389)
[The first part of the above discussion originally served as a note to my discussion of Hunt's Scapegoat in my 1979 Yale University Press volume.]
Heffernan, James A. W. "Wordsworth on Imagination: The Emblemizing Power," PMLA, LXXXI (1966), 389-39.
Landow, George P. William Holman Hunt and Typological Symbolism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979.
Ruskin, John. Works. Ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903-12.
Last modified 28 December 2001