Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily by John Brett. c.1870. Oil on canvas. 111.5 x W 153.2 cm. Collection: Museums Sheffield, but on loan to the "John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing" exhibition (2019) at Two Temple Place, London WC2, where photography was (selectively) permitted. The painting in its frame. Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee.

Christiana Payne tells us that in the 1870s John Brett's interest in astronomy gave him "what almost amounted to a parallel career as an astronomer" (110). In December 1870 he had gained a place on the solar eclipse expedition to Sicily, and had made important contributions to the project through his mastery of Italian and his draughtsmanship, as well as his scientific knowledge (see Payne 111) — although, without a good stock of the latter, he could not have been elected a fellow of the Astronomical Society in the following year. At any rate, when the party left Sicily, he stayed on. It was then that he produced an oil painting entitled Etna from the Heights of Taormina that Payne describes as "arguably his last landscape produced according to strictly Pre-Raphaelite methods" (113). Despite the slight discrepancy of title (and the different measurements given by Payne), this seems to be the same painting. The caption to Payne's illustration places it at Sheffield too, and the gallery has only the one painting by Brett.

Related Material


Payne, Christiana. John Brett: Pre-Raphaelite Landscape Painter. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010.

Last modified 12 June 2020