Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs

Hellelil and Hilde- brand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs

Frederic William Burton


Watercolour and gouache on paper

95.5 x 60.8 cm

National Gallery of Ireland NGI.2358. Bequeathed, Miss Margaret Stokes, 1900

The National Gallery site explains that “the subject is taken from a medieval Danish ballad translated by Burton’s friend Whitley Stokes in 1855, which tells the story of Hellelil, who fell in love with her personal guard Hildebrand, Prince of Engelland. Her father disapproved of the relationship and ordered her seven brothers to kill the young prince. Burton chose to imagine a romantic moment from the story before the terrible end: the final meeting of the two lovers. Although he never painted in oils, the intensity of hue is similar to that of an oil painting. The precise layering of watercolour reflects his early training as a miniaturist.”

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  • Details of armor and fabric
  • Hellelil’s head and braided hair
  • Flower petals and Hellelil’s dress