An old well is partially covered by thick vegetation. By the side of the well, a woman in a red smock waits, resting a pitcher of water on her head.
A torn label on the reverse of this canvas gives the title as ‘The Holy Well’. Another painting titled ‘The Holy Well’ by Henry Mark Anthony was exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, in 1848. A review of the exhibition focused on the work in some detail. Parts of the description apparently relate to this painting: ‘The scene is one of Ireland’s many sainted springs, half hidden in the glade of a tangled wood.’ However, it is not the same painting because the article goes on to describe the several people, queuing to drink from the well:
‘…groups of the aged, the devout, the maimed, and the sick, seeking by their orisons to propitiate the prayers of the saint to whom is assigned the healing spell of its waters.’
Intriguingly, a lone woman is described. She ‘apart stands, telling her beads, the better clad peasant farmer’s wife, praying, mayhap, for the restoration of a pining child to health.’
The current location of the version of ‘The Holy Well’ which was exhibited in Dublin has yet to be discovered. This painting may be a study for the work or a smaller version.
Henry Mark Anthony, landscape painter, was born in Manchester, the son of a merchant. In about 1823, the family moved to Cowbridge, Glamorgan, where he was apprenticed to a doctor. He later became a pupil of his cousin, George Wilfred Anthony, a Drawing Master in Manchester. In about 1833, Anthony moved to London before studying at The Hague, the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and Fontainebleau. Anthony was among the first to introduce the French style of ‘plein-air’ painting to Britain. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and travelled in Britain and Europe. His work was admired by the Pre-Raphaelites for its careful observation of nature and he became a friend of Ford Madox Brown. Anthony died in Hampstead at the age of 69.
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