Byron and Marianna
About the work
In 1816, Byron left England for the last time, amid scandalous rumours, fuelled by his estranged wife. He travelled to Switzerland, where he befriended the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and Shelley's future wife Mary Godwin. Byron then journeyed to Venice for the winter months. There, he fell in love with Marianna, the wife of his landlord. Writing to fellow poet Thomas Moore, he described an interruption by his new love:
‘...here is Signora Marianna just come in and seated at my elbow… I really cannot go on. There is a pair of great black eyes looking over my shoulder… so that I must turn and answer them instead of you.’
Part of this letter is reproduced on this print after William Drummond’s portrait of ‘Byron and Marianna’. Lasting 15 or 16 months, their relationship endured longer than any other in Byron’s life.
About the artist
George James Zobel produced line, mezzotint and mixed media engravings, and occasionally etchings, mainly of portraiture subjects. He was probably born in Germany but lived in Brixton, London, for much of his career, with his wife and children. He exhibited 35 works at the Royal Academy between 1854 and 1879 and is reported to have frequently executed works for Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family. Zobel’s wife died at their home in Lorn Road, Brixton, in 1878, aged 59. The announcement of her death in the ‘London Standard’ was followed by the words: ‘German papers, please copy.’ Zobel himself died at the age of 70.
Portrait painter William Drummond produced a series of portraits of women for the ‘Book of Beauty’ by Charles Theodosius Heath (1785-1848). He also painted portraits of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and novelist William Makepeace Thackery. During the 1830s, Drummond lived at 1 Wellington Terrace, Waterloo Bridge; 15 Beaumont Buildings, Strand; and at 33 Newman Street. He exhibited two works at the Royal Academy, five at the British Institution and seven at the society of British Artists in Suffolk Street.