This work depicts Thisbe who, with her lover Pyramus, were the ill-fated couple whose story forms part of Metamorphoses (first published 8AD), written by the Roman poet Ovid. The original painting on which this print is based was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1884. A reviewer of the exhibition, writing for the 'Glasgow Herald' commented:
‘… A little further along is the small “Thisbe,” by Edwin Long, R.A., representing the famous Babylonian maid stealing close to the wall behind which Pyramus was imprisoned:
Yet here a tiny chink none else had seen
Sufficed to bear love’s messages between;
They kissed it’s stony mouth like lovers true,
But neither side would let the kisses through.”
The composition is a more pleasant one in every way than Mr Long’s more ambitious efforts, which, scholarly and interesting as they often are, sadly lack imagination...’
Edwin Longsden Long was born in Bath. He enrolled at James Matthew Leigh’s School of Art in London in 1846, returning to Bath to begin his career. In 1857, he moved back to London. A trip to Spain with painter John Phillip had a lasting effect on Long and for some 17 years his work showed a Spanish influence. In 1874 he travelled through Egypt and Syria; resulting in the painting ‘Babylonian Marriage Market’ (1875). Following the work’s critical acclaim, Long specialised in well-researched depictions of the ancient world. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1881 and Agnew & Sons commissioned several works, including a series of paintings to coincide with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. He died of pneumonia at his home in Hampstead, aged 61.
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