Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) was the wife of Lewis, Landgrave of Thuringia. After his death in 1227 during one of the Crusades, she entered a convent and devoted herself to good works. Before becoming a nun, she passed through a spiritual crisis, torn by the need to renounce the world, and therefore her children, in order to fulfil her desire to serve God. Pressed by a domineering monk, Conrad, whose natural affections had been starved by celibacy, Elizabeth finally vowed that ‘naked and barefoot’ she would follow her ‘naked Lord’. Calderon’s picture shows this moment of self-abasement.
Calderon took his subject from a play by Charles Kingsley, ‘The Saint’s Tragedy’, first published in 1848. It was based on fact. More on Elizabeth of Hungary
Philip Hermogenes Calderon RA (Poitiers 3 May 1833 – 30 April 1898 London) was an English painter of French birth (mother) and Spanish (father) ancestry who initially worked in the Pre-Raphaelite style before moving towards historical genre. He was Keeper of the Royal Academy in London.
Calderon planned to study engineering, but he became so interested in drawing technical figures and diagrams that he changed his mind and devoted his time to art. In 1850, he trained at Leigh’s art school, London, then went to Paris in 1851. His first successful painting was in 1852, which was followed by a much more popular one in 1856. He was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, and some of his work showed the detail, deep colors, and realistic forms that characterize the style.
His later paintings adopt a more classical style, comparable to Edward Poynter. Calderon became Keeper of the Royal Academy in 1887, and from then on worked to support the teaching of anatomy based on nude models at the Royal Academy Schools. His 1891 painting St Elizabeth of Hungary’s great act of renunciation was secured by the Chantrey bequest for the national collection, and is now located in Tate Britain. More on Philip Hermogenes Calderon
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