#OTD in 1874 – Irish painter, Frederic Burton, was appointed director of the National Gallery, London, and began an unprecedented programme of art collection.

As Director of the National Gallery, London, Burton bought over 500 works, many of them masterpieces by Botticelli, Canaletto, van Dyck and Leonardo da Vinci, creating possibly the finest art collection in the world. Burton’s painting, ‘Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ was voted by the Irish public as Ireland’s favourite painting in 2012 from among ten works shortlisted by critics.

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.

Featured Image | Hellelil and Hildebrand, Meeting on the Turret Stairs, 1864 | by Frederic William Burton | Bequeathed to the National Gallery of Ireland by Miss Margaret Stokes, 1900

Image | Irish painter, Frederic William Burton | by Henry Tanworth Wells | Bequeathed to the National Portrait Gallery, London, 1913

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