Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1876) by William Holman Hunt

Isabella and the Pot of Basil - Hunt, William Holman - 1876 - 2

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Artwork Information

TitleIsabella and the Pot of Basil
ArtistWilliam Holman Hunt
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions38.7 x 60.6 cm
Art MovementRomanticism
Current LocationLaing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
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About Isabella and the Pot of Basil

Isabella and the Pot of Basil is a painting created by William Holman Hunt in 1868, depicting a scene from John Keats’s poem Isabella or The Pot of Basil. It shows Isabella standing in front of a shrine she has made for her murdered lover Lorenzo’s head. The pot where she buried his severed head sits at the center, surrounded by basil plants. Hunt’s Pre-Raphaelite roots are visible in the many layers he added to the painting.

The Gothic subject matter, as well as Hunt’s emphasis on detail and symbolism like using the wilting basil as a metaphor for Lorenzo’s fading life force, make it an example of Victorian-era art. Art historians often relate this painting to Hunt’s earlier work “The Lady of Shalott” due to similarities in color palette and detailed illustration techniques.

Additionally, several other artists during this period British art movement also drew inspiration from both pieces. Whilst not strictly following all principles established by Pre-Raphaelitism like opting for medieval storylines or heavy usage of vibrant coloring seen on flat surfaces – it is clear that Hunt’s approach impacted future Victorian artists significantly.

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