John Everett Millais’ painting, The Order of Release, exhibited in 1853, marks a significant shift away from the highly medievalist Pre-Raphaelitism of his early years. At the heart of the painting is Millais’ concern with “love and duty.” Effie Gray, who later left her husband John Ruskin for Millais, modelled for the female figure.
The Order of Release tells the story of a Jacobite soldier who has been freed after their defeat at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. The vivid colors and striking tonalities used make it a fine picture detail. The focus on love can be seen in the juxtaposition between joy and apprehension on both figures’ faces: while the soldier is overjoyed to see his family again, he’s acutely aware he may never see them again.
The painting measures 102.9 x 73.7 cm and belongs to Tate Britain’s collection, acquired by Sir Henry Tate in 1898. A fascinating feature is that its relationship with John Ruskin began when Ruskin defended the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1851. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that The Order of Release inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped.
Overall, The Order of Release showcases an exciting period where an artist finds his voice while capturing a historical moment with exquisite detail exemplary use of colors striking tonalities all while conveying nuanced human emotions portraying loyalty melancholy bravery love hope sadness and many other feelings intertwined within characters caught up between War or Peace – Separation or Reunion – Death or Life – Duty or Love.