Frederic William Burton (1816-1900), 'Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs', 1864. © National Gallery of Ireland.
Frederic William Burton (1816-1900), 'Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs', 1864. © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

Year
1864
Size
95.5 x 60.8 cm
Medium
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Provenance
Bequeathed, Miss Margaret Stokes, 1900
Number
NGI.2358

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.

This romantic watercolour is on view in the current exhibition Frederic William Burton: For the Love of Art