The Vestal (1870)

Medium: oil

Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1870

Original caption: ‘If by accident she met a person going to execution, his life was granted him’

This painting has come up for auction once, at Sotheby’s in Toronto on 10 December 1981.

Athenaeum, 21 May 1870:

Mr. Crowe’s picture The Vestal (965) represents a vestal exercising her privilege of redeeming from death a person whom she might meet on the way to execution. The Virgin rides under a canopy, in a splendid, elaborately-cushioned pilentum, decorated with crimson and gold, and drawn by noble horses: she is dressed in white, crowned, and carries a palm: she is attended and guarded: a Christian has crossed her path, and she has claimed his release. He kneels, amazed at the event, and hails his deliverer; his dress is dark, with a white cross on the breast; about him stand guards, some with the standard of their legion and other symbols. There is much brightness in this picture, capital workmanship, complete telling of the story, and excellent drawing; nevertheless, it is injuriously affected by a certain hardness of the whole, and the opacity of parts which should be lucid. The expressions have been studied with honourable care and success.

Illustrated London News, 28 May 1870:

Mr. Eyre Crowe’s ‘Vestal’ (965) … [is] rendered less interesting and impressive than may fairly be expected … by a certain commonplace feeling, which denies beauty and grace even where most desiderated.

Art Journal, June 1870:

‘The Vestal’ (965) by E. CROWE, assails the eye by raw crudity and violent contrast. The flesh is of brick-dust, and the general colour glaring. Throughout, delicacy has been sacrificed to power.

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