Teaser Tuesday: the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1849

It’s Tuesday and we have… more pretty pictures for you!

A major scene in That Summer is set at the prestigious Private View at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1849, where my historical hero, Gavin Thorne, is showing his painting, Mariana in the Moated Grange.

Private View Royal Academy

(The picture above is of the Private View of 1881, but it gives you an idea of what Private View day would have looked like. Just picture much fuller skirts on the ladies….)

Mr. Thorne and his Mariana are my own inventions– but the rest of the Exhibition was lifted right from the historical record. Want to see some of what my heroine would have seen?

While I was researching That Summer, I hit a stroke of amazing luck. I was able to acquire one of the original programs from the show, the very program that my heroine would have held:

photo (8)

Shall we open it up and take a look?

The fledgling Preraphaelites were well-represented in the Exhibition of 1849. John Everett Millais made a stir with his Lorenzo and Isabella:


In the meantime, William Holman Hunt exhibited Rienzi, or, more volubly, Rienzi vowing to obtain justice for the death of his young brother, slain in a skirmish between the Colonna and the Orsini factions, a history painting about the fourteenth century Roman folk hero, Cola di Rienzo.


But where, you may ask, was that most iconic of them all, Dante Gabriel Rossetti? Much to the annoyance of his friends, he had taken himself and his Girlhood of Mary Virgin off to the Free Exhibition at Hyde Park Corner rather than waiting for the RA show in May– possibly because he was afraid that he wouldn’t get a good placement in the RA show.

girlhood of mary virgin

Because Rossetti jumped the gun, and exhibited before the others, his is the first of the Pre-Raph paintings on which the initials PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) can be found. (Hunt and Millais were not amused.)

You can play a fun game of “spot the PRB” in each of these paintings. For example, it’s hidden on the bench on which Lorenzo and Isabella are sitting in Millais’s painting.

You can also play “spot the painter”, since, to save the cost of models, the artists all sat for each other. And, for my fellow Goblin Market fans, that’s Christina Rossetti as the title role in Rossetti’s painting of The Girlhood of Mary Virgin.

The Royal Academy Exhibition was the big debut of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood– so I couldn’t resist having my imaginary Pre-Raphaelite, Gavin Thorne, be a part of it.


  1. Paige on April 22, 2014 at 11:15 am

    This was so interesting. How great to have an original program! I really did not know any of this information. I feel a bit smarter now! I am very excited to read this book!

  2. Betty S. on April 22, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I also have enjoyed the paintings and interesting info.
    Thanks, Lauren!

  3. Lynne on April 23, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Oh, Lauren – I love Rosetti. Thanks for the paintings!

  4. Lauren on April 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Thanks, lovely ladies! I’m so glad you find this as fascinating as I do!

  5. Dara on April 23, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    How did you happen to get your hands on a real program? How awesome.

    • Lauren on April 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Dara, it was pure luck! I was googling around, trying to find pictures of the program so I’d know what they looked like (since my heroine needed to have one), and the pictures that popped up were from a copy that was for sale in an antiquarian bookstore! So I took a deep breath, decided it was a business expense, pressed the “buy” button, and two weeks later… I had my very own 1849 Exhibition program! It really is an amazing artifact. It tells what was in which room and gives little snippets of description or poetry for many of the paintings. And it’s just paper bound with string. Amazing that it survived!

  6. Craig on May 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Does the name Anton Berger appear the Exhibition program? Many thanks in advance.

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