Teaser Tuesday: THAT SUMMER, the painting

There’s a painting that lies at the heart of That Summer, a painting hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe in a house in the suburbs of London.

(And, just because life does imitate art sometimes, a month or so after I handed in the final version of this book, an article appeared in The Guardian— about a lost Pre-Raphaelite painting found hidden behind an old wardrobe in a house in the suburbs of London.)

The painting in That Summer is a rendition of the Tristan and Iseult story, one of the many Arthurian legends painted by the Preraphaelites.

To show you just a few, here’s Waterhouse:



Tristan and Iseult Rossetti

And Blair Leighton:

Tristan and Iseult Blair Leighton

The painting my heroine finds borrows from these, but it’s rather different. Here’s what Julia, my modern heroine, sees when she discovers the painting:

It wasn’t a portrait, or a landscape, or someone’s beloved pug dogs. It was a story scene, knights and maidens and feasting. At the center, the king dined at the high table. Julia cleverly deduced his position both from his seat at the center of the table and the rather conspicuous circlet on his brow. He was surrounded by fawning courtiers, all leaning towards him.

In the foreground, however, a man and a woman stood in a window embrasure, the only ones not paying attention to their monarch. Their focus was fixed on each other, their eyes yearning, while their hands were locked around a golden goblet they held between them. Although they were off to the side and the king’s trestle table in the center, the artist had worked it cleverly so that the attention was immediately drawn to the clandestine couple—including the King’s. His goblet was raised in a toast but his eyes had slid sideways. He was watching the man and woman and he didn’t like what he saw.

It was all pure Preraphaelite, the stained glass windows, the pennants flaring from the beams, the colorful doublets of the courtiers. The lady wore a long gown with a dropped waist in a rich, sapphire blue. Her hair wasn’t the usual Preraphaelite red, but a dark, dark brown, nearly black. It fell unbound to her waist, held only by the golden circlet at her brow.

Why this particular composition? Why had it been hidden away like that? And– even more intriguing for Julia– why did the Iseult in the painting bear such a striking resemblance to the portrait of the prim Victorian lady in the drawing room?

To learn more, you’ll just have to read the book!

Which is your favorite of these Tristan and Iseult paintings?


  1. Ella on June 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Can’t not decide between Waterhouse and Leighton.

  2. AngelB on June 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I like the Leighton photo because it reflects the pull of their connection but the restraint as well. Her head tilted towards him,but holding the knee up. The separation of the bodies, but he is still leaning in while his legs are hoing in the opposite direction.

  3. Joanne M. on June 17, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    All beautiful, but I love the sense of movement in the art of Waterhouse, not to mention the exquisite detail. The Lady of Shallot and the Ophelia images are some of my favorites.

    • Joanne M. on June 17, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      Pardon me – that would be Lady of Shalott (she in definitely not an onion!).

  4. Kimberly on June 17, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    LOL Joanne!

    I give the Leighton a slight edge over Waterhouse.

    I have Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott in large print and also a small print of his Ophelia (1889 white gown lying in a field version)from the Tate.

    Several years ago I had a Pre-Raphaelite calendar. I kept it, of course.

    What a coincidence about the person finding a long lost Pre-Raphaelite painting in the back of a wardrobe in an old house outside of London!! Good thing they didn’t find it a few months earlier. lol

  5. Sharlene Martin Moore on June 17, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    The Waterhouse one. I so loved this book very much.

  6. Jayne on June 17, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I really like the Waterhouse one.

  7. jeffrey on June 18, 2014 at 8:51 am

    The Leighton. The posturing, composition and the superior workmanship make it stand out.

  8. Betty S. on June 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    The Waterhouse is my favorite of these three. While a lovely painting, the Leighton does not fit my image of Tristan.

    Lauren, have you read the Tristan and Isolde trilogy by Rosalind Miles? It is excellent!

  9. Yvette R on June 19, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I hate to admit it, but I don’t know the story first hand – only from remarks made by other people . That being said, I like the Leighton best. I feel like I could just step forward and be in the room with them. The detail is soooo compelling.

  10. Ingrid on June 21, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Of these two, definitely the Waterhouse. He, Burne Jones, and Millais are my favorites among the PRB!

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