FROST, William Edward
(b. 1810, London, d. 1877, London)
Oil on canvas, 97 x 71 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor
The painting was inspired by lines 1116 of the poem L'Allegro by John Milton. It was written in conjunction with Il Penseroso, and both poems explore contrasting themes that had been essayed by neo-Platonists during the Renaissance: the former describing the active life and the latter the contemplative. L'Allegro and Il Penseroso date from about 1630 and are in Milton's early lyrical style. Themes from John Milton's oeuvre achieved great popularity during the nineteenth century. They exerted a particular fascination for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The painting was commissioned by Queen Victoria on the basis of a larger picture entitled Euphrosyne, which had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1848. The composition is not an exact replica of the larger painting and only repeats the central group. It was intended as a birthday present for Prince Albert on 26 August 1848.