Tristan and Isolde by Hughes Merle

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Tristan and Isolde by Hughes Merle

Painting NameTristan and Isolde
Painter NameHughes Merle
Current LocationCollection of Fred and Sherry Ross (New Jersey United States)

A legend popular in 12th century about two lovers, Tristan the Cornish knight and Isolde the Irish princess, bound by a love-potion has been told in many ways and with various outcomes at the end. It has been told in various ways at various places. But, as it is a folklore poem the historical accuracy doesn’t affect or harm any living personality from the past.

English classicist painter Hughes Merle has depicted the same couple here when they were living in a forest after running away from the King’s soldiers.

The reason of running away has a little background. After defeating Ireland, Tristan was bound to take Isolde to his king to marry her, but in the way, due to drinking a love potion, they fell in love with each-other. The love continued in the palace of the king Mark. When the king recognized about their adultery, he issued deaths for both of them. But somehow, Tristan managed to run away and he also got Isolde safely out of the soldier’s hands. They went into a dark forest where no one dared to enter. Tristan and Isolde lived there together, of which scene the painter have depicted the painting.

We can know about the time of the story by the inclusion of the hound in the picture. The dog called Husdant (or Hodain) was Tristan’s hound. The king freed him after Tristan’s escape and he reached to Tristan by sniffing the way. Tristan initially wanted to kill his beloved hound otherwise the king’s soldiers could have find them by Husdant’s barking. But Isolde didn’t let him. Thus, Tristan found a middle-way to prey his hound without barking.

Now, if we concentrate on the portrayal of the figures from this legend, they seem very restful and calm in the jungle. Tristan’s affection for his lover is clear as he is about to hold her with his hands, while Isolde is sitting quietly looking at the hound. Here, at the post of Isolde, painter has included two dimensions of her thoughts. She is looking at the dog with pitiful eyes, because she saved him from Tristan. Whereas the grace and feminine pose she is giving while sitting in her lover’s lap hints the affection for her lover. Thus, artist has tried to capture the major elements of their love life while being exiled from the city.

Painter of the sentimental or moral subjects, Hughes Merle has done a well-job reviving the old folklore which is being faded in the mist of history.



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