Holly Bennett on Ford Madox Brown

Part of a series of new perspectives on portraiture commissioned for Archie Plus

Ford Madox Brown

Chaucer at the court of Edward III

1847–51
oil on canvas
Purchased 1876

The power of storytelling is something that’s resonated with me this year, as we’ve all adapted to new ways of sharing our special moments remotely. This painting celebrates Chaucer as a founding figure of English language and literature, but the characters inhabiting its bottom-right corner make me ache for a different storytelling experience – relaxing in a chilled-out crowd, one ear on the stage and the other on an excellent piece of gossip being relayed by a friend.

Epic tales of kings, queens and legends often hold space in art, but I love that this epic work also reminds me of our everyday, delightfully trivial and interpersonal tales. Here’s hoping 2021 has more moments of hanging with friends at the pub, where we’ll doodle pictures on the bar coasters and punctuate every sentence with flamboyant hand gestures that wouldn’t translate nearly as well over Zoom.

Holly Bennett, Gallery creative content coordinator, would really like to hear about your day

View this work and more as part of the Gallery’s collection online