NORFOLK Museums Service
Frederick Sandys, 'Autumn' © Norwich Castle Museum

Hidden Meanings

‘Autumn’ (above) is one of Sandys’ earliest Pre-Raphaelite paintings and in it we can see all the features which characterise this style of painting.

Every aspect of the picture has been painted with great attention to detail, from the faces of the figures, to the plants around them. The beautiful sunset in the background is one of the most impressive parts of the painting and, like everything else, was painted from nature.

The age of the soldier and the title of the work suggest a deeper or symbolic meaning to the work, added to by the fact that the sun is setting. It is almost the end of the day, the end of the year, and near to the end of the soldier’s life. There is an atmosphere of romance but also of sadness.

Other possible meanings are suggested by the soldier’s contemporary uniform. Perhaps Sandys is making a statement about the recent Crimean War. The group of objects at the front of the picture, which include a Chinese ginger jar, don’t seem to have a purpose and could be symbolic too. However, no one has ever been able to say for definite what their meaning is – what do you think?

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