Philip Hermogenes Calderon

St Elizabeth of Hungary’s Great Act of Renunciation

1891

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1530 x 2134 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1891
Reference
N01573

Display caption

Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) was the wife of Lewis, Landgrave of Thuringia. After his death in 1227 during one of the Crusades, she entered a convent and devoted herself to good works. Before becoming a nun, she passed through a spiritual crisis, torn by the need to renounce the world, and therefore her children, in order to fulfil her desire to serve God. Pressed by a domineering monk, Conrad, whose natural affections had been starved by celibacy, Elizabeth finally vowed that 'naked and barefoot' she would follow her 'naked Lord'. Calderon's picture shows this moment of self-abasement.
Calderon took his subject from a play by Charles Kingsley, 'The Saint's Tragedy', first published in 1848. It was based on fact.

Gallery label, September 1998