William Hogarth

Sigismunda Mourning over the Heart of Guiscardo

1759

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1004 x 1265 mm
frame: 1530 x 1700 x 170 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by J.H. Anderdon 1879
Reference
N01046

Display caption

This painting illustrates a dramatic scene from Giovanni Boccaccio’s celebrated medieval novel, the Decameron. The heroine Sigismunda holds a golden goblet sent to her by her father, Prince Tancred. Inside, is the heart of her dead husband, Giuscardo – one of Tancred’s servants. He has murdered him, enraged by their unsuitable secret marriage.This was Hogarth’s most deliberate attempt to prove that modern English painters could handle heroic themes as convincingly as the revered Italian old masters. But the picture received such harsh criticism that he almost completely abandoned painting for the last years of his life.

Gallery label, May 2007