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A young woman looks down at fallen rose petals as her suitor bends to kiss her hand. The petals symbolise the fragility of young love, the theme of this courtship scene. Arthur Hughes heightened the painting’s emotional charge by using deep and vivid colours. He had married ‘his early and only love’, Tryphena Ford, in the winter before this painting was first exhibited.The scrupulous depiction of naturalistic detail and texture here shows great dexterity and was greatly admired by the critic John Ruskin. The painting was bought by the writer and design entrepreneur William Morris.

July 2007