Who is Silvia? – Perhaps Elmore Knows

alfred elmore - subject from two gentlmenWho is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admirèd be.

“Who is Silvia?” is an aged rhetorical question which stems from the Shakespearean play – “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”  To help us realize this conundrum, English artist Alfred Elmore  has not only captured the ideal of Silvia, but also “the moment of much action’. Here we see the ‘dozing’ Duke in a velvet chair. Behind him, Valentine makes an advance towards Silvia; who pushes him away.  She is also seen to direct a cautionary glance towards her reclining father, thinking he is asleep, but cannot see that he is actually awake and that his suspicious eyes are open.

Alfred W. Elmore  (1815–1881) was a Victorian history and genre painter. Born in Clonakilty, Cork, Ireland, the family moved to London, where Elmore studied at the Royal Academy of Arts. His early works were in the ‘Troubadour style” of Richard Parkes Bonington, but he soon graduated to religious work, notably The Martyrdom of Thomas à Becket, commissioned for the Westland Row Church, Dublin. Most of his later works were historical narrative paintings, including episodes from Shakespearen plays.

  • From 1840-1844 Elmore travelled across Europe, visiting Munich, Venice, Bologna, and Florence.
  • According to his friend William Powell Frith, Elmore became a member of The Clique; a group of young artists who saw themselves as followers of William Hogarth and David Wilkie.
  • By the late 1860s Elmore was moving towards a more classical style influenced by Edward Poynter and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
  • Elmore’s continuing battle with neuralgia along with other conditions, led to his sad demise from  cancer in January 1881.
  • He was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.
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