The Chamber Idyll
36.6 cm x 27.4 cm (14 7/16 in. x 10 13/16 in.)
(Appledore, England, 1799 - 1883, London)
Medium and Support:
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the generosity of the Still Water Foundation, 1996
The Chamber Idyll was the last print Edward Calvert undertook, and it is considered his most poetic. With his friend and fellow artist Samuel Palmer, Calvert fell under the influence of William Blake’s visionary Romanticism, impressed in particular by the older artist’s wood engravings for an edition of Virgil’s Eclogues (1820). Living in Shoreham, Calvert and Palmer, along with George Richmond, styled themselves as “Ancients,” shunning all that was modern in art and society. Instead they cloaked pastoral subjects inspired by the English countryside in classical guise.
Heavy wooden beams hung with farm implements set the stage for this bucolic scene of lovers preparing for bed. Although their hairstyles are distinctly contemporary, the male figure in profile derives from images of Apollo cut into ancient cameos, and the female figure is patterned on a gemstone showing Aphrodite preparing for a bath. Calvert’s naive treatment of the livestock in the background, and the print’s small scale, lend this erotic scene an air of innocence.
Apart from very rare proofs, all impressions of Calvert’s wood engravings and engravings come from their reprinting in his son’s biography of 1893. The museum possesses a fine copy.