Artwork Detail

The Submission of Prince John to Richard I
c. 1792–94
American, 1738–1820
Oil on canvas
78 1/2 x 60 1/4 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund
WU 2222
Born in Philadelphia, Benjamin West was the first American-born artist to gain international recognition. After traveling in Italy he settled in London, where in 1772 he was named Royal Painter of Historical Scenes by King George III and later helped found the Royal Academy. West specialized in large-scale historical and biblical scenes, often used for instructive purposes, such as this work, which depicts a scene from medieval British history that was painted for the publisher Robert Bowyer, who included an engraving of it in his 1805 illustrated edition of David Hume’s The History of England. In this image Prince John is shown kneeling at the feet of his brother, King Richard I, begging for forgiveness for betraying him during Richard’s imprisonment en route home from the Third Crusade. Their mother, Queen Eleanor, intercedes on John’s behalf, pleading with outstretched arms at left, while a bishop and courtiers look on. The dramatic gestures and the shallow architectural space create a markedly theatrical effect, one influenced in part by West’s study of Renaissance and Baroque works during his early travels in Italy. [Permanent collection label, 2016]