The Victoria & Albert Museum
“Poor Maria, sitting under a poplar…with her elbow in her lap…and her head leaning on one side…dressed in white.”
--from “A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy” by Laurence Sterne
Charles Landseer (1799-1879, the elder brother of Sir Edwin Landseer) was inspired to create this painting upon reading Laurence Sterne’s novel “A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy,” 1768. The subject is lifted right from the book, specifically, a character called Maria who lost her true love. At her side is a loyal dog who keeps her company in her grief.
Painted in 1836, the canvas shows that Charles Landseer was just as talented as his better-remembered young brother. However, in this composition, like many of his works, it has eben long believed, Charles looked to Edwin for assistance in painting the figure of the dog. Edwin was well-known for his portraits of dogs and animals in general. His handling of animal subjects made Edwin a favorite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who commissioned the artist to paint their beloved pets.
The painting was exhibited at the British Institute under the title “Sterne’s Maria.” The character of the inconsolable Maria was quite popular in the later 18th century. Engravings of this piece were big sellers.