Wednesday, 1 April 2020

April: Love and Mulligrubs

April at last, after a very long March. To celebrate the new month, here is that fine Pre-Raphaelite painting, April Love by Arthur Hughes (never a member of the Brotherhood but painting very much in their spirit). In today's parlance it might be called a break-up painting; this is clearly a painful lovers' parting. (You can just about make out the male lover as a dark, despairing shape behind and to the right of the female figure.) The flowers, as always in Victorian paintings, carry their own meanings: the ivy on the wall denotes everlasting life, the roses signify love, and their strewn petals the end of love. In the lower right-hand corner there are a couple of tiny florets of forget-me-not, no more than an ironic commentary now.
  Beyond the shadows of the Gothic window, the colours are, even by PRB standards, vivid. Those rich blues, purples and lilac tints and almost acidic greens were to become Hughes's trademark. Going to see the painting for the first time, Ford Madox Brown wrote in his diary (9th September 1855):  'Last night I had the mulligrubs & went for the first time to Munnros & saw Hughes picture of the Lovers quarrel – it is very beautiful indeed. the girl is lovely, draperies & all, but the greens of his foliage were so acid that made my mulligrubs worse I do think.' ('The mulligrubs'? A depression of spirits, sullenness or attack of spleen, the dictionary says.) Ruskin, however, was completely smitten, describing April Love as 'exquisite in every way; lovely in colour, most subtle in the quivering expression of the lips, and sweetness of the tender face, shaken, like a leaf by winds upon its dew, and hesitating back into peace'. The model for that 'tender face' was most likely Hughes's wife, Tryphema Foord.
  In 1880, Hughes moved with Tryphema and their growing family to a large and very handsome house, Wandle Bank, that is just a short walk from my own humble abode. Here is a picture of it as it is today, remarkably unspoilt...


  1. It matters little but Wiki gives Tryphena for Hughes' wife. It is an interesting name. Hardy loved Tryphena Sparks and there was a Tryphena of Rome - a "woman who laboured in the Lord" according to St Paul. My wife has an ex-sister-in-law of this name who now lives in Australia.
    The name is originally Greek and means anything from 'dainty' or 'delicate' to 'luxurious.'

  2. Quite so, Guy – thanks. I wonder if there was a short form? Tryphie? Tryph?

  3. There's a Romany version, Truffeny, which I rather like.

  4. Yes, I think that's an improvement. Thanks, Foose.

  5. i think Tryphie is uncomfortably close to Day of the Tryphies