We have naturally come to think of Reynolds as chiefly a portrait painter. It was, indeed, by his work in portraiture that his name ranks among the great masters. Yet he made various interesting excursions into other fields. We may see what charming fancy pictures he sometimes painted in Cupid as Link Boy and The Strawberry Girl. Historical pictures he also attempted, but not so successfully. Religious and allegorical subjects he tried occasionally, and it is to illustrate his work of this kind that our picture of Hope is chosen.

The figure is a part of a large decorative scheme for a stained window. The central compartment is devoted to the subject of the Nativity, and shows a group of the Virgin mother with the Christ child in the manger, Joseph and the angels. In imitation of Correggio's famous painting of the same subject, called the Notte, the light of the picture proceeds from the Babe. Two smaller compartments on either side are filled with shepherds coming to worship. Below is a series of seven panels, containing the figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the four cardinal virtues—Temperance, Justice, Fortitude, and Prudence.

This plan of subjects was made by Reynolds early in 1778, to meet an order from New College, Oxford, for a window design to be executed for their chapel. Hope was one of the first figures that he painted, and in 1779 he was ready to exhibit, at the Royal Academy, the Nativity, with Faith, Hope, and Charity.

The three fundamental elements of Christian character have been associated together ever since the fifteenth chapter of first Corinthians was written. Artists and poets have had a fashion of personifying them as allegorical figures. Certain symbols have even been invented to correspond to each—the cross for faith, the anchor for hope, and the heart for charity. Thus the imagination has been called to the aid of religion in impressing Christian teaching.

Reynolds tried to put into this figure the various qualities which make up our thought of hope. A pretty young woman steps forth from a region of clouds and lifts her face and hands towards the light. Through an opening in the sky a broad beam of sunshine falls upon her. Following its direction, she seems to be looking through the opening into some glad vision beyond. Like the figure of Hope in Swinburne's sonnet, she

"Looks Godward, past the shades where blind men grope
Round the dark door that prayers nor dreams can ope,
And makes for joy the very darkness dear."

In the lower left-hand corner we may barely make out the portion of an anchor. The meaning of the old symbol is that hope keeps the soul firm, as an anchor holds the ship. The face of which we have a glimpse is girlish and innocent; the figure is full of buoyancy. The left arm and the uplifted hands are very delicately modelled.


In a painting of this kind the artist is free to follow his own bent in the matter of dress, no longer hampered, as in his portraits, by the follies of fashion. It is delightful to see here the exquisite simplicity of the gown falling in long, beautiful lines. The only adornment is a gauzy scarf, twisted about the bodice and falling on each side in spiral folds. One is reminded of the swirling scarfs in our American Vedder's designs, having, as here, a purely decorative purpose in the scheme. The hair is gathered up on the head in a loose knot, from which the end escapes in a curl.

We are not looking here for any strong delineation of character, as in a portrait, and the painter did not even think it worth while to show much of Hope's face. The panel is to be studied as a work of decorative art, and its beauty lies in its scheme of color, the contrast of light and shade, and the graceful patterns traced by the lines. These are drawn in long flowing curves. The strongest are those which run from the upper left to the lower right corner, to emphasize the motion of the figure towards the left. The outline of the cloud billows which separate the light from the darkness are counter curves cutting across diagonally.

We could appreciate the lines of the panel even better if we could see it in its relation to the entire plan. Each figure is drawn with reference to its place in the great design. Though there are so many component parts, they unite to form a coherent whole, the main lines flowing together in a harmonious unity.

Reynolds's design was executed by the glass painter Jervas; but when the window was set in place it was a great disappointment. The colors are opaque, and can properly be seen only in a darkened room; with the light falling through them they are at a great disadvantage. Nevertheless the window is a matter of great pride to the fortunate college which possesses it. The original designs, instead of being black and white cartoons, as another artist might have made them, are finished paintings in oil.