The Eve of St. Agnes

Arthur Hughes


Physical Description

Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 710 x 1245 mm

Production Description

Production Date: 1856
Exhibition History: R.A., 1856; Liverpool, 1856 (no.30)
Patron: Thomas E. Plint


Current Location: Tate Britain
Catalog Number: N04604
Archival History: Probably commissioned by Thomas E. Plint; bequeathed by Mrs. Emily Toms in memory of her father, Joseph Kershaw, to the Tate Gallery in 1931

Scholarly Commentary


In an April 1856 letter to William Allingham, DGR remarked that: “Hughes's Eve of St. Agnes will make his fortune, I feel sure” (Fredeman, Correspondence, 56.29).


Hughes's picture (the right panel in particular) was inspired by Hunt's 1848 treatment of the subject. The Pre-Raphaelites were fond of the triptych as compositional structure. DGR employed the triptych form in The Seed of David , among other works.


This work represents three scenes from Keats's 1820 poem The Eve of St. Agnes .


  • Fredeman, Correspondence, 56.29.

Included Text

They told her how, upon St Agnes' Eve,

Young virgins might have visions of delight,

And soft adorings from their loves receive

Upon the honey'd middle of the night.

If ceremonies due they did aright,

And supperless to bed they must retire,

And couch supine their beauties lily white,

Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require

Of heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.

Note: These lines from Keats's poem are inscribed on the bottom of the original frame.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
File Name: op144.rap.xml