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Watercolour, pen and brown ink, and gum, with scratching out and white heightening, on paper, 28.5 cm x 22.5 cm. Signed with initials, dated and inscribed with title and dedication lower left: "Rhoda 12 Chap, Acts. To Lady Bunbury, G.J. RA 1864". It is presented in a 19th century polished hardwood frame.

Price: £560

George Jones R.A.
George Jones R.A.

"Rhoda" (detail)

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George Jones R.A.
George Jones R.A.

"Rhoda" (detail of inscription)

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George Jones R.A.
George Jones R.A.

"Rhoda" (Foord & Dickinson framer's label on backing panel)

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George Jones the artist

Brown and blue washes and framing arches

The use of brown and blue wash,  often with pen and brown ink, was characteristic of many of Jones's historical, biblical and mythological drawings. See, for instance, the British Museum's "Danae with the infant Perseus at her breast" (BM No.1872,1012.6033); "Finding the body of Charles of Luxembourg on the field of Cressy" (1872,1012.6031); "The Deluge" (1869,0612.586); and "Men shall seek Death and Death shall flee away from them, Revelations 9, vi." (2000,0325.13). 

The placing of a figure or group of figures inside a framing arch, as in the present work, has parallels with other works by Jones. For instance, Tate Britain's  "Winchester Tower - Windsor" (Tate ref: A00697), is not only in similar blue and brown wash but also makes compositional use of a window arch. The Tate's A00595 in brown wash shows a figure descending a staircase seen through an arch.

Jones was most famous during his lifetime for his battle paintings - a fitting calling given that he bore a strong physical resemblance to the 1st Duke of Wellington. 

George Jones R.A.
George Jones R.A.

"Rhoda" (shown in frame)

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SOURCES AND FURTHER READING 

  • Memorials of Sir C.J.F. Bunbury, edited by Frances Horner Bunbury and Katharine Horner Lyell. Cambridge University Press, 2011                    

The New Testament Story of Rhoda

George Jones captures the dramatic moment in the Acts of the Apostles when, after being miraculously delivered from prison, Peter came at night to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. The maidservant Rhoda initially fails to open the door in her excitement at hearing Peter's voice and leaves him waiting outside. She runs back into the house to alert her mistress and assembled disciples, but they fail to believe her.

"And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished." (Acts 12:15-16)

Jones's composition shows Rhoda with her back to the viewer shining a lantern towards Peter who stands behind an iron outer gate. Mary and another lady of the house look on hesitant and disbelieving as Peter looms out of the darkness like an apparition. In the background, dawn breaks over distant hills.

Frances Joanna Bunbury

The work is dedicated to Frances Joanna Bunbury (1814-1894), the wife of the distinguished naturalist Sir Charles James Fox Bunbury, 8th baronet. Jones and Charles Bunbury were closely acquainted. 

On the artist's death in 1869, Bunbury made the following entry in his diary: "Heard of the death of poor old George Jones, the painter. He was an old man, in his 84th year and had long been in a feeble state yet he sent three pictures to the Royal Academy Exhibition this very year, and I believe he went on with his art almost to the last... He was a kind-hearted, gentle, courteous, amiable man." (Memorials of Sir C.J.F. Bunbury, vol 6, Journal, 22nd September 1869)

Two years later, Bunbury recorded that Jones's widow had presented him with some of her late husband's drawings. "Mrs. George Jones, the widow of my old friend the artist, has lately, very kindly and generously, made me a present of several original and very characteristic drawings of my grandfather, which had long been in her husband's possession." (ibid, Journal, 27th February 1871)