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Extraordinary painted textile hanging from Arts & Crafts master Maxwell Armfield. Watercolour on silk, with cotton gauze borders. 87cm x 39cm/34 x 15 inches inclusive of frame.


This striking, unusual allegorical painting seems to be an abrupt departure from the tempera portraits and still lifes the artist is renowned for. The title of the piece, “Reveresco” (I am renewed) is the motto of the Maxwell clan, and also appears on a portrait of the artist's mother, Margaret Maxwell.


Maxwell appears to have been a deeply spiritual man, converting to Christian Science at the behest of his wife (playwright Constance Smedley) and later developing more esoteric interests. Here the text, with its mix of Bhuddist Sutra (“Na me so Atta”, roughly: That’s not my Self) and the very Old Testament “Noster Deus Ignis Consumens Est” (Your Lord God is a consuming fire) combine with images of death and rebirth to create a powerful, strange image that is open to much interpretation.


The painting was exhibited as part of Southampton Art Galleries 1978 retrospective, having been loaned out by Armfields partner in his later life, Alexander Ballard and later (1982) at the Fine Art Society (where he first exhibited in 1907).


We have updated the original, shabby frame in a manner befitting of the Arts & Crafts ethos; the new frame was hand carved, with gold leaf applied directly to the wood, letting the surface texture come through. Mounted on gold silk and covered with museum quality invisible glass, the piece is presented clearly and beautifully. The backing board from the previous mounting, complete with provenance, has been integrated into the new frame.


A precociously talented young man, Armfield exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1904, aged just 23, where his painting Faustine was bought by the French State and is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. His popularity had waned by the time of his death in 1972, but saw a resurgence of interest following a series of retrospectives at Southampton Art Gallery and the Fine Art Society in the ‘70’s. He provided the artwork for Fleetwood Macs 1969 album “Then Play On” (originally a fresco painted for a London mansion), which no doubt went some way to help this renewed popularity.


Going by the drawing style and colour choices (similar to some of his early 20th century book illustrations) and the clear signs of age to the textile we would tentatively date this as first half of the 20th century.

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Reveresco by Maxwell Armfield

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