[KEATS, JOHN (1795-1821, poet) and SHELLEY (PERCY BYSSHE, 1792-1822, poet)] KEATS'S AND SHELLEY'S GR
Lot 87
KEATS, JOHN (1795-1821, poet) and SHELLEY (PERCY BYSSHE, 1792-1822, poet) KEATS'S AND SHELLEY'S GRAVES AND THE PYRAMID OF CESTIUS, TESTACCIO CEMETERY, ROME, BY WILLIAM BRIGHT MORRIS, R.O.I. (1834-1900),
Sold for £2,040 (US$ 3,428) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
KEATS, JOHN (1795-1821, poet) and SHELLEY (PERCY BYSSHE, 1792-1822, poet)
KEATS'S AND SHELLEY'S GRAVES AND THE PYRAMID OF CESTIUS, TESTACCIO CEMETERY, ROME, BY WILLIAM BRIGHT MORRIS, R.O.I. (1834-1900),
watercolour, signed and dated 1870 by Morris, 6¾ x 10 in (17.2 x 25.3 cm).

Footnotes

  • EXHIBITED: Fine Art Society, 1982; Cheltenham Literary Festival, Faces and Places, 1982; British Library, Shelley Exhibition, 1992-1993; Wordsworth Trust, Keats Exhibition, 1995; Wordsworth Trust, Shelley Exhibition, An Ineffectual Angel, 1992.

    Keats was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome on 26 February 1821, close to Shelley's three year old son William. Shelley wrote of the cemetery in the preface to Adonais: 'John Keats...was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now mouldering and desolate, which formed the circuit of ancient Rome. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins covered in winter with violets and daisies.'

    Keats's friend Severn, in whose arms he died, and was himself later buried there as well, recalled: 'At times during his last days he made me go to see the place where he was to be buried, and he expressed pleasure at my description of the locality of the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, about the grass and the many flowers, particularly the innumerable violets, also about a flock of goats and sheep and a young shepherd - all these intensely interested him. Violets were his favourite flowers, and he joyed to hear how they overspread the grave. He assured me that he already seemed to feel the flowers growing over him...' (Joseph Severn, Recollections). Severn was lavishly praised for his unstinting friendship to Keats in the preface to 'Adonais' by Shelley, who wrote of the graveyard: 'It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place' (William Sharp, The Life and Letters of Joseph Severn, 1892; Robert Woof and Stephen Hebron, John Keats, 1995).

    On 7 December 1822, that wish was fulfilled when Shelley's ashes were interred there by his friend Edward Trelawney (Severn and Leigh Hunt being among those present): 'Without more ado, masons were hired, and two tombs built in the recess. In one of these, when completed, I deposited the box, with Shelley's ashes, and covered it with the solid stone...I planted eight seedling cypresses. When I last saw them in 1844, the seven which remained were about thirty-five feet in height...' (Edward Trelawney, Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron, 1858).
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