La Belle Dame sans Merci

Frank Dicksee1901

Bristol Museums

Bristol Museums
United Kingdom

The subject of this painting is taken from Keats’ poem of 1819, a rather morbid meditation in which the knight is left ‘so haggard and so woe-begone’ after his encounter with ‘la belle dame sans merci.’ However, the only allusion here to a sinister outcome is the blighted leaves brushing the knight’s arm. The predominant mood is one of enchantment, intensified by the idyllic setting of the English countryside: 'I met a lady in the meads, Full beautiful – a faery’s child, Her hair was long, her foot was light, And her eyes were wild… I set her on my pacing steed, And nothing else saw all day long; For side long would she bend, and sing A faery’s song.' A fascination with chivalry had lasted throughout the nineteenth century, typically combining romantic escapism with a cautionary note of the 'femme fatale'. Although chivalric themes were popular amongst Victorian artists, Frank Dicksee demonstrates an innovative approach to the subject in his use of vibrant colours and dramatic spatial construction.


  • Title: La Belle Dame sans Merci
  • Creator: DICKSEE, Sir Frank
  • Date Created: 1901
  • Physical Dimensions: h 1372, w 1880 mm
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: ©Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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