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Edwardian Pre-Raphaelites, The Art of John and Mary Young Hunter

8th June - 28th July 2000

The Philosopher of Ferney, by John Young Hunter

The Philosopher of Ferney (d.1901)
John Young Hunter
Oil on canvas
15 x 30 in
38 x 76 cm
Inscribed lower right, 'John Young Hunter, 1901'
Exhibited: London, Fine Art Society, Figure Pictures in Oil, Tempera and Watercolour by J Young Hunter and Mary Y Hunter, 1903, (18)
Literature: AL Baldry, 'The work of Mr and Mrs J Young Hunter', The Studio,vol. 28, 1903, p.275 (illus), Chester, 1909, p. 504, (p. 492, illus)

The work refers to the exile of the French philosopher and playwright, Voltaire, in the town of Ferney in Switzerland. The Stork alighting on the fence in the foreground is thought to represent Voltaire who, during his exile spent time protecting inhabitants of the village from religious intolerance. Voltaire was apparently christened a stork by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, for reasons which remain unexplained, according to Chester. He proposes nevertheless, that the philosopher was thus caricatured because, '...a stork makes a loud noise by the chattering of its mandibles...' It is nevertheless the case that The Philospher of Ferney has an extraordinary visionary and fairytale quality, anticipating the illustrations of Arthur Rackham.

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