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Artist
Julian Russell Story
Title
The Black Prince at Crécy
Date
1888
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
Canvas: 128 × 197 inches (325.1 × 500.4 cm)Framed: 143 1/2 × 212 1/2 inches (364.5 × 539.8 cm)
Tags
Painting
Credit Line
Bequest of Carl L. Brandt.
Accession Number
1905.2
This work portrays the aftermath of the famous Battle of Crécy, fought in France on August 26, 1346. This bloody encounter was a major turning point in the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) between England and France. Julian Story portrays a bittersweet moment after the conclusion of this decisive battle. The composition is dominated by the dashing figure of Edward, Prince of Wales, whose dark armor earned him the name “the Black Prince.” His clothes are whipped into a lively silhouette, and the crown atop his armored helmet signifies his position as heir to the English throne.

On the right, the lifeless body of King John of Bohemia creates a dramatic contrast to the dynamic Black Prince. Shrouded in a white tunic, King John lies pinned beneath his steed. According to medieval chronicles, King John, who fought as an ally of the French, insisted on participating in the battle despite the fact that he was completely blind. Although he entered the battle surrounded by attendant knights, he was ultimately exposed and died on the battlefield along with approximately 4,000 other men killed in the conflict. Story depicts the Black Prince paying quiet homage to the deceased King John, whom he admired as an adversary. As a mark of respect, the Black Prince adopted King John’s motto, Ich dien (“I serve”), which is inscribed on the bridle of John’s horse. It has remained the motto of England’s Princes of Wales ever since.

The youngest child of American neoclassical sculptor William Wetmore Story, Julian Russell Story was born in 1857 in Walton-on-Thames, England, and spent much of his life abroad. At the time Story painted The Black Prince at Crécy in 1888, he was attempting to gain acceptance into the Paris Salon, a large annual juried exhibition that provided artists with crucial public exposure. Competition at the Salon was intense, encouraging artists like Story to submit very large paintings of historical subjects that were certain to attract attention. The strategy was successful—The Black Prince at Crécy received a third class medal and honorable mention at the Paris Salon of 1889 and a silver medal at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1889, where the Telfair’s first director, Carl Brandt, purchased it.