The Who's Who of MAY MORNING ON MAGDALEN TOWER by Holman Hunt
by Martin Carson
"I came from Merseyide (south side) and
my best friend at school lived in the village of Port Sunlight just under the railway bridge from my town. Port Sunlight was
built by Lord Leverhulme for his factory workers. Among other marvellous amenities he provided an art gallery know as the
Lady Lever Art Gallery. So I knew of one of its paintings long before I ever took an interest in the subject matter.
May Morning on Magdalen Tower was not meant to be a portrait of a real event, just as it was, but was (in Hunt's own
words) "to represent the spirit of a beautiful, primitive and in a large sense eternal service, which has only been in
part restored on the tower, even to the floral fullness of three centuries since, but which still carries evidence in it of
the origin of our race and thoughts in the same cradle with the early Persians. This was the kernel of the scene which I had
Sir John Stainer is clearly in the picture and so I began to wonder who else he had included. When
he made the preliminary sketch of the scene he did not paint the choristers and the dignitaries of the college but added them
all later in the studio, choosing those of the former who had suitable faces and the latter, perhaps, as requested by the
college and bringing in models from elsewhere
I am most grateful to Sarah Lynch of the Lady Lever Art gallery for
sending me lots of lists and notes, both printed and handwritten, especially an illustrated article published in Country Life
(1951) May Morning on Magdalen Tower by H. T. Kirby. By merging the information gleaned from these, and adding some more research
of my own, I have come up with a probable list of portraits. The work is still in progress, however, and there remain a few
names which elude us."
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