Original Illustrations of "Romola" (1862-1863)

Part of Group:

Romola was the only George Eliot novel illustrated in its first edition, and this gallery, curated in collaboration with the George Eliot Archive, features the original illustrations by Sir Frederic Leighton. Eliot had requested that a talented artist illustrate the novel, and Leighton was known for his historical genre paintings, especially his Florentine Renaissance scenes. He seemed an ideal illustrator for a novel set in fifteenth-century Florence. While Eliot was pleased with his work overall, there were some conflicts. At one point, she wrote to Leighton, "I am quite convinced that illustrations can only form a sort of overture to the text" (Barrington 1906, 4: 55-56). We invite you to consider the relationship between text and image-- as well as the relationship between an author and an artist corresponding throughout the installments of a serial publication-- and we offer this gallery as an artifact for multi-disciplinary inquiries in Victorian studies.

The illustrations are presented in order and organized by chapter. While early editions divided the novel into separate volumes and began the second volume with a new Chapter 1, we have adapted the chapter numbering, so that it will conform to current practices; the chapter numbers should correspond with the editions to which modern readers are more likely to be accustomed. The descriptions accompanying the illustrations are minimal and intended to provide basic context.