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The Bard

JONES, Thomas (1742 - 1803)

The Bard

Date: 1774

Media: oil on canvas

Size: 114.5 x 168.0 cm

Acquired: 1965; Purchase

Accession Number: NMW A 85

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Poised on the edge of cliff clutching a harp, the last surviving bard places a curse on the English invaders before leaping to his death. This dramatic history painting has become iconic for Wales. Based on Thomas Gray’s poem The Bard, it recounts the tale of Edward I’s legendary massacre of the Welsh bards.

Bards were highly regarded in Welsh society at that time, and were thought to be descendants of the Celtic druids. Jones makes this connection by giving his Bard druidic features – a long white beard and hooded robe. The stone circle in the background, based on Stonehenge, emphasizes the antiquity of the druid. 

This is one of Jones’ early paintings in the grand manner, where the landscape is used as a background setting for a scene from history, literature or mythology. Jones regarded it as ‘one of the best I ever painted’.

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