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Prunella Courbold Pott 

(b. London 1910; fl. 1932 - 1943)

Jorinde & Joringel   *SOLD*

tempera on board

signed lower left ‘PRUNELLA C. POTT’

23 x 19 cm.


London, Royal Academy, 1940, no. 845. 

Like so many women artists of the first half of the twentieth century, we know tantalisingly little about Prunella Courbold Pott. She exhibited tempera works including this piece at the Royal Academy in the years from 1932 until 1940, and also exhibited at the prestigious Cooling Galleries, on 92 New Bond Street. She was a direct descendent through her mother’s family from a long line of artists, notably the Victorian history painter, Edward Henry Courbold (1815 – 1905). 

Prunella studied at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting, but in archival war footage from British Pathé in 1941, ‘Fireman Artists’, (she was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service), it states that she also studied art in Paris. It is clear from this footage that the present painting, although an illustration from a Brothers’ Grimm fairy-tale, is also very likely to be a self-portrait, showing that the artist had short blonde hair and fine features, as seen here.

This in itself is fascinating, as Pott has chosen to present herself in the male role: she depicts the scene where Joringel, a young man whose lover Jorinde has been taken away by a witch, discovers she’s being kept by the old crone as a bird in a cage. He is protected by a flower with a magical dewdrop, and uses it to transform Jorinda back to herself. 

The androgynous, in fact - feminine beauty of Joringel adds the most intriguing facet to this little jewel of a painting, which has all the intimacy of a 17th century Dutch genre painting, and the spirit of a love letter. The setting at the window is evocative of Rembrandt’s girl at a window of 1645, to numerous scenes by ‘Fijnschilder’ artists like Gerrit Dou.

Potts’ career was seemingly short-lived - perhaps on account of WWII. She went on to marry and moved Salzburg with her husband after the war, writing and illustrating the odd book, slowly disappearing into marital obscurity.

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