About this artwork

Melville was a great traveller and in 1881 he set off for the Middle East on an extended trip travelling first to Cairo, then east as far as Karachi, and then back to the Persian Gulf. The resulting sketches proved a source of inspiration for his work for years to follow. The tale of King Cophetua and the Beggar maid appears in Elizabethan ballads and was favoured by Victorian artists, notably by Burne-Jones in his large oil depicting the story. According to legend, King Cophetua disdained all women until he saw a beautiful young beggar and feel in love with her at first sight – the moment depicted here. The beggar maid is the figure dressed in grey, with her back turned to the viewer.

Updated before 2020

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Arthur Melville

Arthur Melville

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