About this artwork

Traquair illustrated each of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s 'Sonnets from the Portugese' between 1892 and 1897. Browning’s text was published in 1950 and was popular at this time, containing 44 sonnets that explored the growth of love. The poem illustrated in this artwork is Sonnet 38, whose first lines read, ‘First time he kissed me, he but only kissed The fingers of this hand wherewith I write’. Traquair painted the images in these works first, using watercolours, before adding the decorative detailing in gold leaf and completing the calligraphy at the end. Although the pages were bound together as a book by Doves Press in London in 1897, Traquair also produced a number of duplicate individual pages, including this one.

Phoebe Anna Traquair

Phoebe Anna Traquair