'The Madonna and the Rich Man'; music and drawing towards 'The Roadside Songs of Tuscany'Artist:
, American, 1837 - 1917
Material and Medium: pen and ink on paper
Dimensions: Frame: 660 x 501 x 15mm
Sight size: 365 x 250mm
Accession Number: CGSG00127
'The Roadside Songs of Tuscany' is a decorative book of twenty songs, collected from the countryside around Florence. Alexander transcribed and translated the songs, noted down the tunes and illustrated scenes from each ballad using local people as models. Together, she and John Ruskin used the book to raise money for the area’s poorer families.
Alexander also wanted to preserve a fast disappearing part of the area’s culture. She collected many of these songs from an elderly woman called Beatrice Bernardi who had been a stone labourer and shepherd, and had been famous in the local area for her improvised poetry and singing. This particular song tells how the Virgin Mary, who is hungry, goes to a rich man to ask for the scraps of discarded food. He refuses to give her any, saying they are for his dog. Three days later, the rich man dies and because he refused to help Mary is sent to Hell.
Alexander's original full-page illustration to this song is also in the Ruskin Collection.