In 2014, Dame Paula Rego, an Honorary Fellow of Murray Edwards College, offered to create a work for the New Hall Art Collection to mark the College’s 60th Anniversary. We were asked to choose a subject and, taking inspiration from the history and folktales of Rego’s native Portugal, we chose Inês de Castro. Inês was a 14th-century Galician noblewoman, who had an illegitimate affair with Prince Pedro of Portugal and was brutally murdered by his father, King Alfonso IV. Allegedly, when he ascended to the throne Pedro exhumed Inês’ corpse and gave his dead lover a lavish coronation.
The painting was created as a response to Maggi Hambling’s ‘Gulf Women Prepare for War’, which hangs alongside it in the College’s Dome. Aside from their common themes of violence, nationalism and gender, there are echoes between the paintings’ colour schemes and compositions: in both works the pale, dusky pinks are contrasted with dark greens and browns and the female soldier’s gun which cuts diagonally across Hambling’s painting finds a match in Inês’ recumbent pose.