These vignettes, historiated initials, and ink illustrations are for an unfinished entertainment by Robert Ballantyne, dedicated to Jane Macdonald, the wife of the Scottish painter John Faed (1819-1902). The Invalids was begun just three years after Ballantyne’s first published book (he went on to complete over eighty volumes) and is his only known attempt at drama or illustration.
The main characters are Count Fadino, a convalescent painter; Giovanni, a sick painter; and Roberto, a sick author. Roberto and Giovanni are the Ballantyne brothers, Robert and John. Fadino represents John Faed.
Robert’s brother John Ballantyne (1815-1897) was a portrait painter who played a significant role in Edinburgh’s art world. He was a founder and president of the Smashers, a sketching club, and preceptor of life classes at the Royal Scottish Academy. He completed at least seventeen portraits of London artists at work in their studios, including William Holman Hunt, John Millais, and David Roberts. Despite his success, John was primarily supported by Robert’s publishing income and the two worked closely on projects throughout their lives.