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Title Head of a Woman from the 'Dream of Queen Katherine'
Collection Victoria and Albert Museum
Artist Fuseli, Henry (Swiss painter, 17411825, active in England)
Date Earliest about 1778
Date Latest about 1788
Description

This painting is possibly a preliminary study for, or a fragment of, a destroyed composition commissioned by Thomas Macklin in 1779 for his Poets' Gallery. The subject was the dream of Queen Katherine, from Shakespeare's Henry VIII (Act 4, scene 2). The head could possibly correspond to one of the numerous female profiles although it has not been possible to indentify which one it precisely refers to.

Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli) was born in Zurich and received rigorous art-historical training from his father Johann Caspar Füssli. He spent most of his life in London becoming an associate of the Royal Academy in 1788 and a Royal Academician in 1790. He specialised in history paintings on a grand scale, drawing his inspiration from mythology, classicaland later literature, notably Dante's Divine Comedy. He was also a prolific writer and was elected the Academy's Professor of Painting in a post he held until 1805; he was made Keeper in 1804 and re-elected Professor in 1810.

Current Accession Number 1385-1869
Subject figure; literature (Shakespeare; Henry VIII)
Measurements 17.5 in
Material oil on canvas backed with millboard
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend 1868.
Publications Boase, T. S. R., 'Macklin and Bowyer' in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 26, No. 1/2 (1963), pp. 148-177, esp. p. 153; Victoria and Albert Museum, Summary Catalogue of British paintings, London, 1973, p. 49; Allentuck, M., 'Henry Fuseli's 'Queen Katherine's Vision' and Macklin's Poets' Gallery: A New Critique' in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 39, 1976, pp. 266-268; G. Schiff ed., L'opera completa di Füssli, Milan, 1977, cat. no. 92; Schiff, G, Johann Heinrich Füssli 1741-1825, 2 vols., Zurich, 1973, cat. no. 763.
Notes

The final composition is only known from an engraving made by Francesco Bartolozzi (1728-1815) in 1788, which was much criticised by Fuseli. Between 1779 and 1788, Fuseli executed a series of works and studies for this composition: a version was commissioned by Sir Robert Smith, Bart (1744-1802) and exhibited in 1781 at the Royal Academy, and another destroyed but known through two fragments in the V&A (see 1386-1869 and 1387-1869). A preparatory study for the latter version can be seen on the reverse of a drawing showing 'Bacchus as a child' in the Kunsthaus, Zurich. In 1788, Macklin issued a prospectus for 'One hundred pictures / Prints illustrative of the most celebrated British Poets ... with letter-press explanatory of the subject, extracted from the writings of the respective poets.' (copy in the National Library of Wales).

The painting is listed in the 1868 post-mortem register of the contents of his London house (V&A R/F MA/1/T1181) in the Library as 'An Oil on canvas, backed with millboard. Head of a female (perhaps a portion of the picture representing the Dream of Queen Catherine - see Nos. 1386, 1387). By Henry Fuseli, RA. In frame. English. 18th century'. For Townshend see Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1990 p.xix. Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798-1868) was born into a wealthy family, only son of Henry Hare Townsend of Busbridge Hall, Godalming, Surrey. He was educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1821) and succeeded to the family estates in 1827, when he added 'h' to the Townsend name. He had taken holy orders, but while he always referred to himself as 'Rev.' on the title pages of his books, he never practised his vocation... . Very much a dilettante in the eighteenth-century sense, he moved in the highest social and literary circles; a great friend of Charles Dickens (he was the dedicatee of Great Expectations) with whom he shared a fascination of mesmerism... Bulwer Lytton described his life's 'Beau-deal of happiness' as 'elegant rest, travel, lots of money - and he is always ill and melancholy'. Of the many watercolours and British and continental oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A, the majority are landscapes. He is the first identifiable British collector of early photographs apart from the Prince Consort, particularly landscape photography, and also collected gems and geological specimens.'

Rights Owner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Author Ana Debenedetti
 

 

 

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