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Core Record

Title The Fire King
Collection Victoria and Albert Museum
Artist Fuseli, Henry (Swiss painter, 17411825, active in England)
Date Earliest 1801
Date Latest about 1810

The subject matter is borrowed from Walter Scott's ballad, The Fire King, published in 1801. A Crusader, Count Albert, has been captured by his Infidel enemies and has fallen in love with the Sultan's daughter, Zulema. To gain her hand he has to abjure Christianity, fight his former allies and pass three nights deep in a cavern. Here the scene depicts him in front of the King of Fire who will deliver a magic sword to the hero. The four female figures surrounding the King came from Fuseli's imagination and are not mentioned in the poem. This scene of emotional intensity and the emphasis on the hero's terror as the Fire King appears in a glow of volcanic irruptions is a fine example of Fuseli's art. His wide-ranging imagination and favourite subject matters draw upon the supernatural, fairy mythology and demonic superstition.

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 the mythology, classical literature and 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 158-1885
Subject figure; literature (Walter Scott, The Fire King, Count Albert, Zulena)
Measurements 99 x 124 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased, 1885.
Principal Exhibitions Johann Heinrich Fussli (1741-1825). Paintings and Drawings, Kunsthaus Zurich, 1969,cat. no. 94; The Romantic Tradition in British Painting 1800-1950: Masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan, and touring, 2002-03.
Publications Muther, R., Geschichte der englischen Malerei, Berlin, 1903, p. 92; Tomory, P., The life and art of HenryFuseli, London, 1972, pl. IX, p. 118.; Schiff, G, Johann Heinrich Füssli 1741-1825, 2 vols., Zurich, 1973, cat. no. 1237; Schiff, G., et al. eds., Johann Heinrich Füssli. 1741-1825, Munich, 1974, cat. no. 160; Schiff, G. ed., Henry Fuseli, 1741-1825, London, 1975, cat. no. 130.
Rights Owner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Author Ana Debenedetti



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