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Oil painting - The Poet Observing Nerea with Her New Lover in Her Grotto
  • The Poet Observing Nerea with Her New Lover in Her Grotto
    Fuseli, Henry, born 1741 - died 1825
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The Poet Observing Nerea with Her New Lover in Her Grotto

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    London (painted)

  • Date:

    1810-1813 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fuseli, Henry, born 1741 - died 1825 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Henry Fuseli [Johann Heinrich Füssli] (1741-1825), 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, and the statutes were changed to enable him to retain the Keepership as well.

This painting illustrates the Latin author Horace's Epode 15 which relates the dying love between the poet and his lover Nerea. Although extremely abraded, the picture shows the poet Horace in the background creeping towards the new couple that Nerea formed with her new lover, a young man she had chosen randomly out of pique. This mysterious scene is a fine example of Fuseli's wide-ranging imagination and favourite subject matters based on intense passion, fairy mythology and demonic superstition.

Physical description

A man and a woman embraced in a cave, in the entrance at right a man creeps towards them.

Place of Origin

London (painted)


1810-1813 (painted)


Fuseli, Henry, born 1741 - died 1825 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 37.50 in estimate, Width: 27.25 in estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 1869

Historical significance: Fuseli was particularly interested in literary subjects and produced a number of illustrations for classical texts, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Romantic poetry such as Lord Byron’s. He also provided a series of illustrations for Thomas Thomas Macklin (c. 1760-1800) for his Poets’ Gallery (1779-1788). The present composition was engraved by A. Smith and published by Suttaby, Evance & Fox in London as an illustration for Horace’s Epode 15 in 1813 (British Museum, 1864,1210.114), facing p. 172. Although little is known on the genesis of the painting, the date of the engraving provides a limit post quem the painting cannot have been done.
The painting was bequeathed to the museum by the Rev. Alexander Dyce but in its post mortem inventory it was given to an unknown painter and entitled ‘Courtship’. The Rev. Dyce who was a literary man who owned the complete works of Horace’s poetic oeuvre in several editions. He probably therefore knew perfectly what the painting represented but did not make a note of it.

Historical context note

The word Romanticism derived from the medieval term 'romance' and was first used by the German poets and critics August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel to label a wider cultural movement beginning with the late 18th and ending towards the mid 19th century. Romanticism started first in Western Europe as a literary and philosophical movement and only gradually involved the other arts, explicitly around 1800. Romantic artists were fascinated by nature they interpreted as a mirror of the mind. They investigated human nature and personality, the folk culture, the national and ethnic origins, the medieval era, the exotic, the remote, the mysterious and the occult. The interest in the exotic and the non-Western, illustrated in France by such a painter as Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), as well as the medieval revival, witnessed in England by Horace Walpole (1717-1797), are perhaps the most identifiable parts of Romanticism. It is really in the Post-Napoleonic period that this movement gained ascendancy. Its greatest proponents were among others Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) and François-René de Chateaubriant (1768-1848) in France, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) in England, Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) and Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) in Germany. In the visual arts, it was largely played out by 1850, but in music it persists for another generation.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'The Poet Observing Nerea with Her New Lover in Her Grotto', Henry Fuseli, 1810-1813

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Dyce collection : a catalogue of the paintings, miniatures, drawings, engravings, rings, and miscellaneous objects bequeathed by the Reverend Alexander Dyce, London, 1874, p. 5.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Summary Catalogue of British paintings, London, 1973, p. 50.

Production Note

Originally acquired as Anon,, 'Courtship'.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Figure; Figure; Courtship




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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