About This Artwork

Henry Fuseli
Swiss, active in England, 1741-1825

The Discovery (recto), Two Sketches of Standing Male Figures (verso), 1767/69

Pen and brown ink and brush and brown wash, over graphite with traces of opaque brown paint (recto), graphite (verso), on cream laid paper, tipped onto ivory laid paper
529 x 658 mm

Restricted gift of Frank B. Hubachek, 1956.33

This powerful drawing—a bravura exercise in virtuoso line and tonal washes—illustrates a story from Swiss theologian Ludwig Lavater’s book De Spectris (“On Ghosts”), published in 1569. It describes a priest who, dressed in a sheet, haunts his wealthy niece who is living in his house, in an attempt to rape her and cheat her of her fortune. Terrified, the niece enlists the aid of a friend who exposes the repentant priest.

The curious badminton match visible in the background—not in the story, but added by Fuseli as a critical commentary—is a reference to a proverb composed in Latin by the Dutch poet Jacob Cats (1577–1660): Amor ut pila vices exiget, “Love, like a ball, demands reciprocation.”

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, The Tate Gallery, "Henry Fuseli," Feb. 19-Mar. 31, 1975, pp. 116-17 (ill.), cat. 148; traveled to Hamburg, Dec. 14 1974-Jan. 15, 1975, pp. 60, 106, cat. 7 (Ill.), and Paris, Petit Palais, Apr. 21-July 20, 1975, n.p., cat. 155 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Shockingly Mad: Henry Fuseli and the Art of Drawing", November 16, 2017 - April 1, 2018.

Publication History

Gert Schiff, Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741-1825, 2 vols. (Berichthaus Zurich, 1973), I: pp. 70-71, 87, 329, and 432, II: pl. 336.

Gert Schiff and Paola Viotto, L'opera completa di Füssli (Rizzoli, 1977), p. 111, no. D.8 (ill.).

Ownership History

Probably sold by the artist's estate to Baroness Susan North (died 1837; née Coutts and later Countess of Guildford), Petersham Castle, England; by descent to her daughter, Susan, 10th Baroness North (1797-1884) [stamp (Lugt 1947), verso, center, in black; Tomory 1972.]; probably sold, Sotheby's, London, July 14-15, 1885, Baroness North sale [Lugt 1947]. Arthur Crossland, Bradford, Yorkshire; sold, Christie's, London, Mar. 9, 1956, Crossland sale, lot 4. Sold by Durlacher Brothers, New York, to the Art Institute, April 1956.

Interpretive Resources

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