About This Artwork

William Pether (English, 1731/38-1821)
after Joseph Wright of Derby (English, 1734-1797)

Three Persons Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight, 1769

Mezzotint in black on off-white laid paper
482 x 555 mm (image/plate); 489 x 565 mm (sheet)

Mary S. Adams, William McCallin McKee Memorial and Print and Drawing Anonymous Funds, 1995.31

Chaloner Smith 45

Before Valentine Green and Richard Earlom, William Pether created major mezzotints from several of the 14 paintings Joseph Wright of Derby exhibited in London between 1765 and 1772. Many of these were “candlelight pictures,” a genre exceedingly well suited to mezzotint tones. Yet Pether waited for a successful review of the 1766 painting for A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery before he began the laborious mezzotint process, completing it only in 1768. The print sold so well that Valentine Green saw a lucrative opportunity and absconded with the mezzotint commission that could have been Pether’s for Experiment on the Air Pump.

— Exhibition label, Burnishing the Night: Baroque to Contemporary Mezzotints from the Collection, February 21–May 31, 2015, Galleries 125–127

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