About This Artwork

Henry Fuseli
Swiss, active in England, 1741-1825

Milton Dictating to His Daughter, 1794

Oil on canvas
121.2 x 118.7 cm (47 3/4 x 46 3/4 in.)

Preston O. Morton Memorial Purchase Fund for Older Paintings, 1973.303

Although the British public preferred pictures of landscapes, Henry Fuseli championed the cause of history painting—depicting subjects from the Bible, ancient and modern history, and great literature that expressed grand ideas. Seeking an audience for such images, he produced a series of paintings for an exhibition illustrating the work of the 17th-century English poet John Milton. The political and personal hardships Milton endured appealed to Fuseli and to the Romantic temper of his time. Here, in one of three paintings showing Milton’s life rather than his poetry, the blind poet, inspired by an inner light, dictates his epic poem Paradise Lost to one of his daughters.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, Christie’s Great Rooms, The Milton Gallery, 1799–1800, no. 40.

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741–1825, 1969, no. 52.

Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin, John Milton, Related Art, 1974 (no cat.).

Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Johann Heinrich Füssli. Das verlorene Paradies, September 27, 1997–January 11, 1998 (catalogue by Christoph Becker), no. 85.

Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich, Füssli: The Wild Swiss, October 14, 2005- January 8, 2006, no. 185.

Publication History

John Knowles, The Life and Writings of Henry Fuseli, Esq., M.A., R.A., vol. 1 (London, 1831), p. 221.

Arnold Federman, Johann Heinrich Füssli: Dichter und Maler, 1741–1825 (Zurich and Leipzig, 1927), p. 172.

David Irwin, “Fuseli’s Milton Gallery: Unpublished Letters,” Burlington Magazine 101 (1959), p. 436 n. 1.

Hugh Macandrew, “Henry Fuseli and William Roscoe,” Liverpool Libraries, Museums, and Arts Committee Bulletin 8 (1959–60), p. 47.

Hugh Macandrew, “Selected Letters from the Correspondence of Henry Fuseli and William Roscoe,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6th ser., 62 (1963), pp. 210, 215, 225.

Gert Schiff, Johann Heinrich Füsslis Milton-Galerie, Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft Zürich, Schriften Nr. 5 (Zurich and Struttgart, 1963), pp. 13, 18, 20, 108–11, 113 (ill.), 116, 139, 158, no. 40.

Marcia R. Pointon, Milton and English Art (Toronto, 1970), pp. 251–52, 260.

Gert Schiff, Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741–1851 (Zurich and Munich, 1973), vol. 1, pp. 166, 177, 221–23, 524, no. 921, p. 542; vol. 2, fig. 921.

“La Chronique des arts,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6th ser., 83 (1974), p. 131, fig. 419.

John David Farmer, “Henry Fuseli, Milton, and English Romanticism,” Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago 68, 4 (1974), pp. 14–19, ill.
David H. Weinglass, ed., The Collected English Letters of Henry Fuseli (Millwood, N.Y., 1982), pp. 117, 127, 155, 167–68, 213, 217–18, 224, 250.
Peter Tomory, “Henry Fuseli’s Milton When a Youth,” Art Bulletin of Victoria 27 (1986), p. 27.
Gloria Groom, “Art Illustration, and Enterprise in Late Eighteenth-Century English Art: A Painting by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 18 (1992), p. 129, fig. 6.
David H. Weinglass, Prints and Engraved Illustrations by and after Henry Fuseli: A Catalogue Raisonné (Aldershot, England, and Brookfield, Vt., 1994), p. 310, under no. 264.
Malcolm Warner in Susan Wise and Malcolm Warner, French and British Paintings from 1600 to 1800 in The Art Institute of Chicago. A Catalogue of the Collection (Chicago, 1996), pp. 214–20, ill.
Christoph Becker, Johann Heinrich Füssli. Das verlorene Paradies, exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 1997, pp. 64-66, 68, no. 85.
Judith Pascoe, Romantic Theatricality: Gender, Poetry, and Spectatorship (Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1997). pp. 200–04, fig. 17.
Arline Meyer, “Parnassus from the foothills: The Royal Academy viewed by Thomas Rowlandson and John Wolcot (Peter Pindar),” The British Art Journal 3, 2 (2002), p. 36, fig. 6.
Franziska Lentzsch, "Londoner Theater" in Füssli: The Wild Swiss, exh. cat. (Kunsthaus Zurich, 2005), pp. 223, 229, ill.

Ownership History

Sent by the artist to William Roscoe, Liverpool, in 1800, apparently in exchange for funds already advanced by Roscoe [Weinglass 1982, pp. 217-18, 224]; sold by Roscoe before August 20, 1802, possibly to John Stuart, 1st marquess of Bute (d. 1814) [see Weinglass 1982, p. 250 for the sale of this and three other paintings, and Warner 1996, p. 219 n. 4 for the likelihood that Bute was the buyer]. In the possession of his grandson, John Crighton-Stuart, 2nd marquess of Bute, by 1831 [Knowles 1831, vol. 1, p. 221 lists Bute as the owner of this painting]. Ernest Permain, London, 1930, possibly on consignment; offered for sale, G. and L. Bollag, Zurich, March 28, 1930, no. 56, pl. VII, bought in [letter of January 24, 1994 from Max Bollag to Malcolm Warner in curatorial file]; sold in London to Galerie Bollag, Zurich, March 10, 1932 [according to letter of Max Bollag cited above and another of December 15, 1993]; private collection of Léon Bollag (d. 1958), Zurich; his estate; then, from 1968, his son Max Bollag, Zurich [according to letters cited above]; sold by him to E. V. Thaw and Co., New York, by February 1973; sold to the Art Institute, 1973.

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