The Cave of Despair

A work made of pen and black ink, with brush and brown and gray wash and touches of red gouache, over graphite and touches of charcoal, on ivory laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of pen and black ink, with brush and brown and gray wash and touches of red gouache, over graphite and touches of charcoal, on ivory laid paper.

Date:

c. 1769

Artist:

Henry Fuseli
Swiss, active in England, 1741-1825

About this artwork

All the formulae that would come to define Fuseli’s unique style are already present in this extremely accomplished early drawing: the stage-like setting and dramatic gestures that reveal the influence of the theater; a powerful use of line and contour; extreme contrasts of dark and light; and heroic physiques influenced by ancient sculpture and Michelangelo.
The subject is from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene (published 1590). It depicts the temptation of suicide offered by Despair, who bends over his latest victim. The Red Cross Knight, the hero of book 1, stands with Una, symbol of Truth, at the mouth of the cave.

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Prints and Drawings

Artist

Henry Fuseli

Title

The Cave of Despair

Origin

England

Date

1769–1825

Medium

Pen and black ink, with brush and brown and gray wash and touches of red gouache, over graphite and touches of charcoal, on ivory laid paper

Dimensions

331 × 504 mm

Credit Line

The Leonora Hall Gurley Memorial Collection

Reference Number

1922.2151

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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