Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Death of Oedipus (Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, lines 1606-1628)

William Ward (British, London 1766–1826 London)
After Henry Fuseli (Swiss, Zürich 1741–1825 London)
John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster)
August 26, 1785
sheet: 17 15/16 x 21 13/16 in. (45.5 x 55.4 cm)
Credit Line:
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959
Accession Number:
Not on view
Oedipus, blind and exiled from Thebes with two daughters, recognizes divine signs of his imminent death. Fuseli had drawn subjects from Sophocles while in Rome during the 1770s–his knowledge of Greek allowed him to read the plays in the original. After settling in London in 1780, he painted two Oedipus themes in oil and exhibited them at the Royal Academy. This mezzotint reproduces a painting shown in 1784, and its exploration of themes of guilt and retribution anticipate Romanticism. Fuseli admired Michelangelo and borrowed compositional elements from the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Signature: in plate, below image: "Painted by H Fuseli" ;"Engraved by W Ward"

Inscription: in plate below image: Greek text at left, translated opposite: "In Thunders call'd the god, beneath the blast / with horror struck his Daughters on his knees / they fell and wept"; below center: "London Publish'd Augt. 26th 1785, by J R Smith No 83 Oxford Street"
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 4, 2011–June 12, 2011.

Frankau 1904.86; Weinglass 74
Julia Frankau Eighteenth Century Artists and Engravers: William Ward A.R.A. and James Ward R.A.. London, 1904, cat. no. 86.

Gert Schiff Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741-1825. Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Oeuvrekataloge Schweizer Künstler, 2 vols., Zurich and Munich, 1973, Cat. nos. 712, 712a: related painting (1784, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), and this print: I, p. 487, II, p. 160, ill.

David H. Weinglass Prints and Engraved Illustrations by and after Henry Fuseli; A Catalogue Raisonné. Aldershot, Hampshire and Brookfield, Vermont, 1994, cat. no. 74, p. 80, ill.

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