Thomas Sully (American, Horncastle, Lincolnshire 1783–1872 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Oil on wood
28 1/8 x 22 1/2 in. (71.4 x 57.2 cm)
Gift of Louis Allston Gillet, in memory of his uncles, Sully Gillet and Lorenzo M. Gillet, 1921
Painted in Sully's most succulent, painterly manner, "Musidora" is his only known nude. Inspired by James Thomson's poem Summer (1727), it is at once chaste and erotic, a combination that had great appeal for contemporary Victorian audiences. Sully depicts the modest Musidora at the moment her suitor, Damon, discovers her bathing in the forest. His gentlemanly conduct so impresses her that she pledges her love for him at once. The subject was painted by many artists of the day, but Sully's interpretation, in which the unwitting viewer plays the role of Damon, is compellingly unique.