Samuel Palmer (British, London 1805–1881 Redhill, Surrey)
Watercolor and body color over graphite, with reductive techniques, shell gold and gum arabic
Sheet: 21 15/16 × 30 1/8 in. (55.7 × 76.5 cm)
Purchase, Director’s Fund and David T. Schiff Gift, 2017
Not on view
Palmer’s poetic landscape invites us to contemplate evening quietude in the Welsh mountains. Painted to mark the artist’s election to full membership in London’s Society of Painters in Water-Colours, the work centers on a brilliant sinking sun that highlights Sabrina, a legendary nymph of the River Severn who oversees drinking cattle. Palmer took the subject from John Milton’s Comus, a drama set in the foothills of Mount Plynlimon in central Wales—a region the artist had toured and sketched. Replicating the dazzling effects of sunlight, the image moves from detailed hills in the center distance to more broadly rendered passages in the left and right foreground. Shell gold (pure metal mixed with gum) was applied to brighten leaves near the sun, while touches of body color (a matte, opaque form of watercolor), highlight nearer foliage.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: Not signed
Samuel Palmer; By descent to Alfred Herbert Palmer; W. A. Smith; and by descent to 1935; Christie's, London, April 26, 1935 (lot 48); The Fine Art Society, London(bought at the preceding); Private Collection, United Kingdom; Spink-Leger Pictures; Private Collection; Vendor: Andrew Clayton-Payne
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," August 8, 2017–November 20, 2017.
Christie's, London Catalogue of Modern Pictures, the Property of the R. Hon. Lord Seldon, also Modern Pictures and Water Colour Drawings from Other Sources. [Sale catalogue]. April 26, 1935, lot 48, "Savrina", 20 1/2 x 29 1/2 in. (bought by the Fine Art Society, London), p. 9.
Raymond Lister Catalogue Raisonne of the Works of Samuel Palmer. Cambridge, 1988, cat. no. M5, p. 218.