An Academy by Lamplight

Engraver: William Pether (British, Carlisle ca. 1738–1821 Bristol)

Artist: After Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) (British, Derby 1734–1797 Derby)

Publisher: Published London by William Pether (British, Carlisle ca. 1738–1821 Bristol)

Date: February 20, 1772

Medium: Mezzotint; second state of two

Dimensions: plate: 22 7/8 x 17 7/8 in. (58.1 x 45.4 cm)
sheet: 23 x 18 1/8 in. (58.4 x 46 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1953

Accession Number: 53.600.566


In a stone chamber containing the "Nymph with a Shell and Borghese Gladiator," six fancifully dressed young artists have assembled to sketch by lamp-light. The virtuoso realism—exemplified by the chipped stone plinth—belies the scene's mysterious, romantic mood. Pether's exquisite mezzotint, based on a painting by Wright, displays subtle tonal range, with deep shadows warmed by the brownish hue of the ink. Against a range of velvety darks, highlights—such as the protruding sheet beneath the foremost draftsman's sketch—appear almost to glow.