The Lady from Milton's Comus

John Raphael SMITH

After Joseph Wright of Derby. D’Oench 302; Frankau 208; Alexander and Godfrey 1980, 56, 114
A fine impression in dark brown ink with small margins all round. Apart from a small oil spot on the verso imperceptible on the recto and some pale discolouration, in very good condition. 455 x 552mm.
John Milton’s masque “Comus”, presented in 1634 for the Earl of Bridgewater, set private heroism and chastity in contrast to courtly revelry, in his first dramatization of the conflict between good and evil. 150 years later, Joseph Wright of Derby painted a series of four virtuous women, placing two of them, The Lady from Milton’s Comus and The Widow of an Indian Chief, in sublime outdoor settings. In the play, the Lady becomes lost in a forest, is abducted by the creature Comus, and must defend her chastity. With his typical love of a strong light-source, Wright has her seek for moral fortitude in a moonlit setting. He said of this painting, “I never painted a picture so universally liked!” It responded to the high value placed on sensibility in the late 18th Century.
John Raphael Smith, Engraver to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, executed the mezzotint four years after the painting was exhibited in Covent Garden.