Fuseli, a learned artist, had been introduced to the writings of Homer, the Nibelungenlied, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton while still a boy in Zurich and throughout his long and brilliant career he constantly mined his library for inspiration. His fascination with the classical world was enhanced when he went to live in Rome (between 1770 and 1779) on the advice of Sir Joshua Reynolds. During this period, he became fascinated by classical art and architecture, Mannerism and in particular Michelangelo. Thus the present figure of King Amycus would appear to be particularly inspired by the damned souls that populate the right hand side of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement (Sistine Chapel, Vatican).
The present work once belonged to John R. Gaines who formed an exceptionally fine collection of works on paper during the 1970s and 1980s. In November 1986, Sotheby’s held his legendary sale, the forty-six lots including examples of work by Leonardo, Raphael, Veronese, Van Dyck, Claude Lorrain, Rembrandt, Turner, Monet, Seurat, Van Gogh and Picasso, amongst others. The present work was not included in that auction, but remained instead with John R. Gaines and subsequent to his death, with his family.
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