Although it is impossible to be certain, for Fuseli has not inscribed the sheet with a title, it has been suggested that the scene closely resembles that in the first ‘Studierzimmer’ of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1808 masterpiece Faust. Part I, in which Dr. Faust’s attempt to translate the Bible is interrupted by the manifestation of Mephistopheles and his first suggestion of the advantages to be had from a pact with the devil.
There, it should be noted, are a number of details within the drawing that differ from Goethe’s text – such as the age of Faust, the clothes worn by Mephistopheles, and his inclusion of a horse (horses only appear - as suggestions of Mephistopheles’ magic powers - later in the action). This method, however, of selecting and then juggling elements of a source is entirely consistent with Fuseli, whose knowledge of literature was profound and who often enjoyed allowing his imagination to run free.
This drawing has only recently come to the attention of modern day art historians as, for much of the last century, it formed part of the private collection of the descendants of the distinguished art dealer, Leo Blumenreich (1884-1932).
We would like to thank Martin Butlin, Professor Martin Priestman and Professor William Vaughan for their help when cataloguing this work.
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