Richmond chose a moment when the witch sits in the forest myopically reading a book by the light of a glow-worm. Beyond, through the trees of the forest are distant mountains with a dramatic sunset. Around her are several fairies, goblins and an owl, and hovering in front of her appears to be the Puck-hairy, her demon spirit, whose words from the play explained his role:
This Dame of mine here, Maid, growes high in evill
And thinkes shee doe’s all, when ‘tis I, her Divell That both delude her, and must yet protect her…
George Richmond enjoyed a sparkling career as a portrait painter and could count amongst his sitters some of the most notable names in Victorian England. As a young man, however, he had been far from conventional and during the late 1820s and early 1830s he associated himself with a small group of artists, including Samuel Palmer (see lot 5), who were known as the ‘Ancients’ and were heavily influenced by William Blake.
The present work, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830 and descended within the artist’s family until 2001, is a particularly rare and intense image from this important period.
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