This is the last oil painting produced by Richard Dadd. It is an unusual work for the artist being neither a work of fantasy nor a direct transcription of nature. The picture shows a group of musicians standing in a landscape among classical ruins, and the
architectural details were probably based on memories and sketches made by the artist in 1842 on a trip to Greece and the Middle East with his patron, Sir Thomas Phillips. It was on the return from this journey that Dadd became disturbed with delusions of evil spirits and, in August 1843, murdered his father. For this he was imprisoned as a criminal lunatic, spending the rest of his life at Bethlem and later Broadmoor Hospitals.
The open landscape in Wandering Musicians is an unusual feature in the paintings Dadd made after his imprisonment and was probably based on open views seen from the back of the terrace at Broadmoor. The figures of the musicians with their blank gazes may also have been based on studies of inmates, while the instruments were probably observed from objects owned by Dadd who was known to be a keen musician…