Henry Fuseli

Percival Delivering Belisane from the Enchantment of Urma

exhibited 1783

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 991 x 1257 mm
frame: 1248 x 1510 x 108 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Art Fund 1941
Reference
N05304

Display caption

Conventionally, history paintings were based on a literary or historical source familiar to educated viewers. The artist’s role was to select from the story a crucially significant moment that would convey a sense of nobility and moral certainty.

The success of this strategy of course depended on the viewer knowing the story, and so knowing what would happen next. Fuseli, however, admitted that he invented the saga of Percival and Belisane shown here. His paintings tended to emphasis spectacle and sensation rather then the noble themes and moral lessons which Reynolds’s view of the ‘great style’ demanded.

Gallery label, September 2004

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