Theodor von Holst
Fantasy Based on Goethe’s ‘Faust’ 1834

Artwork details

Theodor von Holst 1810–1844
Fantasy Based on Goethe’s ‘Faust’
Date 1834
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1116 x 757 mm
frame: 1325 x 962 x 80 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1990
Not on display

Display caption

Holst was the son of a Latvian music master who settled in London in 1807. In the 1820s he became a pupil of Fuseli, and like him specialised in literary subjects with an emphasis on the macabre and supernatural. This picture seems to relate to the legend of Faust, as retold by the German romantic playwright Goethe in his great poetic drama published in two parts in 1808 and 1832. Faust is a late medieval scholar with a thirst for ultimate knowledge who enters into a pact with the Devil, thereby pledging his soul. The daemonic figure to the left is perhaps identifiable as Faust's companion, Mephistopheles, an agent of Hell, perhaps participating in the witches' Sabbath during Walpurgis Night.

August 2004