Charles Landseer Clarissa Harlowe in the Prison Room of the Sheriff’s Office exhibited 1833

Artwork details

Artist
Charles Landseer 1799–1879
Title
Clarissa Harlowe in the Prison Room of the Sheriff’s Office
Date Exhibited 1833
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 610 x 508 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by Robert Vernon 1847
Reference
N00408
Not on display

Display caption

Samuel Richardson's novel 'The History of Clarissa Harlowe' was first published in 1747-8. Clarissa, the heroine, is a woman of great integrity. She is wooed by the rake Robert Lovelace. He wants her to live with him out of wedlock and despite her resistance to the proposal, rapes her. Clarissa's continuing denial of him after this transforms her into a tragic heroine who dominates the last scenes of the book. At one point she is imprisoned for debt. Landseer depicts that moment when she is discovered in gaol by Lovelace's friend John Belford. Landseer's choice of subject and his handling of it recalls William Hogarth's much earlier 'modern moral subjects', which influenced many nineteenth-century genre painters.

August 2004

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