Samuel Colman (or Coleman)

The Death of Amelia


Not on display

Samuel Colman (or Coleman) 1780–1845
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 629 × 756 mm
Purchased 1977

Display caption

The subject is taken from The Seasons, a poem by James Thomson (1700–48), first published in 1727. In ‘Summer’, the poet tells how Amelia is killed by a lightning strike, while in the arms of her love Celadon. He is ‘pierced by severe amazement, hating life / speechless, and fixed in all the death of woe’ as he stands over her corpse. Samuel Colman was based in Bristol, and his subjects tend towards the dramatic and catastrophic.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘S. Coleman/pinxit/18[?]04’ on stone b.r.
Oil on canvas, 24 13/16 × 29 13/16 (63.0 × 75.7)
Purchased at Bonham's (Grant-in-Aid) 1977
Prov: ...sold Bonham's, 17 February 1977 (89, as ‘Stormy Coastal Landscape with Figures in the foreground’ by H. Fuseli), bt. Tate Gallery.

The subject is taken from ‘Summer’, part of The Seasons by James Thomson, published in 1727. The painting illustrates the episode of the death of Amelia in the thunderstorm told in lines 1171–1222, particularly lines 1214–19:

‘From his [Celadon's] void embrace,
Mysterious Heaven! That moment to the ground,
A blackened corse, was struck the beauteous maid.
But who can paint the lover, as he stood
Pierced by severe amazement, hating life,
Speechless, and fixed in all the death of woe?’

The same subject was treated by William Williams (1784; Tate T00519), G. Arnold (RA 1794; present whereabouts unknown), and Fuseli (RA 1801; Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe). The present painting in many ways resembles Richard Wilson's ‘Celadon and Amelia’ (W. G. Constable, Richard Wilson, 1953, plate 24b; present whereabouts unknown) which was engraved by Woollett and etched by Browne in 1766, and was presumably the picture exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1765 (157).

The identity of the artist is not absolutely certain. A painting of a village scene, inscribed ‘Saml. Coleman/Pinxit 1804’ was sold at Christie's on 10 February 1967 (48), and it seems likely that the painter of both pictures is the Bristol artist Samuel Colman who painted ‘The Destruction of the Temple’ in the 1830s (Tate T01980). Although the spelling of the surname is different, there are close similarities in the figure style and in the transparent handling of paint.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979

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