attributed to William Hamilton

The Invasion of a Harem

Not on display

Attributed to William Hamilton 1751–1801
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 470 × 698 mm
Purchased 1967

Display caption

The story illustrated in this mysterious, vaguely Oriental scene remains unknown, but is likely to come from some contemporary novel or drama.
William Hamilton, to whom this painting is tentatively attributed, trained first as an architectural draughtsman in Rome, but soon became a successful painter of theatrical portraits and historical subjects. His style was less based on classical antiquity than that of his predecessors, being softer and often more sentimental, but sometimes showing an inclination to follow Fuseli's bold and extreme distortions in composition and figure drawing.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

William Hamilton 1751–1801 Attributed to

T00939 The Invasion of a Harem

Not inscribed.
Canvas, oval, painted area 18½ x 27½ (47 x 69.5) on stretcher 18¿ x 22¿ (48 x 70.5).
Purchased from Mr Lawrence Gowing (Grant-in-Aid) 1967.
Coll: ...; G Maione; Miss P Maione, sold anonymously at Christie’s, 10 December 1965 (88, as ‘Van Hoist, A Mythological Episode’), bt. Butlin for Lawrence Gowing.

While this work seems to belong in the development of neo-classical subject painting in England in the later 18th century it has not been possible to attribute it certainly to any artist. The closest points of reference seem to be in certain paintings by William Hamilton, for instance ‘The Pursuit’, signed and dated 1794, lent by the Robert Edward Peters Collection to the Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, November 1965–January 1966 (photograph in Tate Gallery files; the companion ‘The Rescue’ of 1793 is repr. in the catalogue), and ‘Joan of Arc and the Furies’ from Henry VI, painted for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, engraved in 1795 and now in the Vassar College Art Gallery (repr. Vassar College Art Gallery: Selections from the Permanent Collection, 1967, p. 130).

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London 1968.


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