An Old Man Murdered by Three Younger Men

Object Details

Title:

An Old Man Murdered by Three Younger Men

Artist/Maker(s):

Johann Heinrich Fuseli (Swiss, 1741 - 1825)

Culture:

Swiss

Date:

early 1770s

Medium:

Pen and black ink and gray wash

Dimensions:

42.2 x 47.6 cm (16 5/8 x 18 3/4 in.)

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Johann Heinrich Fuseli once told student Benjamin Haydon: "[A] subject should interest, astonish, or move; if it did none of these it was worth nothing, by God."

Dramatically lit behind dark, parted curtains, a group of figures encircle an old man and brutally stab him. Starkly opposing areas of dark and light intensify the drama: the paper's brilliant whiteness contrasts with the black curtains and the murderers' menacing shadows. This drawing typifies the horrific scenes in which Fuseli specialized.


Fuseli selected his themes from literature, but his idiosyncratic interpretation can make it difficult to identify exact subjects. The curtain creates the stagelike effect, which, along with the linear, abstract representation of monumental figures, recall Fuseli's Shakespearean drawings of the early 1770s, made during his years in Italy. The classicizing representation of the figures may have been inspired by the Hellenistic sculpture Niobid Groupin the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.

Provenance
1984

Private Dealer (Switzerland), sold through Colnaghi Drawings (Jean-Luc Baroni) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Exhibitions
An Exhibition of Old Master Drawings (June to July 1984) (44)
  • P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., Ltd., London, June to July, 1984
18th and 19th Century Drawings (March 15 to May 29, 1994) (44)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), March 15 to May 29, 1994
Fuseli to Menzel: Drawings and Watercolors in the Age of Goethe (September 22 to November 29, 1998) (44)
  • Kunstsammlungen zu Weimer, Schloßmuseum, (Weimar), June 22 to August 31, 1997
  • Haus der Kunst (Munich), September 7 to November 9, 1997
  • Harvard Art Museum, Harvard University, (Cambridge), April 4 to June 7, 1998
  • The Frick Collection, (New York), June 23 to August 30, 1998
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), September 22 to November 29, 1998
The Body Beautiful: Artists Draw the Nude (1440 - 1880) (December 14, 1999 to February 27, 2000) (44)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 14, 1999 to February 27, 2000
A Revolutionary Age: Drawing in Europe, 1770-1820 (January 18 to May 1, 2005) (44)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 18 to May 1, 2005
Drawing the Classical Figure (December 23, 2008 to March 8, 2009) (44)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 23, 2008 to March 8, 2009
Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings (July 19 to October 23, 2011) (44)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 19 to October 23, 2011
Bibliography

"Acquisitions/1984." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 13 (1985), p. 198.