The present drawing is a free copy of the figure by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, where Fuseli studied from 1770-1778. In the original the putto holds up the large book with his left hand on the spine and the book is placed slightly further across the prophet's lap. Daniel’s right arm is more sharply bent, parallel with the book in which he is writing, his left shoulder is higher, and his right calf and foot are concealed by draperies. A similar drawing after Michelangelo’s Sogno was sold in these Rooms, 14 April 1992, lot 34. For other drawings after figures in the Sistine Chapel, probably executed in Rome in the 1770s, see Schiff, op. cit., p. 480, nos. 671-5.
The present drawing is on the back of an invitation to Fuseli and his wife from ‘JJ’, almost certainly the publisher and book-seller Joseph Johnson, with whom Fuseli collaborated on a number of occasions, and who shared, together with William Blake, his radical views. Above the invitation, mainly torn off and presumably written later at right-angles, are the final words of eleven lines written in Italian. Also on the reverse, above the text of the letter, heavily drawn in ink, is an eye and eyebrow, with the fragments of another drawing above.
The stamp on the upper left corner of the recto indicates that the drawing was in the collection of Baroness North and previously the Countess of Guilford. Fuseli often stayed at Putney Hill, the home of Susan, née Coutts, Countess of Guilford (1771-1837), later Baroness North and her daughters, Susan and Georgina. Her daughter Susan (1797-1884) succeeded her as Baroness North, and inherited a large quantity of Fuseli drawings. Sales of these were held at Sotheby’s, London, 14-15 July 1885, and also through Arnold Otto Meyer, Leipzig, 19-20 March 1914. The Baroness was both friend and patron of the artist and he died at her house in Putney.
We are grateful to Martin Butlin for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.