This hitherto unrecorded drawing of 30 July 1814 is one of a group showing lovers embracing, often associated with music, executed in the mid- to late 1810s. Some illustrate Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (see Gert Schiff, Johann Heinrich Füssli 1741-1825, Zurich and Munich, 1973, p. 610, nos. 1552-4, illustrated, one dated 1815), while two have a complicated relationship with the Lied vom Hürnen Seyfrit, a late Medieval variant of the Nibelungenlied (see Christie's, London, 14 April 1992, lots 28 and 29, illustrated, both of 1813). Like one of the latter, this example is inscribed 'K' for its place of execution.This may be Knavestoke in Essex, the country house of Lord Waldegrave whose son Lord Chewton was accompanied by Fuseli, as his tutor, on his journey to Paris and Lyon in 1758-9. However it has been suggested by Professor Weinglass that this is unlikely, as after 1766, there was no further contact on Fuseli's part with the Waldegraves after they fell out whilst in France. The more likely suggestion is that the 'K' indicates Kensington in London.
The idea of an erotic theme including a figure playing on a keyboard instrument in the background probably goes back to Titian's painting of Venus and Cupid with the Organ Player, now in Berlin, and variants, without Cupid, in Florence and Madrid; Fuseli did a paraphrase of such a Titian in watercolour circa 1799-1800 (Schiff, op. cit., p. 600, no. 1486, illustrated) and a more personal variant in oils (Schiff, p. 525, no. 926, illustrated in colour). The motif of a woman seated at a keyboard instrument also has erotic significance in 17th-century Dutch painting. The general influence of Michelangelo, whose murals Fuseli studied intensely during his years in Rome, can also be seen, the pose and draperies of the main female figure reflecting the Prophets and Sibyls in the Sistine Chapel, in paricularly Daniel and the Delphine Sibyl.
It is possible that the facial features of the main female figure are taken from one of the young girls with whom Fuseli surrounded himself at this time, particuarly Lavinia de Irujo (1794-after 1855, see Christie's, London 1992, op. cit., nos. 4, 5, and 7, all illustrated; two of them show Lavinia playing a lute). It was perhaps Fuseli's affection for such girls that produced what Gert Schiff described as 'the new lyrical and elegiac components of Fuseli's late style' (see Schiff, op. cit., 1973, p. 375).
The presence of this drawing among the William Michael Rossetti material is of great interest. The Rossetti's and their circle admired not only Fuseli but two other related artists, Theodore von Holst and William Blake.
We are grateful to Professor D.H. Weinglass for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.