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Provenance: (supplied by dealer)
Professor Giovanni Piancastelli (1845-1926), Rome;
Private collection, Switzerland;
Sotheby's (London) auction July 1983;
Private collection, Connecticut;
Excerpts from notes supplied by David Nisinson (complete text on file):
- Fuseli arrived in Rome in 1770 and remained there for eight years;
- The subjects depicted in the drawing present interesting mysteries that have fascinated Dr. Gert Schiff for years. Only the subject on the recto has been identified. Dr. Schiff has not been able to identify the subject on the verso in various literary and biblical sources or in contemporary events during Fuseli's stay in Rome. However, both sides of the sheet will be included in the forthcoming revised edition of Dr. Schiff's catalogue raisonné of Fuseli's oeuvre.
- On the recto of the sheet, the Hebrew letters "Rachel" on the tomb-like structure behind the old woman are apparently a reference to one of the Books of the Apocrypha which were known to have been discussed in Rome during the period of Fuseli's stay. There is apparently a passage that compares the mourning of Rachel for her exiled sons with that of the grieving mothers after the massacre of the innocents.
- This subject of the verso might be compared to that of a sheet in the Getty Museum which dates from the same period and depicts a seated figure stabbed by a group of naked assassins.
Museum purchase, Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Income Fund
CPLH, TREASURES, 11 Nov 1995 - 3 March 1996.
recto: a mother tears her hair and rages with grief and anger as a crippled old crone tells her details of the tragedy; the bodies of dead babies and young children are strewn on the ground, including one which the old woman has been cleaning with a sponge; soldiers are visible in the distance on the higher battlements; the setting is an elaborate fantasy of an ancient city with an oversized fountain and pyramids; Hebrew letters on the tomb-like structure behind the old woman bear the name "Rachel"; verso: a nude man has apparently just stabbed the woman in the middle distance who has collapsed and is being supported by an old woman; the assassin appears to be escaping into or seeking refuge in a church where a mass is being conducted; as the assassin enters he pulls back a curtain with one hand and hurls aside a knife and a ring with the other; two riders approaching in the background appear to be in pursuit but one has fallen with his horse;