Benjamin Robert Haydon, Head of the Horse of Selene, a drawing in black and white chalk

AD 1809

Haydon (1786-1846) sought to restore the British tradition of history painting on a grand scale. His life-long fascination with the 'Elgin Marbles' began during his preparations for an early commission: The Assassination of Dentatus (1806-9, Marquess of Normanby Collection), which contains figures derived from the Parthenon frieze. With his friend and fellow student David Wilkie he developed an interest in anatomy, and his study of Greek sculpture convinced him that the ancients must have worked from dissections. He began himself to incorporate dissection into his teaching methods. Lack of public enthusiasm for his melodramatic works left him in constant financial difficulty, and he is perhaps best remembered today for his autobiographical writings and his friendship with the poets John Keats and William Wordsworth. He committed suicide in 1846.

This drawing of the Horse of Selene from the east pediment of the Parthenon is one of a series of large-scale studies Haydon made from the Elgin Marbles before they were purchased by the British Government in 1816. Haydon was an enthusiastic voice in support of their purchase. He saw this sculpture as 'a perfect example of what the highest genius will do, when curbed and guided by science'.

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More information


D. B. Brown, R. Woof and S. Hebron (eds.), Benjamin Robert Haydon 1786-18 (Grasmere, The Wordsworth Trust, 1996)

C. Fox, London: world city 1800-1840 (Villa Hugel, Essen, 1992)


Height: 554.000 mm
Width: 759.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1881-7-9-347



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