- Museum number
'Satan retiring before Gabriel and his host' from John Milton's "Paradise Lost", IV, 1010, design for bas relief; a winged Satan seen at right below a figure holding a pair of scales above him, four figures holding spears at left
Pen and grey ink, with brown wash
- Production date
Height: 168 millimetres
Width: 240 millimetres
- Curator's comments
The following text comes from the catalogue 'Paradise Lost: The Poem and Its Illustrations' (Wordsworth Trust, 2004, see p.139):
Like Dayes, Flaxman thought 'Paradise Lost' to be an ideal subject for serious history painting, and, moreover, a source of national pride that had been wrongly neglected by English artists and so taken up by foreign geniuses like Fuseli. In his tenth lecture, 1826 (quoted by Pointon, p.79) he said:
'In the number of original subjects of the noblest class,derived from revelation, we must remember the immortal poem of Paradise Lost by our own countryman John Milton...And yet, it is to be believed that this poet, abounding in subjects and characters of the most extraordinary kind, has been almost entirely neglected in the arts of his own country, whilst his merits have been vidicated and thus illustrated by the liberal mind and genius of a foreigner!'.
Another version of this delicately-executed drawing, taken from slightly earlier in Book IV of "Paradise Lost", was previously in the collection of Walter Brandt. In the Brandt drawing, Satan is depicted in almost the same pose but reversed and set along a diagonal axis from the bottom centre of the sheet to the top left-hand corner. In 1826 the Duke of Bedford commissioned a marble relief for which Flaxman used this drawing as the basis for its composition, but it was not accepted. The plaster model based on this drawing is in the collection of University College London.
There are two other drawings in the British Museum collection by Flaxman depicting scenes from 'Paradise Lost', see 1900,0824.176 and 1900,0824.177. The three were possibly intended to be published as a set of illustrations. Flaxman never produced a substantial corpus of illustrations based on the works of Milton, despite his being encouraged to by his friend William Hayley (who published a significant biography of the poet in 1796). Flaxman allegedly refrained from doing so because he both did not want to compete with Henry Fuseli, who worked on forty paintings of scenes from 'Paradise Lost' for nearly a decade before exhibiting them at his own Milton Gallery in 1799-1800, and because he considered that Milton provided few figures for compositions (Irwin, 1979, pp. 105-106). Thus only three illustrations of Milton were published by the sculptor, in Hayley's edition of William Cowper's translation of the 'Latin and Italian Poems' (1808). He lamented the general lack of native illustrations after Milton's work in his 10th Discourse at the Royal Academy, however (see below).
However, there are other drawings that form part of this Miltonic series are now in the Slade and University College London. Marcia Pointon dates these works to the early 1790's and due to their uniformity of style and subject, supports the idea that they formed part of a series (M. Pointon, 'Milton & English Art', Manchester and Toronto, 1970, pp. 76-84).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2004 July-Oct, Cumbria, The Wordsworth Trust, 'Paradise Lost', no.44
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Paradise Lost
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number