- Museum number
- Object: The Bellman
Bellman clanging his bell while walking past houses in a village at moonrise. 1879
Etched copper plate
- Production date
Height: 188 millimetres (plate)
Width: 252 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The following is the entry on this print from W. Vaughan, E.E. Barker, and C. Harrison, 'Samuel Palmer, Vision and Landscape' (London, BM, 2005), no. 160, p. 239-40:
Soon after Palmer devised the plan to prepare eight large watercolours depicting subjects from Milton’s L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, he began to contemplate the possibility of expanding the project to include prints (L&L, pp.149-150). On October 20th, 1864, Palmer described his inspiration to Leonard Rowe Valpy:
The Etching dream came over me in this way. I am making my working sketches a quarter of the size of the drawings, and was surprised and not displeased to notice the variety—the difference of each from all the rest. I saw within, a set of highly-finished etchings the size of Turner’s Liber Studiorum; and as finished as my moonlight with the cypresses; a set making a book—a compact block of work which I would fain hope might live when I am with the fallen leaves. (Letters, p.712.)
The two large, exquisite etchings that Palmer completed for the project before his death—The Bellman and The Lonely Tower—have, indeed, done much to ensure the immortality of his graphic art.
Palmer derived the composition of The Bellman from the large watercolour (Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Lister M20) of the same name, which illustrates the lines from Il Penseroso (lines 83-84) referring to the close of day:
…the Belmans drowsie charm
To bless the dores from nightly harm:
As the sun sinks behind the hills, a solitary man, bell in hand, makes his way past figures beneath an arbor and cattle beside a hedge towards a village marked by chimney smoke and a church spire. Palmer based the view on memories of Shoreham: “It is a breaking out of village-fever long after contact—a dream of that genuine village where I mused away some of my best years, designing what nobody would care for, and contracting among good books, a fastidious and unpopular taste.” Palmer seems to have prepared all six (lifetime) states of this print in the spring of 1879. Thirteen bitings, successive burnishings and other revisions transformed the once-smooth copper plate into a rich terrain of deep furrows and shallow incisions. The artist’s son, A.H. Palmer, pulled working proofs on his first press at Furze Hill House, and later printed proofs for sale on his large second press in London (V&A 1926, 212, 'A Vision Recaptured', p.71). The etching was published by The Fine Art Society, London, in 1879.
Literature: Goldman, 1991, no. 11b.
The original copper plate, was cancelled after printing the edition of 75 impressions in 1926.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1987 Feb-May, BM, An A-Z of P&D
1991 Feb-Apr, Bath, Holburne Museum, Samuel Palmer
1991 May-Jun, Gwent, Newport Mus & AG, Samuel Palmer
1991 Oct-Nov, Inverness Mus & AG, Samuel Palmer
1992 Jan-Mar, Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, Samuel Palmer
2005/6 Oct-Jan, BM, Samuel Palmer
2006 Mar-May, New York, Met Mus of Art, Samuel Palmer
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- By descent from the artist to Alfred Herbert Palmer.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number