- Museum number
Eclogue I, 'O Fortunate Old Man!', illustration to Virgil's 'Eclogues'; wooded landscape with figure and cattle moving to right. c.1874
Graphite, pen and black ink and white bodycolour; on card
- Production date
- 1874 (circa)
Height: 173 millimetres
Width: 255 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This illustrates lines from Eclogue I in an 'English Version of the Eclogues of Virgil', 1883.
The following is the entry on this drawing in W. Vaughan, E.E. Barker, and C. Harrison, 'Samuel Palmer, Vision and Landscape' (London, BM, 2005), cat. no. 154, p. 235:
Palmer began making designs for illustrations to Virgil's 'Eclogues' after P.G. Hamerton had advised him only to publish his translation if accompanying it with his own illustrations. Apart from his own lifelong fascination with Virgil - stimulated by his classicist friend Calvert and his own son Thomas More's expertise in latin - Palmer had in mind the illustrations to The Pastorals of Virgil by Blake (cat. 19) which had been so important for opening his eyes to a poetic and visionary approach to landscape in his youth. When sending his text to Hamerton in the first place he had said "If Blake were alive and I could afford it, I would ask him to make a head-piece for each bucolic.
How exquisitely he would have done it we know, seeing that perhaps the most intense gems of bucolic sentiment in the whole range of art are his little wood-cut illustrations to Phillips' Pastorals in Dr. Thornton's book." [Letters, p. 835]
As this quote acknowledges, Blake did not illustrate Virgil in Dr. Thornton's book, but one of Virgil's English imitators, Ambrose Phillips. Perhaps there was a sense of trying to make good the omission.
Despite this, it must be admitted that - apart from occasional figurative quotations - Palmer's own Virgil illustrations bear little relationship to Blake's work, although they do have a more intimate scale than the Milton designs - perhaps because they are directly intended as book illustrations. Many if the designs are also characterized by the vividness so frequently evident in Palmer's first sketches. This one shows a combination of the use of fine pen lines (particularly evident, for example, in the representation of the ‘Margate mottle’ in the sky) with graphite to mark out deep areas of shadow and to sketch out forms broadly in the foreground. Touches of body colour white [gouache] are used to highlight forms in the foreground, such as the backs of the cattle.
The present work illustrates the same passage as the painting Tityrus (cat.157)
yet its treatment is utterly different in line with the smaller scale. The picture uses the 'Margate mottle' for the sky as the unfortunate Meliboeus passes the fortunate Tityrus on his way into exile.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1992/3 Dec-Jan, BM, Samuel Palmer (ex cat.)
2005/6 Oct-Jan, BM, Samuel Palmer (1805-1881): Vision and Landscape
2006 March-May, New York, Met Mus of Art, Samuel Palmer (1805-1881): Vision and Landscape
2011 April-June, Walsall, New Art Gallery, Towards the Light...
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Eclogues (I)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- By descent from the artist to Alfred Herbert Palmer (1853-1931); Vernon Wethered; by descent through the family to Maud Wethered, by whom bequeathed to the Museum, 1991
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number