Henry Fuseli

Two Courtesans with fantastic hairstyles and hats

Two Courtesans with fantastic hairstyles and hats by Henry Fuseli

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In 1965 a chance remark to the Gallery's director of the time, Peter Tomory, led to the purchase of a remarkable collection of Fuseli drawings, which allowed important gaps in the historical development of the artist's work to be filled. An old folder associated with the drawings indicates that they came to New Zealand from England in the twentieth century, and it has been suggested that Moses Haughton (1772-1848), an engraver of many of Fuseli's works, was the original owner. The collection gives the truth to Walter Pater's statement in 1769: 'It is the addition of strangeness that constitutes the Romantic character in art. It is the addition of curiosity to the desire of beauty that constitutes the Romantic temper'. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Fuseli's drawings of women, whether identified portraits or anonymous courtesans. Theatrical hairstyles and costumes, twisted poses and erotic glances give a bizarre or sinister edge to many of his drawings of women, allowing some truth to Benjamin Haydon's diary entry, 'the Engines of Fuseli's Mind are Blasphemy, Lechery and blood. His women are all whores, and men all banditti'. Pose, costume and fantastical hairstyle all serve to confer an anonymity on the figures. Such subordination of the subject to the demands of autonomous form was an important aspect of much Romantic art. (from The Guide, 2001)

Title
Two Courtesans with fantastic hairstyles and hats
Artist/creator
Production date
circa 1790-circa 1792
Medium
pen with brown, pink and grey wash
Dimensions
179 x 162 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1965
Accession no
1965/47
Copyright
No known copyright restrictions
Department
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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