Henry Fuseli

The Serpent tempting Eve (Satan's first address to Eve)

The Serpent tempting Eve (Satan's first address to Eve) by Henry Fuseli

Artwork Detail

The Romantic movement in eighteenth-century Western Europe provided an alternative focus to that of the Age of Reason, deriving its name from a fascination with intuition, emotion and mysticism, and privileging subjective responses over the rational mind. The narrative moments encoded in the drawings of Henry Fuseli draw on such interpretations of meaning, covering biblical themes, ancient history, mythology and literature. Along with William Blake, Fuseli drew on current debates regarding the Sublime, which reworked its original meaning as 'supreme beauty' into a new dynamic and powerful force, divinely inspired. In 1789 Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery opened in London, heightening Fuseli's interest in Shakespearean themes. His own Milton Gallery followed Boydell's, and included the larger oil painting Satan's First Address to Eve, for which this preparatory sketch was initially painted. He illustrates the lines 'Veil'd in a cloud of fragrance, where she stood, Half spy'd, so thick the roses flushing round . . .' from Milton's Paradise Lost. Eve combines the popular poses of the Venus Pudica and Andromeda Chained to the Rock, and seems mildly amused by the squirming serpent that unwraps itself from the tree behind her. The work was presented by New Zealand's first Governor, Sir George Grey, whose collection, along with that of James Tannock Mackelvie, helped to establish the Gallery. (from the Guide, 2001)

The Serpent tempting Eve (Satan's first address to Eve)
Henry Fuseli
Production date
oil on panel
302 x 238 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Sir George Grey, 1887
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
On display

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