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Compositions From The Tragedies of Aeschylus Designed By Iohn Flaxman Engraved By Thomas Piroli The Original Drawings In The Possession Of The Countess Dowager Spencer

RA Collection: Book

Record number



London: Published for I. Flaxman Junr., Jan. 12 1795,, by J. Matthews, No. 441 Strand.

Physical Description

31 pl. (incl. title-pl.); 284×450 mm. (Oblong format).

General Note

As well as numbers 1-31, the plates also carry numbers 1-5 or 1-4, as they relate to each play (those for The Persians in the order 2,1,3,4).

Responsibility Note

No plate is signed.

Each plate carries the publisher's imprint of J. Matthews (that is, Flaxman's aunt, Jane Matthews), and the date (Jan 12 1795).


G.E. Bentley, The early engravings of Flaxman's classical designs: a bibliographical study (1964).

John Flaxman, 1755-1826: master of the purest line (2003); Flaxman: la difusión del modelo clásico: Homero, Esquilo, Hesiodo, Dante [exhibition catalogue] (1996); S. Symmons, Flaxman and Europe: the outline illustrators(1984); John Flaxman, R.A. [Royal Academy exhibition catalogue] (1979); D. Irwin, John Flaxman, 1755-1826 (1979); R. Rosenblum, Transformations in late eighteenth century art (1967); W. Gaunt, 'A set of drawings by John Flaxman', in Connoisseur, 144 (1959 November), p. 104-5; G. Cumberland, Thoughts on outline (1796).

Summary Note

This series of thirty illustrative plates includes five for Prometheus chain'd; four each for Suppliants, Seven Chiefs against Thebes, Agamemnon, Choephorœ; five for The Furies; and four for The Persians. Each has a caption identifying the characters and quoting from the play in English (the translator not named).

Like Flaxman's earlier designs for Dante and Homer (first published in 1793) these are, in George Romney's words, 'outlines without shadow, but in the style of antient art'. They were copied throughout Europe, and influenced artists as different as Ingres, Géricault and Goya. Schlegel judged these to be Flaxman's best illustrations. In Britain the engravings were reprinted several times during Flaxman's lifetime and republished posthumously in 1831, 1870 and 1879; other editions appeared in Hamburg (1802), Paris (1803) and possibly Rome (1818).

Twenty-eight of Flaxman's original drawings for this series are held in the Royal Academy's works on paper collection.


On 14 October 1797 the RA Council 'Resolved, that ... M.r Flaxman's Etchings, be purchased for the use of the Royal Academy ... ' (RA Council Minutes II, 340). Despite this intention however, no such purchase seems to have been made either before 4 April 1800, when Flaxman himself presented three of his most recent publications to the Academy, viz.: first edition copies of his Iliad (1793), Aeschylus (1795) and A letter to the Committee for raising the Naval Pillar, or Monument, (1799).

Binding Note

20th-century half brown morocco, grey cloth-covered boards; spine lettered, 'Flaxman - Aeschylus - 1795' and 'R.A.'

Name as Subject


Greek drama - Mythology, Greek
Drawings, British - Great Britain - 18th century - Neoclassical
Collections - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


John Flaxman RA, source artist
Tommaso Piroli, ca.1752-1824, engraver
Jane Matthews, publisher

Images from this book

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