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Benjamin Robert Haydon, Assassination of L. S. Dentatus

Assassination of L. S. Dentatus, 1821

After Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786 - 1846)

RA Collection: Art

This scale and virtuosity of this exceptionally large wood-engraving for the period matches the ambition of the painting it reproduces. As such it was probably intended to demonstrate that although Harvey had abandoned his ambitions as a painter, the lessons he had learnt at Haydon's feet would enable him to raise the status of the humble wood-engraving to that traditionally reserved for line-engraving, some of the techniques of which he consciously applied here, particularly in the use of cross-hatched swelling lines to express the swirling motion of Dentatus's tunic.

Commissioned by the Earl of Musgrave in 1806 and exhibited with fateful consequences at the Royal Academy in 1809 (cat. no. 259), Haydon's hugely ambitious painting was described in the RA exhibition catalogue as showing 'The celebrated old Roman Tribune, Dentatus, making his last desperate effort against his own soldiers, who attacked and murdered him in a narrow pass - Vide Hooke's Roman History'. In Haydon's mind the Academy's decision to hang his picture among less prestigious works in the Anti-Room rather than give it its proper due in the Great Room, was an act of treachery fully on a par with that suffered by the subject of his painting.

Object details

Assassination of L. S. Dentatus
After Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786 - 1846)
Engraved by
William Harvey (1796 - 1866)
Printed by
John Johnson (1777 - 1848)
Published by
William Harvey (1796 - 1866)
Object type
Place of Publication
Wood-engraving on seven-piece block

375 mm x 289 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Bequeathed by Gilbert Bakewell Stretton 1949
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