Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA, Preparatory drawing for 'Satan Summoning his Legions'

Preparatory drawing for 'Satan Summoning his Legions', c. 1796 - 1797

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769 - 1830)

RA Collection: Art

A preparatory drawing in pencil for the figure of Satan in Lawrence's monumental oil painting 'Satan Summoning his Legions' (1797; RA collection 03/1094). The figure's head and helmet are drawn in considerable detail while the rest of the figure is lightly sketched.

Although this figure is generally similar to the one depicted in the finished work, there are small differences between the two. In the painting, Satan holds a staff in his left hand rather than his right with his shield slung across his back. In this drawing, however, the staff is shown in his right hand and his shield strapped to his left arm. The pupils of the eyes are also directed upwards, staring out from under a heavy brow, but in the painting Lawrence altered this to show Satan looking straight ahead to fix the viewer with an intense glare.

The most significant difference, however, is the position of the legs. In the drawing, Satan stands in an elegant pose with his right foot placed behind the left. In the finished composition, Lawrence adopted a more powerful, strident stance which drew considerable criticism, including the following statement from 'Pasquin': 'The picture is a melange, made up of the worst parts of the divine Bonarotti [sic], and the extravagant Goltzius: the figure of Satan is colossal and very ill drawn: the body is so disproportioned to the extremities, that it appears all legs and arms, and might, at a distance, be mistaken for a sign of the spread eagle' (A.P. 'Royal Academy. Twenty-Ninth Exhibition', [1797] In Royal Academy Critiques, Vol. II. p. 10)

Rendered on a small scale and in delicate pencil as opposed to a colossal canvas, this drawing is less visually arresting than the painting but clearly shows the development of the figure eventually depicted by Lawrence. The epic manner, dramatic facial expression and accentuated musculature draw heavily on the work of his contemporary Henry Fuseli, as was noted at the time.

Object details

Preparatory drawing for 'Satan Summoning his Legions'
c. 1796 - 1797
Object type
Pencil on wove paper

325 mm x 93 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number

Associated works of art

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