The Defeat of the Persians, 1792 - 94
John Flaxman RA (1755 - 1826)
RA Collection: Art
These drawings are for Flaxman's illustrations to The Tragedies of Aeschylus. Flaxman was commissioned by the Dowager Countess Spencer (a cousin of Mrs. Hare Naylor who commissioned him to illustrate Homer) to produce a set of illustrations to Aeschylus's seven tragedies, at the price of one guinea per design. Flaxman made thirty-one finished drawings in 1793 and of these thirty plates were engraved by Piroli and published in Rome and London in 1795, with a further edition published in London in 1831.
As with Flaxman's drawings for The Odyssey and The Iliad, most of these illustrations are drawn in pen and ink over pencil. A number of these examples indicate how Flaxman experimented with poses and details in pencil before going over the composition in pen and ink.
The group of drawings does not constitute a full set as it is missing three of the scenes from the published plates: 'Orestes Pursued by the Furies', 'Polynices and Eteocles in Combat' and 'Orestes Killing Clytemnestra and Aegisthus'. Finished drawings for these scenes, along with some preliminary studies, are now in the British Museum.
In 1881 the Royal Academy devoted its Winter exhibition to the works of Flaxman. These drawings were lent to the Academy for the exhibition and were purchased immediately afterwards.
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