Attempts toward fame and fortune: Joseph Wright of Derby and late-renaissance Humanism.
Joseph Wright of Derby's Corinthian Maid (Pl 1) is one of his best documented works thanks to a wealth of correspondence that survives in several archives. It is known Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Bentley first discussed in May 1778 commissioning a painting from Wright of the story of Dibutades, her lover, and her potter father of ancient Greece--an appropriate subject for the manufacturers of classicizing pottery at the British Etruria in the industrial Midlands. Wedgwood's painting was finally completed in 1785, and during the intervening years letters circulated among Wright and his friends and patrons full of advice concerning its composition. Wedgwood expressed concern early on that depictions of refined Staffordshire ware in the painting, although good advertising, would be anachronistic: after all, Pliny the Elder had sited the story in distant antiquity, when the arts were still in their infancy. Erasmus Darwin thought that the setting of an artisan's shop in Corinth could be indicated with random, broken vases, and Brooke Boothby recommended that the youth whose shadow the maid draws should be seen resting his foot on an antique tri pod, not a vase. Benedict Nicolson included excerpts from these letters in his authoritative Joseph Wright of Derby, Painter of Light, especially the several between Wright in Derby and the poet William Hayley in Sussex. Nicolson was particularly exasperated by one letter in which Wright asks Hayley for advice on everything from the lighting of the scene to the proper facial expressions and body language of the maid. It prompted Nicolson's comment: 'There can be few examples since the Renaissance where a painter has relied so heavily on a poet for so many details in a single picture--and there are further points that Wright raises in this same letter which we have omitted simply out of fear of growing tedious.' (1) Nicolson made similar deprecating remarks about the assistance the artist received on other paintings--he clearly found Wright's method of collaborative creativity a regrettable and embarrassing aspect of his persona.
Since the publication of Nicolson's monograph in 1968 little has been said that challenges his view of Wright as a frustratingly paradoxical figure who, despite his enormous skill and accomplishments, lacked the confidence to proceed without the help of a trusted advisor. The bulk of recent Wright scholarship has avoided this problem in focusing on the paintings from the 1760s and early 1770s, which are generally presumed to have been created with much less outside interference than the later literary paintings. Those scenes of science and industry such as the Experiment on the bird in the air pump and the blacksmith and iron-forge paintings serve the familiar and comfortable post-Romantic interpretation of Wright as the independent social analyst, the portraitist and scene-painter to the Industrial Revolution. (2) But when the period is considered as late-phase renaissance humanism, Wright emerges as a knowing participant in the enterprise of reviving and re-enacting successful past cultural orthodoxies. The humanist search for classical authority on the arts had resulted in the elaboration of the aphorism ut pictura poesis from Horace's Ars poetica into the basis of academic artistic theory. But this supposed parallel between sister arts was as much a social as an aesthetic construct: it presumed a close working alliance between poets and painters that brought distinct advantages to both. (3) Wright understood fully the machinations of mutual career-building. His close consultation with both professional and amateur literary figures and his practise of deference and observation of social hierarchies presents a model of artistic creativity and production of long-standing tradition not yet extinguished in late-18th-century Britain.
Pliny's Natural History proved to be the crucial classical text in the historiography of art. His anecdotes were the source for much of the artistic lore that was established in the renaissance and that remained current throughout the 18th century. (4) In his telling of the Corinthian Maid stow, Dibutades was in love with a young man who was soon departing, and to preserve his likeness she traced in outline his lamplit shadow on a wall, which her father then filled in with clay and baked along with his other pottery. (5) Pliny identified this as the founding of the plastic arts, but given that other classical and renaissance sources had discussed the legendary origins of painting in terms of the simple tracing of a man's shadow, academic theorists recognized the potential for conflation, and the Corinthian Maid stood as an emblem for the two academically privileged arts, painting and sculpture. As a figurehead for the history of the art of painting, the Corinthian Maid became to neoclassicists what St Luke had been to the medieval guilds. (6) The tale illustrated such relevant treatises as the 1716 English edition of Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy's De arte graphica (first translated by John Dryden in 1695), which was published under the auspices of Alexander Pope and Charles Jervas (Pl 2). The Art of Painting was a poetic essay on ut pictura poesis, and was a significant element in the introduction of French neoclassical, academic philosophy into Britain. The poem's popularity continued beyond the Augustan era: it was translated into English at least six more times throughout the 18th century, including William Mason's 1783 edition with commentary by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Reynolds's intellect functioned within an established body of knowledge, a frame of reference that included Du Fresnoy and other Continental neoclassicists of the 17th century as well as antique writings on art as filtered through the renaissance humanists. The influence of Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists is evident in the Discourses, which digested the biographer's pedagogical construct of a progress in the arts that reached ultimate excellence in Raphael and Michelangelo. Reynolds also assimilated the principles of Leon Battista Alerti's seminal treatise De pictura of 1435 (translated into Italian as Della pittura a year later and into English more than once during the 18th century). Alerti urged artists to improve their professional status by becoming learned in all the liberal arts and by associating with poets and orators, who are 'full of information about many subjects and will be of great assistance in preparing the composition of a historia'. (7) Reynolds repeats Alerti almost verbatim in his Seventh Discourse of 1776, saying that artists should read poetry, and better yet, consult 'learned and ingenious men', assuring his audience that, 'There are many such men in this age; and they will be pleased with communicating their ideas to artists, when they see them curious and docile, if they are treated with that respect and deference which is so justly their due.' (8) Reynolds's advice to British artists is both rhetorical and pragmatic: the artist is not necessarily ignorant or illiterate, but busy. The well-travelled artist William Hodges supports this in his lavishly produced publication on his tour of India. The book's preface acknowledges the assistance he received from literary friends, and he explains that becoming proficient in painting and practising it as a profession leaves 'little leisure for the cultivation of literature'. (9) Such time-management issues would be especially felt by those artists combining aspirations for history paintings with the demands of a thriving portraiture business. George Romney said he was too busy to read for himself because of that 'cursed portrait-painting' and relied on various literary friends to supply him with subject-matter to consider. (10)
Reynolds knew that there were in fact manifold services that could be provided by highly literate friends. As well as suggesting appropriate subjects and giving tips on how a story should be treated in paint, literary figures could liaise with potential patrons and write letters on behalf of the artist. They were often capable of translating texts into English, acting as mediators to enfranchise the less scholarly artist into the world of classical literature. Poets and writers had traditionally been socially higher placed than artists and therefore held the privilege of introducing their friends or proteges into society--literally and figuratively through the praise and poetry written about them. The number of poems and epistles addressed to Reynolds bears out the many comments in Vasari on the usefulness of earning the respect of poets: not only did Giotto achieve status through his association with Dante and Petrarch, but Petrarch's verse on Simone Martini brought more fame to the artist 'than all his own works have done'; two centuries later, Titian's association with Aretino 'proved of great advantage to Titian, in spreading his name as far as Pietro's pen reached, especially to notable princes'. (11)
Reynolds no doubt considered himself a special case, as an artist and a literary man, like Vasari, and his relationships with literary figures are consequentially complex. His friendship with the poet laureate Thomas Warton resulted in Verses on Sir Joshua Reynolds's Painted Window at New-College Oxford in 1782, which was revised upon Reynolds's advice. He was similarly involved in the writing of those sections of James Beattie's Dissertations, Moral and Critic (1783) that directly referred to himself. That Reynolds understood the fundamental ways in which the relationships between painters and poets operated was noticed by Mrs. Thrale, who remarked that he spent an inordinate amount of time getting his literary friends to write praise about him. (12) Henry Fuseli, every bit as erudite as Reynolds and not above reviewing favourably his own works in the Analytical Review, also contrived to have himself presented as the passive recipient of poetic praise: when his Milton Gallery was struggling in the late 1790s Fuseli wrote to William Roscoe of Liverpool for advice and pressed him to compose and publish some verses advertising the Gallery, verses which duly appeared in Gentleman's Magazine June 1799. (13)
Joseph Wright, too, proved himself adept in taking advantage of all the services that literary friends could offer. A few months before his painting inspired by James Beattie's The Minstrel was due to be sent to the Royal Academy's 1778 show, Wright approached the author and asked for advice on which lines from the poem to inscribe on the rock behind Edwin, the young minstrel. He wrote, As I have always found men of genius easy of access and ready to assist in any work of art, I shall without ceremony ask your advice' (Pl 3). (14) Beattie responded with appropriate verse and with ideas on much else. At Beattie's urging Wright added a gothic spire in the distance, the sea at the horizon and the scrolls at the bottom left of the painting (Pl 4). Throughout the first letter to Beattie and in a polite follow-up letter thanking him for his advice, Wright displays textbook deference and begs permission to consult him again; meanwhile, he hopes that Beattie will favour him if any suitable subjects should come to mind, any subjects that might 'come within my narrow Limits'. Wright was probably sincere about wishing to be informed of useful ideas, but he was also instigating a relationship with the author of a popular work and implying a shared artistic endeavour. Wright made sure that Beattie knew that he would receive notice in the exhibition. He asked the poet, 'How shoud the picture be called in the Catalogue: Edwin the young Minstrel, from Dr. Beattie's Poem; or as described by Dr. Beattie in his poem'. Beattie, like any author, would not have been unhappy that an illustration of his work was to hang at the Royal Academy.
Wright's entreaties to Beattie in 1778 might mark a new career move towards literary illustration but this was not the first time that Wright had shown willingness to collaborate. Although the earlier period of his career is not as well documented in this respect, what does survive suggests that throughout the many changes in style and subject-matter, Wright's working methods remained constant, and the early works were every bit as cooperative as the later ones. Several extant drawings and letters prove the assistance of Wright's friend Peter Perez Burdett in works of the 1760s and early 1770s. Burdett was friendly with Washington Shirley, Lord Ferrets, who bought A Philosopher giving that Lecture on the Orrery, in which a lamp is put in the place of the Sun (Derby Museums and Art Gallery, exhibited 1766). It is not known if Burdett--or indeed Ferrets, a fellow of the Royal Society and owner of his own orrery--had a say in the iconography of Wright's first monumental scientific picture; but Burdett does appear in the painting, and reliable tradition has it that one of the children also in the painting is a portrait of Ferrers's nephew, which would testify to the patron's input during the canvas's development. (15) Burdett's role in the lost Captive King is more certain. Here, as in other pictures, Wright relied on Burdett for guidance on the perspective and overall compositional scheme. Sending Burdett a sketch of the scene as it stood 13 November 1772, Wright requests approval for the 'disposition' of the figure (Pl 5), and on Christmas day he writes to Burdett again, asking if he might re-position a window in the background and urging a speedy reply as 'I cannot well go on without your assistance'. (16) Burdett, a map-maker and occasional lecturer on perspective, understandably acted as an advisor in this capacity, but Wright also put faith in his judgement on matters beyond that area of expertise. Burdett's wide-ranging interests also included chemistry, and he had a heavy hand in the development of Wright's Alchymist (Pl 6) though his advice was not limited to the form of the chemical apparatus. He sent Wright a fully worked-up drawing of the scene with narrative instructions added on the back (Pl 7). Wright's finished canvas maintains the overall appearance of the drawing's interior and uses Burdett's idea of the alchemist 'turning his Head towards ye glass upon his assistants exclaiming upon the first appearance of the phenomenon of the luminous exhalation from ye Retort into the Receiver'. (17)
Wright's account book also provides documentary evidence that his sense of originality was far from the modern conception of total creative independence and isolation--a preconception that informs Nicolson's discomfort with Wright. Amid the tallies of pictures sold and various financial transactions are two carefully written-out narratives under the heading 'Subjects for Night Pieces' that correspond to two well-known Wright paintings. Wright exhibited Miravan opening the tomb of his ancestors (Derby Museums and Art Gallery) at the Society of Artists in 1772, and the story of Miravan appears in the account book as a verbatim transcription (in Wright's hand) of the tale found in John Gilbert Cooper's Letters Concerning Taste. (18) Written down just before this is a 150-word programme for an as-yet-to-be-executed picture of a blacksmith's shop--not an after-the-fact description (Pl 8). The setting is described as containing a second room in which the shoeing of a horse is seen, a traveller standing by. Plot-line anecdotes are included, such as 'An idle fellow may stand by the anvil, in a time-killing posture, his hands in his bosom, or yawning with his hand stretched & upwards a little twisting of the Body'. The tips for configuring the lighting of the composition stipulate that the forging of a bar of iron into a horseshoe is the spot 'from whence the light must proceed', but also, 'The moon may appear and illumine some part of the horses if necessary.' (19)
The close correspondence between this programme and Wright's first Blacksmith's Shop (Pl 9) suggests that the conception of the subject did not originate with Wright. The details of the written plan are just different enough from those of the finished canvas to signal Wright's exercise of artistic judgement, yet similar enough to argue that the narrative was definitely being followed. The historia for the Blacksmith's Shop may have been supplied by the painting's owner, Peniston Lamb, Lord Melbourne, who in the autumn before the painting was exhibited with the Society of Artists in 1771 wrote to his financial agent regarding payment for Wright, 'It is worth your while when you go to Derby to see the picture he is painting for me. It is thought to be the Best ever painted in the Country.' (20) Melbourne was forming himself as a patron of the traditional kind. He kept a closer eye on the works his artists were producing for him than on his account book, and he was frequently overdrawn in his bid to display his princely magnificence. Handing an artist instructions for a subject that was being painted--'for me'--to adorn the walls of Brocket Hall or Melbourne Hall would certainly have been in keeping with Melbourne's character as a patron. (21)
Wright's relations with patrons and advisors in a later period of his career became notably more public--even performative--as the contact with Beattie showed. After his 1773-75 journey to Italy and the disappointments in Bath during the next two years, Wright embarked on a new phase and may have been consciously refining his social skills. He was unable to suffer fools and complained of the 'fantastical and whimmy' great people of Bath who had failed to support him as a portraitist. (22) If Wright had been less than docile towards the ton in Bath, he was more willing to show deference to those who could help his career in a more profound way. If Wright was changing tack at this time, he could not have found a better collaborator in a Vasarian poet-and-painter alliance than William Hayley.
Hayley's linguistic skills and his philological interests qualified him to dispense suggestions for both time-honoured and lesser-known subjects from literature to artists for their consideration. Furthermore, his humanist library included titles such as Baldassare Castiglione's Book of the Courtier and Henry Peacham's Compleat Gentleman: Hayley understood the correct modes of behaviour of the virtuoso involving himself in the arts, feigning disinterested beneficence in his dealings with Wright, Romney, John Flaxman, William Hodges and William Blake. Yet Hayley was every bit as ambitious as the artists he was so overtly helping.
Wright and Hayley had first met in 1772 but their relationship became closer after Hayley had his first big poetic success and had quickly gained celebrity. Hayley had searched methodically for the right vehicle for literary fame, and with the counsel and encouragement of dedicated friends he decided to inaugurate his publishing career with a didactic poem on the visual arts. (23) A Poetical Epistle to an Eminent Painter, addressed to Romney, was published in 1778 and received sufficient popular and critical acclaim to see two more editions by 1781. (24) The Epistle employs the cliche that modern Britain is the rightful heir, if not reincarnation, of ancient Greek civilisation, and Wright is one of several British artists mentioned in this aspect. Naturally, the Corinthian Maid story appears here in the progress of the arts from antiquity to Britain--Wright would eventually credit these lines as inspiration for his painting of the subject. Hayley probably knew that Alexander Runciman, John Hamilton Mortimer, and David Allan had painted the subject of the Corinthian Maid a few years previously but arguably more relevant for his purposes were the references to the theme in 17th- and 18th-century poems and treatises. (25) Hayley was steeped in neoclassical theory on painting and poetry and his embrace of academic precepts about the immutable unity of the arts signifies a late-18th-century Augustan humanist. (26)
The verses that Hayley and, earlier, Richard Cumberland had addressed to Romney were commented on in the letters and in the parlours of figures such as Edward Gibbon, Samuel Johnson, Fanny Burney, Anna Seward and Horace Walpole, and they generally acknowledged that the poetry had benefited the artist. Ozias Humphry knew both Romney and Wright--they were all in Italy at the same time--and he said many years later that the Epistle had been of 'great service' to Romney and was so popular that it diverted the public favour to him. (27) Romney executed several portraits of Hayley, gratis, around the time that the Epistle was published, which can be seen as a prime example of renaissance-style gift exchange. Vasari remarked in Lives of the Artists that the most fortunate painters are those who live in the time of some famous writer, who could bring them eternal honour and fame in return for 'some small portrait or other courtesy of an artistic kind'. (28) Hayley said that Romney liked him to read aloud from Vasari while he painted and surely that is one of the passages that would have been recited. (29) Wright would have seen how both the poet and the painter benefited from the Epistle to Romney, and while Hayley was staying at Romney's house in London in January 1783, Wright sent a gift to Hayley, a painting of Virgil's tomb. Wright's gift was carried from Derby to Romney's house by a mutual friend, Dr John Beridge. Hayley thought it exquisite, and Romney enthused over it. Mrs Beridge exchanged letters with her husband while he was down in London and she wrote that she was happy to hear that everyone at Romney's was very pleased with Virgil's Tomb and that she hoped Mr. Wright would take advantage of 'the finest opportunity an artist ever had of immortalising himself'. (30) Clearly, Wright and his friends expected thanks from Hayley in rhyme.
Virgil's Tomb arrived at Romney's house around the same time as three letters to Hayley thanking him for his help with the in-progress Corinthian Maid and asking for assistance with a new project, a painting of the recent British military engagement with the Spanish and French at Gibraltar. Wright mentioned that his friends were encouraging him to paint the siege of Gibraltar and that Dr Beridge and Dr Darwin had advised him to write to Sir Roger Curtis, one of the heroes of the conflict, for particulars of the action. Wright was aware that other artists were also painting versions of the siege and that he would need every advantage as the subject 'will soon be a hackneyed one'; therefore Hayley is requested to apply personally to Sir Roger and arrange for a sketch of the details to be sent to Derby. But Wright implies that the best way Hayley could serve him is with his pen:
If thro' your means I shou'd be so fortunate to succeed, it will be necessary, as many have got the start of me, to let the publick know I am ingaged in such a work & what may they not expect from such a Subject & from such a hand--Bless me I hear you say, I always understood Wright was a modest fellow. He was, but having got little by it, will try the opposite character. (31)
Within a few months Hayley had finished his Ode to Mr Wright of Derby, and it was probably exactly what Wright had wished for. largely an advertisement for a painting that did not yet exist, the poem claims that Wright is the ideal artist to paint the fiery scene at Gibraltar: 'Thou mighty master of the mimic flame,/Whose peerless pencil, with peculiar aim,/Has form'd of lasting fire the basis of thy fame.' The Ode's premise that Wright is apart from--essentially above--his brother artists was a familiar idea. Hayley's modest Wright, who seeks approval from the nation and not from the envious 'dark cabals' at the Royal Academy, recalls Richard Cumberland's poetic view of a retiring and patient Romney standing alone on a shore, 'Shunn'd by the bold, unnotic'd by the proud, / He strays at distance from the clam'rous crowd'. (32) The Ode follows many of the conventions for writing about British artists, including the progress of the arts from ancient Greece through Roman and Gothic decadence and decline to a re-birth in Britain. (33) Like Hayley's Epistle to Romney, the Ode to Wright encourages its addressee to shun the vanities of portraiture for more elevated subject-matter, namely, episodes of historic and recent British glory--though this public advice contradicts Hayley's private taste in collecting portraits almost exclusively, Both poems include phrases about the artist and bard in sweet alliance, which reiterate lines in the odes that Dryden and Pope had addressed to Kneller and Jervas. (34) James Barry observed that panegyrics such as these said little about the art being described but more about the poet's ambitions and skills in versifying. (35) Wright, however, had the nous to make sure that the author was not the only beneficiary of Hayley's writings. He distributed copies of the Ode to influential friends and patrons, including Wedgwood, and when planning his one-man show in 1785 he suggested to Hayley that it be made available exclusively at the exhibition hall, alongside the catalogue--which Hayley was also pressed to compose. Wright wished for Hayley to produce 'concise & elegant' yet still relatively 'plain & simple' blurbs about the paintings, which would be 'usefull, agreeable, & what the Artists always take advantage of, considering the ignorant are by much the greater part of the Spectators'. (36)
Of course Hayley, too, saw a return on his writings about artists. With Wright's complicity Hayley advertised his own poetry in the exhibition catalogue by claiming that the Corinthian Maid found its inspiration in the Epistle to Romney, and he quoted the lines from his poem that refer to the legend. The next catalogue entry, for the Corinthian Maid's companion picture Penelope Unravelling her Web, was underscored with lines from its textual source, Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey, thus Hayley was able to juxtapose his poetry with that of a revered model. Hayley had initially printed the Ode to Mr Wright privately in 1783, intending it for circulation among a select audience, but its regular publication in 1785 suggests that the timing of Wright's exhibition that spring, when the Siege of Gibraltar and other Wright paintings were being seen and discussed favourably, was a factor in its reappearance. (37) Hayley had advised on almost all of the subject pictures that were exhibited in Wright's show, and these works, most of them featuring suffering-but-virtuous female protagonists, were of the same flavour as Hayley's brand of sentimental poetry. Hayley gave Wright copies of his latest publications, as well as the Ode, surely hoping that they would be circulated among the Derby literati and read aloud at private, fashionable social functions as they had been in Bath and Lichfield. (38) Hayley knew that Wright was sharing his letters with Wedgwood and other influential people, and his descriptions of the paintings that Wright should execute are a literary genre in their own right: Hayley was familiar with the rhetorical language of classical ekphrasis. (39)
Wright and Hayley's relationship around this time forms a model of reciprocity, of cultural economics: Hayley claimed in his memoirs that he was obliged to write the Ode upon receipt of Virgil's Tomb and to 'spur suffering genius into action'; Wright told Hayley that the Ode had indeed alleviated the torpor that had bowed down his Attempts towards Fame and Fortune', and he was now busy painting and in need of further assistance. (40) In their correspondence Wright's language to Hayley recalls Titian's humility towards the poet Mario Equicola, who provided the programme for a painting intended for Alphonso d'Este, Duke of Mantua. Titian told the Duke that as a painter he had only provided the 'body' of Feast of Venus whereas Equicola's invenzione had supplied its 'soul'. (41) Wright uttered fulsome statements to Hayley such as, 'My pictures since you honor'd me with your regard, are more exalted'; 'I feel a pleasing firmness when I rest on your authority'; 'Be my friend and tell me all my faults'. (42)
Wright was similarly deferential to Hayley's friend William Long--or 'Longinus', as Hayley referred to him. Long was part of the network of advisors exchanging letters and drawings regarding Wright's paintings. (43) Long was an eminent surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital, but also highly literate and an amateur artist of considerable accomplishment. Yet most of Wright's consultants were not as obviously qualified to give a professional artist advice on composition so confidently. Names that figure in Wright's correspondence, such as William Hayley, Josiah Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin, Anna Seward, Mr French, Lady Wilmot, Mr Whiatt, Brooke Boothby, Dr Beridge, Mrs Beridge, and Mrs Hayley conjure images of genteel drawing lessons at best. The renaissance-humanist thinking that separated the poetic concept of imagery and the manual execution of it, privileging the former, survived longer than is commonly acknowledged. Alberti remarked, 'Invention is such that even by itself and without pictorial representation it can give pleasure.' (44) His contemporary Leonardo Bruni, the Florentine historian who advised Lorenzo Ghiberti on his bronze Baptistery doors, wrote that unlike the other comprehensive intellectual virtues, expertise in art was rarely accompanied by any other exceptional abilities. (45) Within Wright's circle, a letter from Seward to Darwin updates Bruni's paragone: commenting on Peter Pindar's discovery of John Opie in the Cornish mines, and describing the young painter as 'dull and unapprehensive upon every subject except that of painting', she noted that one might see a stupid man a fine painter but 'we never see him a fine poet'. (46) Seward's attitudes were not outlandishly anachronistic. Wright's contemporaries who dabbled in advising would have found validation in Alexander Gerard's An Essay on Genius of 1774, which commended those nonartists who had 'invented the subject of a picture, and in idea designed the whole of it, so that, from their description of their conception, a master might execute it, though they themselves never used the pencil'. (47) Wedgwood felt fully entitled to invent the composition of a pair of family portraits to be painted by either Wright or George Stubbs. He envisaged one group containing his daughters around a keyboard, and he provided a comprehensive plan for the picture of the boys:
The pendant to be Jack standing at a table making fixable air with the glass apparatus &c; & his two brothers accompanying him. Tom jumping up & clapping his hands in joy & surprise at seeing the stream of bubbles rise up just as Jack has put in a little chalk to the acid. Joss with the chemical dictionary before him in a thoughtful mood; which actions will be exactly descriptive of their respective characters. (48)
Although Wright might now seem the obvious choice for this kind of domestic-scientific genre painting, the commission was given to Stubbs, and Wright was requested to paint instead a 'fire piece', which became the Corinthian Maid. (49)
Throughout the process of designing and executing the Corinthian Maid for Wedgwood, Wright made continual entreaties for his approbation. In attempting to please patrons and in appealing to the judgement of friends, Wright was doing precisely what Alberti had recommended in De pictura. There, the artist who is considering a historia is advised to ponder it at length, make many sketches, and consult many friends--the more judgements the better as the painting is meant to please the public. Alberti also points out that this deference 'helps the painter, among other things, to acquire favour. There is no one who does not think it an honour to express his opinion on someone else's work'. (50)
Wright learned well how to flatter a number of advisors and patrons simultaneously. While discussing a commission for an illustration of John Sargent's poem The Mine Wright relayed to his patrons Hayley's ideas for a particular scene. Lady Wilmot disagreed with Hayley's conception, and Wright, who conceded that she had 'fine taste & sound judgment', concluded, As the picture is for Sir R. Wilmot I am under the necessity of observing what they say.' Nevertheless, Wright asked Hayley to send further 'observations upon the Subject, you know how happy they will make me & of what utility I hold all your remarks--I have composed the Scenery [,] my friends say it is horribly grand'. (51) Raphael, the artist's ultimate role model, had demonstrated the proper courtly language to use with patrons and advisors in his well-known letter to Castiglione: 'I Have made Designs in several different manners upon your Lordship's Invention; and I give Satisfaction to all, if all are not my Flatterers: But I cannot satisfy my own Judgment, because I am fearful of not satisfying your's. I herewith send them to you.' (52) Regarding another painting intended for Wedgwood, Wright told Hayley, 'I have designed on canvas your last Subject ... Wou'd to God I could see the picture you design'd in your warm imagination, for any thing I can do will fall vastly short of it, however I shall venture to send ... two rude sketches.' (53)
Alberti had said that after soliciting the opinions of all-comers, the artist must then exercise judgement and follow the best and most expert advice. Given the submissive tone of Wright's letters to Wedgwood and Hayley, each could have assumed that he was the supreme authority for the Corinthian Maid. Wright requested Hayley's thoughts on how to express the joy of the maid with her face and gestures; how the sleeping youth's head and foot should be positioned; and even how the shadows should fall, saying, 'I leave you to tell me what it should be.' Yet he sent almost the exact letter to Wedgwood, with the same detailed questions, eliciting his 'opinion respecting the design in all its parts'. (54) But Wright was certainly capable of judging for himself what the best advice was. When the Corinthian Maid was still in the exchanging-sketches stage, he told Hayley that he liked 'Mr. Long's Idea of the female figure in the act of Drawing: the other hand up expressing a fear of awaking the youth is good, & certainly tells the Story much better than mine, but I like not the thought of placing him on a Sopha, his head raised with an antique Bolster'. (55) In the finished painting Wright adopts this action for the maid but rejects the proposed pose for the youth. Apparently Romney did like Long's ideas for classical upholstery and executed his own sketch of it incorporating that motif (P110).
Wright's next painting for Wedgwood, Penelope unravelling her web (P111), proceeded similarly as a group effort, Wright in close contact with Wedgwood and Hayley at every step, sketches traded back and forth. Hayley proposed the subject in spring 1783 as a companion to the Corinthian Maid: the two were meant to illustrate the contrasting-but-complementing loving devotion and ingenuity of a maiden whose lover is departing and a wife awaiting the return of her husband. (56) Hayley thought the inclusion of Penelope's spouse, Ulysses, in the form of a statue would make the story evident to all, although Dr Beridge warned that a nude statue would be 'unfit for the chaste eyes of our English Ladies'. Wright wanted classical accuracy but recognized that Ulysses' 'private part became too conspicuous, for the bed chamber of the chaste Penelope', so he decided to place Ulysses in deep shadow, his quiver resting against and obscuring the potentially offending region. However, Hayley cautioned that this might encourage those of 'saucy imaginations' to declare, 'Happy is the man that hath his quiver full.' (57) Darwin recommended simply exchanging Ulysses for Minerva--he would later at Wedgwood's behest explain to Wright the delicate issue of the Corinthian Maid's indecently clinging drapery. (58) But it was Hayley's suggestion of some strategic light drapery for Ulysses that brought the solution. Hayley had also advised Wright to pose Penelope's son, Telemachus, sickly in bed, his mother gazing at him anxiously. Wright questioned whether there was authority for this in classical literature, or, was it simply an invention to give 'more character and expression to his mother?' Hayley replied,
The paleness or Fever of Telemachus is a disease of my own creating, for the reasons you guess; so pray treat it like an artful Physician, & either support or subdue it as your own Interest may direct!--let me only observe, that in such kind of historical or rather poetical Subjects, you may take any liberties you please. (59)
Hayley's conceit was surely intended to replicate the antique painting of Penelope that Pliny describes, a painting by Zeuxis that 'seems to portray morality'. (60) Hayley's devising of 'this chaste Heroine as a companion to the Maid of Corinth' might mark him as a true man of Sensibility, but the topos of the female moral exemplum has deep, classical roots. (61)
Wright had cause to question Hayley about textual accuracy on another issue--an apparent suggestion to include a prominent weaver's loom in the Penelope composition. Wright checked Ovid and found no justification for including something so 'low & vulgar' in such an elevated subject unless it could 'partly be concealed by drapery'. (62) Wright's concern with accuracy of narrative detail in Penelope and other works was perhaps sometimes at odds with Hayley's loose, poetic approach, although in Wedgwood the artist had found a more literal-minded advisor. Wright assured his patron that he was bent on making his pictures 'as perfect as I am able' and asked for a copy of an antique gem of Andromache to model Penelope after. (63) Yet this respect for details and sources is more than a finicky obsession with surface: Wright wished to convey faithfully the meaning of a painting through its formal qualities. Within the principles of ut pictura poesis and the classically sanctioned precept of painting as mute poetry, all the elements in a composition, animate and inanimate, are metaphors for verbal expressions and transmitters of emotion. Wright took pains to portray the soul of the painting through the body, as Titian would have said.
Poets such as Hayley or Beattie were clearly useful to Wright for more than just mutually beneficial marketing strategies. Both Alerti in De pictura and Reynolds in his Discourses state that literary consultants can help with invention, which is the most important part of history painting. Reynolds distinguishes between the inventive spheres of the poet and painter, saying, 'Invention in Painting does not imply the invention of the subject; for that is commonly supplied by the Poet or the Historian.' Rather, the artist, like everyone else who hears a story, forms a picture in the mind of the action and expression of the protagonists, and 'the power of representing this mental picture on canvass is what we call Invention in a Painter'. (64) Reynolds and other late humanists understood invention to be the finding of established materials and arranging them in an ingenious manner. A letter written by Hayley in 1780 reveals that Wright wished to find a subject to fit his ready-made composition of a woman in a watery cave. Hayley responded with a choice of three subjects along with tips on which attributes to include to help transmit the meaning of the narrative. Choosing among Calypso lamenting the departure of Ulysses, a disappointed and enraged Circe watching her lover sail away, or Julia banished by her father Augustus to the Island of Pandateria, Wright picked Julia. Wright was probably pleased when a version of Julia was exhibited in his one-man show and a reviewer praised his invention as 'poetically just'. (65)
Wright maintained relationships with literary figures to e end. His long friendship with the moralizing poet Thomas Gisborne bears especially on the late elegiac landscapes. (66) As with Hayley, influence did not flow just one way: Gisborne spoke ekphrastically about the type of scenery made familiar in Wright's volcanic and moonlit paintings in his 1794 publication Walks in a Forest, and Erasmus Darwin did the same in his Botanic Garden, 1790. Wright remained committed to the principle of ut pictura poesis in theory and practice and exploited the survival of traditional artist-advisor relationships as needed, secure that this endeavour was entirely orthodox. And yet to modern thinking, his practice of deference and co-operation could only ever have held negative connotations. John Gage's review of Nicolson's monograph used the irrefutable evidence of Wright's collaborative method to conclude that 'he was no learned painter' and he had a 'childlike' naivety. (67) This misunderstanding of the era's creative processes and production of marketable objects misses the fact that Wright's methods were seen positively by his peers. Wright's obituary portrayed him as effectively a late-renaissance artist adhering to humanist principles; whose works attained decorum through sound judgment and were 'directed to the cause of virtue' and 'moral improvement'; who acted on the academic custom of always continuing to learn, through conversation and through studying art and nature; and who 'daily followed that excellent advice of du Fresnoy'. (68) Wright himself signalled his humanist credentials in a letter to Hayley, remarking, 'It is recommended to painters who wish to become eminent to let no day pass without a line.' This artist's axiom, nulla dies sine linea, was first mentioned by Pliny and attributed to Apelles but was repeated by Du Fresnoy and all the neoclassical theorists. (69) Wright's obituary also praised his Albertian habit of consulting the judgement of his friends in order to profit by them. The memorialist never intended to discredit Wright's originality, although his was a conception of invention and originality that differs from our modern one. Indeed, the pictures that have lately been judged as Wright's most innovative contributions, the scientific subject pieces, were little praised by his encomiasts, who preferred it when 'Wright's bold pencil from Vesuvius' hight, / Hurls his red lavas to the troubled night'. (70) Wright might have agreed that the originality of his works--although subjects and compositional tips may have been given to him--was because of his profound powers of imagining a picture on canvas.
(1) Benedict Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby, Painter of Light 2 vols, London, 1968 (=Nicolson), I, p145. See also Nicolson's disparaging comments on the creation of Edwin (I, p152), and regarding Peter Perez Burdett's advice to Wright (I, pp118-20). Nicolson provides a useful summary of the manuscripts relating to the development of the Corinthian Maid, which are chiefly found in the Wedgwood archives (reproduced in this article by courtesy of the Trustees of the Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England); unpublished autograph letters contained in the extra-illustrated copy of William Bemrose, The Life and Works of Joseph Wright, A.R.A, London and Derby: Bemrose and Sons, 1885) in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery; and in the Inglefield MSS (private collection, UK).
(2) See for instance David H Solkin, Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England, New Haven 1993, pp 214-46, and 'Joseph Wright of Derby and the Sublime Art of labor' Representations, 83 (2003), pp167-94; Susan L Siegfried, 'Engaging the Audience: Sexual Economies of Vision in Joseph Wright', Representations, 68 (1999), pp34-58; Elizabeth E Barker, 'New Light on the Orrery: Joseph Wright and the Representation of Astronomy in Eighteenth-century Britain', The British Art Journal, I, 2 (Spring 2000), pp29-37.
(3) For the development of the idea of the sister arts see John R Spencer, 'Ut Rhetorica Pictura: A Study in Quattrocento Theory of Painting', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 20 (1957), pp26-44; Wesley Trimpi, 'The Meaning of Horace's Ut Pictura Poesis', JWC136 (1973), ppl-34; and Michael Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators, Humanist observers of painting in Italy and the discovery of pictorial composition 1350-1450, Oxford, 1971, ch 2, 'The Humanists on Painting', pp51-120. Baxandall also discusses here the early tradition of poetic encomia on artists and their works, which even preceded the codification of the ut pictura poesis precept.
(4) See Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz, Legend, Myth and Magic in the Image of the Artist, New Haven and London, trans Alastair Laing, 1979, first published Vienna, 1934. Kris and Kurz demonstrate how the earliest written and verbal lore about art and artists continued to inform art-historical writings into the modern period.
(5) Pliny the Elder, Natural History vol IX, trans H. Rackrnan, Cambridge MA and London, 1968, hk 35, ch 4, 1151.
(6) For the popularity of the theme even beyond the 18th century see Robert Rosenblum, 'The Origin of Painting: A Problem in the Iconography of Romantic Classicism' Art Bulletin, 39 (1957), pp279-90; George Levitine, 'Addenda to Robert Rosenblum's "The Origin of Painting: A Problem in the Iconography of Romantic Classicism'", Art Bulletin, 40 (1958), pp329-31; Frances Muecke, '"Taught by Love", The Origin of Painting Again', Art Bullettin, 81(1999), pp297-302. Lawrence Lipking provides a comparative analysis of some of the English translations of the De arte graphica in The Ordering of the Arts in eighteenth-century England, Princeton, 1970, pp38-61.
(7) Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, in edn London, trans Cecil Grayson, 1972, p88.
(8) Sir Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art, ed Robert R Wark, New Haven and London, 1997, p118. Vincent M Bevilacaqua argues that the humanist basis for Reynolds's writings on art is understandable given that there was a 'broader influence of traditional rhetorical theory on late-eighteenth-century aesthetic criticism than hitherto has been proposed': 'Ut Rhetorica Pictura: Sir Joshua Reynolds' Rhetorical Conception of Art', Huntington Library Quarterly, 34 (1970), pp59-78. GW Pigman in 'Versions of Imitation in the Renaissance', Renaissance Quarterly, 33 (1980), ppl-32, describes the processes of absorption, synthesis, and transformation of earlier models into 'original' texts, which can be used to explain the principles that underpin Reynolds's art and writings.
(9) Travels in India During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, & 1783. By William Hodges, R.A., London, 1793, preface.
(10) William Hayley, The Life of George Romney, Esq., London and Chichester, 1809, p123. Many of the subjects that literary friends offered to Romney were conveyed along with complete compositional programmes. See Romney's notebook 'Miscellaneous Hints for the Pencil' in the National Art Library, Victorian and Albert Museum, London, NAL 1451.
(11) Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, trans AB Hinds, London, 1950 (Florence, 1550, I, pp67, 81, 129; IV, p203). Reynolds was honoured with such verse as (anon) A Pindarick Ode on Painting, Addressed to Joshua Reynolds, 1767; William Combe, A Poetical Epistle to Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1777; and William Cowper's To Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1780.
(12) See Martin Postle, Sir Joshua Reynolds, The Subject Pictures, Cambridge, 1995, p182; John Ingamells and John Edgecumbe, The Letters of Sir Joshua Reynolds, London, 2000, pp1078. Pat Rogers has listed Reynolds as one of the figures other than members of the aristocracy who possessed the cultural prestige to have been a frequent addressee of book dedications in the period: 'Book Dedications in Britain 1700-1799: A Preliminary Survey', British Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies, 16 (1993), p229.
(13) Letter from Fuseli to William Roscoe, 24 May 1799, The Collected English Letters of Henry Fuseli, ed David H Weinglass, New York, 1982, p195. Fuseli told Roscoe that 'John Milton must be puffed, not to go to the bottom in nay Time as he did in his own. Verses and paragraphs muse be written, falsis involventia Vera', and he asked him to set aside his other literary works and 'write me as good or as serviceable a Copy, of Verse as has been written between the time of Homer and Cowper.'
(14) Wright's letters to James Beattie, 18 January and 16 February 1778, Beattie Papers, University of Aberdeen MSS 30/2/300 and 30/2/302.
(15) Wright's account book lists Ferrers's payment of 120 [pounds sterling] for the Orrery but it is undated; Pether's engraving of the painting, published 20 May 1768, names Ferrets as the owner and provides an absolute terminus ante quem for his taking possession of the painting. For Burdett's association with Ferrets see Nicolson, 1, p120; David Fraser, 'Joseph Wright of Derby and the Lunar Society' in Judy Egerton, Wright of Derby, exh cat., London, 1990 (=Egerton), pp16-17 and cat. 18, pp54-5 and cat. 40, pp87-90; Barker (1999) op cit. The most recent scholarship on Burdett is in Martin Hopkinson, 'Printmaking and Print Collectors in the North West 1760-1800' in Elizabeth E Barker and Alex Kidson, Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool, New Haven and London, 2007, pp8592.
(16) Reproduced in Nicolson, II, p1111. Nicolson also reproduced three more sketches relating to this composition in various states of finish. The most worked-up drawing (undated, Derby Museum and Art Gallery) is on the back of a letter addressed to Wright from Burdett. Given the nature of the exchange of these informal sketches between the two, it is difficult to discern exactly whose hand is responsible for which strokes.
(17) This letter of 4 February 1771 also refers briefly to advice Wright was receiving from Dr. Turner of Liverpool, either on this painting or others, perhaps on anatomy--the subject on which Turner lectured at the Liverpool Society of Artists.
(18) First published 1755, 4th edn, 1771. The source for this painting (now in Derby Museums and Art Gallery) had long eluded Wright scholars but was recently identified in William L Pressly, 'Joseph Wright of Derby's Miravan breaking open the tomb of his ancestors, Variations on an Arabian Tale', The British Art Journal, II, 1 (Autumn 2000), pp14-19, and in E P Lock, 'Wright of Derby's "Miravan breaking open the tomb of his ancestors", Burlington Magazine, CXLI (Sept 1999), pp544-5.
(19) Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, London. This programme is transcribed fully in Egerton, p98.
(20) Letter of 17 October 1770, Melbourne MSS, quoted in Egerton, p99.
(21) Melbourne received his title in 1770 and immediately commenced upon a course of active patronage of British painters, architects, and furniture makers in building new premises, renovating old ones and decorating them all to a lavish extent. For Melbourne as a patron of British artists see John Sunderland, 'John Hamilton Mortimer, His Life and Works', Walpole Society 52 (1986), pp413; Joseph Friedman, 'The Town Houses' in John Harrris and Michael Snodin ed, Sir William Chambers: Architect to George III, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996, pp86-106; Judy Egerton, George Stubbs, Painter, New Haven and London, 2007, pp318-19. Melbourne also owned Wright's Academy by Lamplight (exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769). Wright's account book mentions the purchaser but not the date of payment.
(22) Letter from Wright to his brother Richard 9 February 1776, quoted in Egerton, p12, and Bemrose, p44. Bemrose gives several anecdotes of Wright's irritation with particularly trying sitters, see p55.
(23) A biography of Hayley in Public Characters of 1799-1800, London, 1800, pp444-454, perceived the contrived nature of his career moves and also noted that he 'seems to have taken Pope for his model, not with the design of emulating, but of approaching him in a nearer degree than any of his predecessors or contemporaries'. Hayley's letters in the West Sussex PRO, reveal how his circle of friends steered the poem. The critical assistance received from these advisors is immortalized in Hayley's Epistle on Death of John Thornton, 1780, and in verses to William Long in Memoirs of the Life and Writings of william Hayley, Esq 2 vols, ed John Johnson, London, 1823, I, pp162-9.
(24) The Epistle's first edition was published anonymously; it was promptly well-reviewed and quoted from. Editions of 1779 and 1781 saw Hayley adding his name to the title page and eventually a change of title to An Essay on Painting: in Two Epistles to Mr Romney. The second and third editions are expanded and augmented, the text altered to include references to Hayley's latest popular poems.
(25) Levitine, op cit, and Muecke, op cit, discuss the literary references to the Corinthian Maid story that Hayley most certainly would have known. His library included the 17th-century titles on art by Franciscus Junius, Andre Felebien and Roger DePiles which mention the theme. See also Luigi Salerno, 'Seventeenth-Century English Literature On Painting', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 14 (1951), pp234-58.
(26) Hayley's aesthetics were 'in sync' with those of the major late-17th-century and early-18thcentury writers. An argument can be made, though, that the Augustan era continued for longer than is usually recognized. Hayley fits the definition of the Augustan humanist in Paul Fussell's The Rhetorical World of Augustan Humanism: Ethics and Imagery from Swift to Burke, Oxford, 1965. Fussell used the term Augustan to 'suggest the "orthodox" ethical anti rhetorical tradition wherever found in the 18th century. Indeed, the lively persistence of Augustan habits in ethics and expression--especially in the hands of Burke--clear into the last, revolutionary decade of the century is precisely my point' (pp vii-viii). He included Pope, Johnson, Reynolds, and Gibbon among the upholders of a conservatism regarding the purposes of the arts that reflects the tenets of their scholarly predecessors
(27) The Diary of Joseph Farington 15 May 1803; see also 'Biographical Account of the late Mr. Ozias Humphrey April 1810', Gentleman's Magazine, LXXX vol I, pp378-380.
(28) Vasari, op cit, I, p128. Vasari is here discussing the relationship between Simone Martini and Petrarch, and the gift of a portrait of Laura. Hayden BJ Maginnis in 'Giotto's world through Vasari's Eyes', Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte (1993), pp385-403, argues that Vasari made use of the trope of artist-poet relationships to underscore his theme of ut pictura poesis, and to elevate the artist by implying intimacy with the celebrated figures.
(29) Hayley (1809), op cit, p328.
(30) Martha Beridge to John Beridge 22 Jan 1783, Beridge Papers, private collection, UK. Hayley recounts the arrival of this painting in his Memoirs, op cit, 1, p294.
(31) Wright to Hayley, 13 Jan 1783, Inglefield MSS. Beridge arrived with the painting and a hand-delivered letter from Wright to Hayley on 17 January (Inglefield MSS). Beridge may have also carried one or both of the other letters, Wright to Hayley 9 January, Bemrose Extra-Illustrated and the letter of 13 January
(32) Cumberland's address to Romney was printed in the Public Advertiser 12 June 1770; the poem is also included in John Romney and, slightly modified, in Cumberland's memoirs, 1807.
(33) Cumberland's verses to Romney trace this progress. William Roscoe's Ode, on the Institution of a Society In Liverpool, for the Encouragement of Designing, Drawing, Painting, 1774, sees the arts retreat from the oppressed and indolent, once-great Grecia and Italia to Albion's ever grateful Isle'. This commonplace was given visual expression in James Barry's print The Phoenix, or the Resurrection of Freedom, 1776, in which liberty and the arts travelled together from ancient Greece to Britain--and then flew on to America due to modern British decadence.
(34) Dryden's long poem To Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1694, traces the vicissitudes of painting from its origins of tracing shadows through its rise and fall through the ages. This poem in concept and tone appears to have profoundly influenced Hayley's Epistle to Romney. Pope's To Mr Jervas was published in the 1716 edition of The Art of Painting which featured the Corinthian maid story as its frontispiece.
The verse is a tribute to the personal friendship between Pope and Jervas as well as the relations between poetry and painting: 'The kindred Arts shall in their praise conspire, One dip the pencil, and one string the lyre.' Similar to Hayley, Pope's overtures to his artist friends to paint histories seems inconsistent with his private indulgence in
portraiture. This discrepancy is discussed in Morris R Brownell, Alexander Pope and the Arts of Georgian England, Oxford, 1978, p22. Pope's and Hayley's--declamations on art are rhetorical and formulaic, while the portraits that filled their libraries cemented their ties of personal friendships and provoked inspiration and admiration. As Brownell put it (p37), 'The portraits in Pope's collection reflect the social activity of the man, not the taste of the virtuoso.'
(35) The Works of James Barry, 2 vols, ed Dr Edward Fryer, London, 1809, II, p374.
(36) Wright to Hayley 17 February 1785, Bemrose Extra-Illustrated. Wright had first put this request to Hayley two months earlier (22 December 1784, Inglefield MSS) and had suggested the type of blurbs that Hayley could include, such as 'Your elegant lines upon the Corinthian Maid, as I have painted my pictures from your Idea (& etc.)--I hope 1 ask not more than you will grant with pleasure'. With the encouragement of Brooke Boothby and other friends, Wright had been considering the marketing of the show for some time. He had decided that having the Ode for sale only at the exhibition hall would 'induce many to go to it'. Wright to Hayley 28 Dec 1783, Bemrose Extra-illustrated.
(37) First printed privately by Dennet Jacques, Chichester 1783, the Ode was re-named Lines by william Hayley Esq. To Mr Wright, of Derby, On his Picture of the Attack of Gibraltar in An Asylum for Fugitive Piece& in Prose and Verse, London., 1785; the Ode was also included in the 1785 publication Poems and Plays by William Haley, Esq. In Six Volumes, London, as well as in the 2nd edn of 1788. Hayley also made the Ode more concise for blurbs in the newspapers during Wright's exhibition, On Wright's, of Derby, Picture of Gibraltar Calpe's Address to Britain, see Morning Post and Daily Advertiser 7 May 1785, and Bemrose, p76.
(38) A letter to Hayley from his wife, Eliza, in Bath in 1781, tells of a reading there of his Triumphs of Temper that greatly moved both Hannah More and Mrs Gibbon, and she mentions dinner-party readings of the Ode to Howard as well. In Lichfield, Hayley mentions that same year that Anna Seward, known for her melodious recitations, had read aloud from his poem to John Howard at an exclusive get-together. Memoirs, op cit, I, pp234-5, 2449. Seward's great admiration for Hayley, probably even more so than her respect for Wright, inspired her own verses addressed to the artist, published in The British Magazine and Review; or Universal Miscellany, 1783, vol 3, p137.
(39) See for instance one of Hayley's proposals for a companion to Wedgwood's Corinthian Maid: 'My Second Idea is that of painting the Origin of Music, as a proper companion to the origin of her Sister art & this I think you wou'd execute very happily, wth great novelty of effect on the following plan. Set your scene by a beautiful Sea-Coast by Moonlight as early in the Evening as you choose for the management of your light. I wou'd introduce Mercury sitting on a Rock wth a few Shells of Tortoise around him & employed on one of them, Having half converted it into a Lyre. Let Venus & Cupid be as near him as you think proper, I wou'd represent ye Boy as having seized a Lyre just finished by Mercury, holding it up, with delight, & exultation to his Mother & wth the gleams of the Moon shining full on the strings of it--or if you like it better--paint Mercury playing himself--on his new invented instrument, & Venus holding up her finger as enjoining Cupid to listen to it.' One of Hayley's most elegiac, elegant--and never executed-programmes, this passage was copied down from one of Hayley's letters to Wright and sent by him to Wedgwood, 29 May 1783, Wedgwood MSS 1498.
(40) Wright's letter to Hayley, 31 August 1783, Hayley (1823), I, p305.
(41) Letter of 1 April 1518. See Anthony Colantuono 'Dies Alcyoniae: The Invention of Bellini's Feast of the Gods', Art Bulletin 73 (1991), p239: '... in this painting I shall have contributed only the body (corpo), and your Excellency shall have contributed the soul (anima), which is the most worthy part that there is in a painting'.
(42) Wright to Hayley, 28 December 1783 and 5 November 1783, Bemrose Extra-Illustrated, undated Inglefield MS.
(43) tong fulfilled all of the standard literary-friend roles, including writing letters on Wright's behalf, liaising with patrons, and puffing works. As a friend of Josiah Boydell, Long was especially useful when Wright fell out with the proprietor of the Shakespeare Gallery over monetary concerns, and he may be the advisor whose suggestions on Romeo and Juliet, which was intended for Boydell, are preserved on a sketch in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery He also advised Wright not to cut ties with the Royal Academy--Long took the contrary position to Hayley, who encouraged both Wright and Romney to steer clear of the institution. He almost certainly would have advised Hayley on the Ode to Wright as Hayley sent all of his writings to him for approval, see Hayley (1823), I, pp233, 239); Long had been heavily involved in the writing of the Epistle to Romney.
(44) Alberti, op cit, p88.
(45) Letter from Bruni to Lauro Quirini, see Baxandall, op cit, pp122-5.
(46) Seward to Darwin, 22 May 1789, Letters of Anna Seward written between the years 1784 and 1807, ed A Constable, Edinburgh, 1811, I, p272. Such ideas delimit the artist hardly less than did Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, who commissioned artists to act as little more than an amanuensis for his own pictorial conceptions. According to Edgar Wind, 'He did not conceive of the artist as a genius responsible only to his own inspiration, but he treated him as a manual executant who carries out in visible material the ideas dictated to him by the philosopher. He himself invented the programme and pattern of all the works of art produced to his order.' 'Shaftesbury as a Patron of Art', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 2 (1938-9), p185.
(47) Alexander Gerard, Essay on Genius, London, 1774, p418.
(48) Wedgwood to Thomas Bentley, 30 May 1779, Wedgwood MSS 18894-26.
(49) The first Wedgwood letter mooting the Corinthian Maid as a possible painting (5 May 1778, Wedgwood MSS 18834-25) was written a few days before the publication of Hayley's Epistle to Romney, which therefore cannot be the primary impetus behind Wedgwood's interest in the theme. Wedgwood had also in the initial negotiations considered a painting of Belshazzar's Feast or Wright's Alchemist. Stubbs's finished Wedgwood family portrait (1780) does not adhere to the patron's idea as described above. See Egerton, George Stubbs (2007), op cit, cat. 220, p433.
(50) Alberti, op cit, pp94-5.
(51) Wright to Hayley, 12 April 1786, Bemrose Extra-Illustrated.
(52) 1l Cortegiano, or the courtier.. written by the learned Conte Baldassare Castiglione, and a new version of the same into English ... By A.P. Castiglione, Gent., London 2nd edn, 1742, preface. This letter would have been familiar to British artists, having been reprinted several times in the 18th century. Hayley said that, along with Vasari, 'Another favourite book with [Romney] was the Collection of Letters written by eminent Painters', Hayley, Life of Romney, p328. Hayley is referring to the 1757 edition of Giovanni Bottarrs Raccolta di Lettere sulla Pittura, which he also cites in the notes to the Epistle to Romney. The Bottari and Castiglione titles were both included in Hayley's posthumous library sale.
(53) Wright to Hayley, 28 December 1783, Bemrose Fxtra-Illustrated. Wright adds that he is sending the sketches to Hayley via William Long because he wished 'to have his remarks upon the Sketches'. The subject was The Indian Woman, intended as a companion to the Lady in Milton's Comus. Wedgwood bought the Comus picture but not its companion.
(54) Wright to Hayley, undated, Inglefield MSS; Wright to Wedgwood, 10 March 1782, Wedgwood MSS 1498.
(55) Wright to Hayley, January 1783, Inglefield MSS. Both Romney and Wright used iconographical conceits specific to the sleeping Endymion, although different ones. Romney's flung-arm gesture and Wright's raised leg and accompanying dog composition suggests that they had paid attention while viewing the sculptural remains in Rome. But, the sleeping-youth-as-Endymion idea might have originated with their mutual friend Long.
(56) Hayley says that the idea for the subject struck him on seeing his wife 'taking out some flowers, wch She had worked in a little frame; as that circumstance convinced me, that the unravelling of female work might be very clearly & even gracefully expressed in a picture'. Wright in a letter to Wedgwood, 29 May 1783, quoting an earlier letter from Hayley. Wedgwood MSS 1498.
(57) See Wright to Hayley, 3 December 1783, Inglefield MSS; Wright to Wedgwood, 31 December 1783, Wedgwood MSS 672-1. Hayley's ideas were communicated to Wedgwood.
(58) The saga of the Corinthian Maid's posterior unfolds in three letters between the painter and patron in spring 1784: Wright to Wedgwood, Wedgwood MSS 1498 and 673-1; Wedgwood to Wright, 18966-26. The artist promised the patron that he would 'cast a fuller drapery upon the Corinthian Maid wch will conceal the Nudity'.
(59) Wright to Hayley 31 August 1783, Hayley (1823) op cit, 1, p305; Wright to Wedgwood, quoting Hayley, 23 Oct 1783, Wedgwood MSS 1498. Wright tells Wedgwood that he will make a design as soon as he learns his thoughts on the matter.
(60) Pliny, op cit, bk 35, ch 36, 1 62. In this, Hayley was in tune with the ambitious humanists who circulated vernacular translations of Lucian's ekphrasis of The Calumny, of Apelles and encouraged Botticelli and Mangtegna to recreate the painting in the 1490s. See David Cast, The Calumny of Apelles, A Study in the Humanist Tradition, New Haven and London, 1981, pp2956.
(61) The early humanists followed the example of classical orators in focusing their attentions on the moral exemplum and persuasion; these concerns became the cornerstone of art theory beginning with Alberti. See David Cast, 'Art and Humanism', Renaissance Humanism: Foundation& Forms, and Legacy, ed Alert Rabil, Jr, Philadelphia, 1988, 3, pp412-49; Fussell, op cit, pp7-9.
(62) Wright to Hayley November 5 1783, Bemrose Extra-illustrated. In this letter Wright reveals that he is still uneasy about the sick-Telemachus conceit and reports that Mr. French advised having the youth resting affectionately against his sleeping dog. However, Wright confesses that Wedgwood approves of Hayley's idea, so it shall be attempted.
(63) Wright to Wedgwood, 31 December 1783, Wedgwood MSS 672-1. He also relied on Wedgwood to send statuettes for the niches the potter wanted to be included and other objects for the Corinthian Maid. Wedgwood wished Wright to paint the picture on site at Etruria for the most accurate depiction of a kiln possible, although Wright initially had not planned on including an oven. Wedgwood MSS 672-1; 673-1; 674; and 18911-26.
(64) Reynolds, op cit, Fourth Discourse, 1771, pp57-8. Dryden's translation of Du Fresnoy's De arte graphica defines invention in a painting as the 'the imagination of a powerfull, and easy Genius' that faces a bare canvas on which the entire 'Machine of the Picture' is disposed. Dryden's preface places under the head of Invention 'the disposition of the work,--to put all things in a beautiful order and harmony, that the whole may be of a piece'. The Art of Painting; by C.A. Du Fresnoy. With remarks. Translated into English; with an original preface, containing a parallel betwixt painting and poetry. By Mr Dryden ... London, 1695. in The Works of John Dryden, vol XX, ed Alan Roper, Berkeley, 1989, pp61, 87. Along with Reynolds's remarks, Walter toss's comments on Alexander Runciman's Ossian ceiling at Penicuik show that towards the end of the eighteenth century neoclassical theory still held weight: 'Imagination is the canvass of the poet, upon which, by the medium of language, his designs are raised and coloured. When, therefore, he successfully calls up a beautiful idea, or an interesting event, we immediately reflect how much our pleasure would be heightened, by seeing these scenes or objects pass before our eyes. To indulge this desire, to realize those ideas, is the province of the painter. By the magic of his pencil the canvass changes into the Scene itself, exhibiting to the eye what poetry presents only to the imagination.' A Description of the Paintings in the Hall of Ossian at Pennycuik, Edinburgh, 1773, p1.
(65) Daily Advertiser, 20 April 1785. Hayley's letter to John Beridge, 18 March 1780 (Beridge Papers) discusses the 'brilliant compositions of our friend Wright': As he wishes to place a single female in his new scene of rock and sea, I think he may take his choice of the following ladies, mortal and immortal.' In a similar scenario a few years later, Wright showed his nearly completed composition of a woman in a stormy woods to Mrs. Beridge, who decided that the subject should be The Lady in Milton's Comus. Wright to Hayley, April 1784, Inglefield MSS.
(66) Stephen Daniels in Joseph Wright, London, 1999, pp73-4, states that Gisborne may have suggested the theme of Wright's Cottage on Fire series.
(67) 'Light Heavyweight?' Reviewed Work: Joseph Wright of Derby, Painter of Light by Benedict Nicolson, Burlington Magazine, CXI (1969), pp304-306. Gage cites Frederick Cummings's assertion that Boothby conceived the 'programme' of his portrait by Wright in 'Boothby, Rousseau, and the Romantic Malady', Burlington Magazine, CX (Dec 1968), pp659-666, as evidence for the artist's underdeveloped intellect. Gage adds that Jedediah Strutt probably designed his own portrait, too. Neither Cummings nor Gage considers the logical corollary: if portraits were executed to the order of a sitter's / patron's programme, it is at least as likely that the complicated subject paintings were also collaborative. Yet Gage expresses bewilderment at Wright's sudden leap from small, intimate genre pictures, to the complexities of the major candlelight of the 1760s, as though this were a supernatural event.
(68) Monthly Magazine, Vol 4, Pt II (October 1797), pp289-94.
(69) Wright to Hayley, 31 August 1783, Hayley (1823), I, p305. The earliest humanists took note of this proverb, too: Petrarch's copy of Pliny's Natural History reveals that he had underlined and annotated this anecdote about Apelles. Baxandall, op cit, p65.
(70) Erasmus Darwin, The Botanic" Garden Part II Containing The Loves of the Plants, London, 2rid edn, 1790, Canto I, p175. Anna Seward's Verses Addressed to Mr Wright of Derby (op cit) commends the 'various hand' of 'this ingenious artist' that can startle and move the viewer with dissimilar moonlights, lava, and Julia, yet no mention is made of the scientific pieces. This bias is present in the obituary, too, which marks out for special merit those emotional literary paintings such as the Dead Soldier, Sterne's Captive, and Julia.
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|Author:||May, Suzanne E.|
|Publication:||British Art Journal|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2010|
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