John Downman, The Ghost of Clytemnestra Awakening the Furies

Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven

Date: 1781
Technique: Oil on panel, 508 x 648 mm

The subject is from the Greek tragedy The Furies by Aeschylus. The ghost of the wicked Clytemnstra arouses the demonic ‘Furies’ to pursue her murderer, Orestes. Downman’s picture is crowded with grotesque, almost caricatured, detail. This work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1782. A critic said it was ‘proof how artists sometimes lose themselves, and mistake their talents’.

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