Joseph Wright, Romeo and Juliet. The Tomb Scene

Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Date: 1790
Technique: Oil on canvas, 177.8 x 241.3 cm

The painting shows Wright's famed skill with nocturnal and candlelit scenes. It depicts the moment in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at which Juliet, kneeling beside Romeo's body, hears a footstep and draws Romeo's dagger. Juliet's line is "Yea, noise? Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger!" and is said just before Juliet kills herself. In addition to this painting, Derby Museum also own a preparatory sketch by Wright. On the sketch he proposes the change he made to the painting where he moved the sarcophagus and its niche to the right. Wright was trying to increase the size of the image of the illuminated wall. The gladiatorial figure of Juliet with her outstretched arms attracts the eye and the heroic death of Romeo have been compared to Michelangelo's drawing of Tityus.


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