John Henry Fuseli/ Johann Heinrich Füssli, The Mandrake: A Charm

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

Date: c. 1785
Technique: Oil on canvas, 635 x 765 mm

Fuseli shows a grotesque witch digging up a Mandrake root. According to legend, the Mandrake had mystic powers; it would scream or send out noxious fumes on being dug up. When this painting was exhibited in 1785, a critic wrote: ‘We have frequently had occasion to admire the enthusiasm and eccentricity of this artist’s imagination; but here it is genius run mad.’ He noted how odd it was that the witch’s daughter was so fashionably dressed.


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