seated and crouched figure with hands clenched and large shadow behind

Study for "The Lapland Witch", c. 1775-1777

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George Romney embraced the “sublime,” the flip side of the Age of Enlightenment. He was obsessed with the passions, the power of nature, the supernatural—those forces beyond human comprehension and control. In the popular imagination of the 18th century, Lapland was home to witches capable of raising storms and causing shipwrecks, and Romney wanted to capture their magic. His efforts began with fiery sketches like this one.

In 1778, Romney’s friend and biographer William Hayley wrote a verse on the artist’s conjuring of a Lapland witch. Note his comment that the freedom of the artist’s drawing would need to be tempered when it came time to execute the painting.

"Round fancy’s circle when thy Pencil flies,
With what terrific pomp thy Spectres rise!
What lust of mischief marks thy Witch’s form,
While on the Lapland Rock she swells the storm!
Tho’ led by Fancy, thro’ her boundless reign,
Well dost thou know to quit her wild domain,
When History bids thee paint, severely chaste
Her simpler scene, with uncorrupted taste."

Study for "The Lapland Witch"
Artist Life
Accession Number
Alfred A. de Pass, Lugt 108a (see also Lugt 2014e), London (until 1914/1947; gave to Cornwall Museum); Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro (until 1966; sale, Christie's, London, February 22, 1966, part of no. 36. [Sabin Galleries, London, until 1968; sold for £250 to MIA]
Curator Approved

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seated and crouched figure with hands clenched and large shadow behind