The Descent of Odin

WAG 4046


One of a group of 18 known as the ‘Liverpool Cartoons’, this is a drawing of a story from the Norse Sagas. Odin, father of Thor, travelled to the Underworld to seek the fate of his other son Baldr. Romney collaborated with Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) over their respective treatments of this subject. ‘Cartoon’ here refers to the word in its old sense of a preparatory, full-size drawing for a later, finished painting. They are constructed of several pieces of handmade paper pieced together to create a large surface on which to work. The 18 cartoons in the Walker’s collection are the only ones surviving of groups of drawings Romney made exploring scenes from literature and mythology. It is likely that Romney explored the cartoon form over a period of ten years, if not longer, from about 1775. Romney’s son John (1757-1832) wrote to William Roscoe (1753-1831) that the cartoons ‘were executed in the winter evenings by candlelight as a relaxation when Mr. Romney’s mind had been jaded by portrait painting during the day’.