Eurydice fleeing from Aristaeus

WAG 4029


One of a group of 18 known as the ‘Liverpool Cartoons’, this drawing depicts the nymph Eurydice approaching her death from the bite of a snake. The tale of how Eurydice met her death is taken from the Roman poet Virgil's 'Georgics', Book 4. Her life story was a popular subject with artists from the Renaissance onwards and Romney may have seen paintings by Titian and Poussin capturing this moment during his visit to Italy in 1775. Alternatively, the subject may have been suggested to him by his patron, Lord Chancellor Thurlow (1731-1806), who commissioned a painting of 'Orpheus and Eurydice' from Romney. ‘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’.