The Ghost of Darius Appearing to Atossa

WAG 4041


One of a group of 18 known as the ‘Liverpool Cartoons’, this is the the second of two cartoons on the subject of Atossa in the group (see also WAG 4040). It is probably a pendant to the first as it also depicts the ghost of Darius and in a similar way. The subject is from Aeschylus's play 'The Persians', an English translation of which was published by the Greek scholar, the Rev. Robert Potter (1721-1804) in 1777. Potter sat for Romney in the late 1770s and stated in the notes to his translation that Romney was planning some subjects from the tragedy. Darius, the late king of Persia (modern day Iran), appears before his wife Atossa. ‘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’.