The Lady in Milton's Comus
John Milton’s masque ‘Comus’ (1634) describes ‘the Lady’ lost in a wood. She hears frightening noises, becoming ever more nervous and afraid, but the sudden appearance of the moon through the clouds restores her mental and moral strength. Wright’s love of dramatic light effects is central to his art and often determined his choice of subjects. In relation to this painting he wrote to a friend, ‘Moonlight pictures require a good light but not a glaring one.’ His handling of light here results in a subtle and sensitive emotional scene, rather than the intense drama of this painting’s companion piece ‘The Indian Window’ (Derby Art Gallery). Themes from Milton were common in 18th century British painting, and Wright has chosen a key episode from one of his best known works.