About this artwork
On a visit to Zurich, Switzerland, in 1778–79, Fuseli made several portraits of Martha Hess, a niece of the artist’s friend Johann Kaspar Lavater. Lavater eventually incorporated prints after Fuseli’s drawings of Martha and her sister into his famous Essays on Physiognomy (published 1789).
Martha was described as ethereal and inclined toward religious fanaticism, both features consistent with how Fuseli presents her. Brilliantly lit, her ecstatic face appears to be emerging from darkness. Fuseli drew almost exclusively with his left hand, as evidenced here by his hatching (closely spaced parallel lines used for shading), which moves from upper left to lower right.
- Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- Henry Fuseli
- Portrait of a Woman (Martha Hess)
- Made 1781
- Charcoal and black chalk, with stumping, heightened with white chalk and touches of red-orange pastel, on grayish-tan laid paper
- Inscribed recto lower left, in graphite: “Sept. 10, 81”
- 442 × 325 mm
- Clarence Buckingham Collection