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Mater Delarosa

The Mourning Mother

The majority of the Romney drawings in the Folger Library are of Shakespearean subjects, but some originally identified as Shakespearean are now known to deal with a variety of other topics. Two examples are drawings of the Mater Dolorosa (Mourning Mother), a subject Romney had been commissioned to paint in 1776 as an altarpiece for King's College, Cambridge. The commission was never completed since an Italian painting thought to be by Daniele da Volterra was placed in the chapel instead. Meanwhile, however, Romney had executed many drawings in response to the commission.


Always inspired to make multiple studies for a particular subject even when a small number might suffice, Romney here employs vividly contrasting techniques in depicting the same image. The first drawing is executed entirely in thick ribbons of wash applied over a light graphite sketch. The second is a liltingly calligraphic pen and ink study. Although the technical methods differ radically, the pose of the figures in the two drawings is identical.


Like many others in the exhibition, these drawings illustrate a characteristic feature of Romney's draftsmanship: the astonishing range of his graphic techniques. In their great variety of technical methods and in their emotional force, it is Romney's drawings that speak most directly to the modern viewer.

George Romney. Drawings and sketches. Drawing, late 18th century

George Romney. Drawings and sketches. Drawing, late 18th century

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