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Henry VI, Part II

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

One of the subjects Romney intended to paint for the Boydell Gallery was "Margery Jourdain and Roger Bolingbroke Conjuring Up the Fiend" from Henry VI, Part II . Like many of Romney's ideas, however, the Bolingbroke episode never resulted in a completed painting.


In a powerful study of the Fiend, Romney adopts two distinctly different means for conveying emotion. Influenced by Charles LeBrun's Passions, with its diagrammatic treatments of facial expressions, Romney relies here on traditional devices for depicting strong emotion: large eyes with much white showing, knitted brow, a wide, bow-shaped mouth with teeth exposed—visual cliches that appear often in his drawings. On the other hand, Romney's rendering of the fiend's hair departs entirely from physical description, however schematic that might be. Heavy, repeated diagonal strokes set off the Fiend's head with apotropaic emphasis. The vigor and freedom of Romney's graphic technique suggests his own emotional response to his subject. This drawing employs black chalk in a more abrupt and spontaneous fashion than does the head of King Lear dating from some ten years earlier.


Charles LeBrun (1619-1690), french historical painter whose ornate, baroque style dominated french art for two generations.


Born in Paris, he attracted the notice of a patron, who placed him at the age of eleven in the studio of Simon Vouet. At fifteen he received commissions from Cardinal Richelieu. By 1648, LeBrun founded the Academy of Painting and Sculpture.


In his treatise, Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (1698), LeBrun promoted the expression of the emotions in painting. It had much influence on 18th-century art theory.

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