SAMUEL PALMER R.W.S.
(1805 - 1881)
Samuel Palmer and by descent to
Alfred Herbert Palmer
WA Smith and by descent until 1935
Spink London by 1997
Private Collection, UK
London, Society of Painters in Watercolour, 1880, no. 218
London, Fine Art Society, A Collection of Drawings, Paintings and Etchings by the late Samuel Palmer, 1881, no. 50
R. Lister, Catalogue Raisonne of the Works of Samuel Palmer, 1988, p. 206, no. 5
John Milton, Comus, BK II, II. 824-6
“…Still she retains her maiden gentleness, and oft at eve, Visits her herds along the twilight meadows.”
This watercolour depicts Sabrina, Milton’s ‘gentle Nymph… that with moist curb sways away the smooth Severn stream’ (Comus II, lines 824-826). As described in the quotation under which the picture was exhibited in 1880, Sabrina is shown visiting her herds at twilight. Raymond Lister points out how appropriately, the landscape is wholly Welsh in character, and probably derives from sketches Palmer made there on visits in 1835 and 1836. Lister records another version of the same size, which he suggests may be the finished watercolour based on the present work.
After the Comus works Palmer worked intermittently on a set of watercolours depicting Milton’s L’Allegro and Il Penseroso from 1864 until the end of his life. The amount of time reflects the importance which Palmer placed on them. He wrote that ‘I have lavished time without limit or measure (on the watercolours), even after I myself considered the works complete’.