John Linnell (British, 1792-1882)
oil on canvas, Framed - h:168.50 w:242.50 d:9.50 cm (h:66 5/16 w:95 7/16 d:3 11/16 inches)
Unframed - h:146.00 w:221.00 cm (h:57 7/16 w:87 inches). Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1972.119
John Linnell presents a vision of the British landscape rich in spiritual and poetic associations. He draws on the biblical story of Noah's ark in which God orders Noah to build a ship to harbor his family and animals from the Great Flood. The English poet John Milton (1608-1674) also addressed the story in his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), a passage from which Linnell included alongside his painting at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1848:
When lo! a wonder strange!
Of every beast, and bird, and insect small,
Came sevens and pairs, and entered in, as taught
Their order: last the sire, and his three sons,
With their four wives; and God made fast the door.
Meanwhile the south wind rose, and with black wings
Wide hovering, all the clouds together drove
From under Heaven. (Book XI)
The context for Linnell's picture may represent the debate at that time between theologians and scientists over the accuracy of biblical sources. Alternatively, the awe-inspiring theme, represented most clearly in Linnell's apocalyptic swirl of sky, was of longstanding interest to romantic painters and writers.