Pen and brown ink
Support: Cream(3) laid paper
Sheet: 24.5 x 36 cm (9 5/8 x 14 3/16 in.); Secondary Support: 31.7 x 43.7 cm (12 1/2 x 17 3/16 in.)
Cornelia Blakemore Warner Fund and Delia E. Holden Fund 1978.20
John Hamilton Mortimer's close friend James Gandon described Mortimer's technique: "He never altered a line . . . and all the time he [worked] he conversed and entertained his friends with the same easy cheerfulness and pleasantry as if wholly unemployed."
One of the most talented draftsmen of his generation in England, John Hamilton Mortimer became known for a style of drawing in pen and ink that was bold, confident, and energetic. This sheet depicts a large crowd in a frieze-like arrangement gathered to witness a figure with an axe on the verge of decapitating a young male captive. Mortimer deliberately sought out obscure narratives and leaned toward the violent and macabre. In spite of the research of numerous art historians, the specific subject of the drawing has yet to be identified.
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