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Henry Fuseli, 1741–1825
The Mandrake: A Charm
Former Title(s):

Scene of Witches, from "The Masque of Queens" by Ben Jonson

A Scene of Witches from Ben Jonson's 'Masque of Queens' , c.1785

Scene from Jonson's The Witches

The mandrake, a charm "I pull'd him up though he grew full; and when I had done the cock did crow." [1785, Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhibition catalogue]
exhibited RA 1785
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
25 × 29 1/2 inches (63.5 × 74.9 cm), Frame: 31 7/8 × 37 × 2 5/8 inches (81 × 94 × 6.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
bird | circle (plane figure) | gray (color) | hat | leaning | play | religious and mythological subject | stage | wings | witches | woman
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

The Swiss-born Henry Fuseli settled permanently in Britain in 1779. He was known for extravagant historical paintings and took great pride in his nickname: “Painter in Ordinary to the Devil.” A master of the macabre, he based many of his works on dark and sensual subjects taken from literature. This painting depicts a scene from Ben Jonson’s play The Masque of Queens (1609) in which witches collect ingredients for potions. One of the witches declares, “O’ the ground, to heare the Mandrake grone; And pluck’d him up, though he grew full low, And as I had done, the cock did crow.” As the witch plucks the mandrake, a plant traditionally associated with fertility due to its human-like roots, a sorcerer riding a cockerel warns her about the imminent arrival of dawn. The addition of a fashionable eighteenth-century woman looking on in horror echoes contemporary responses to the painting. Upon viewing it for the first time, Horace Walpole declared Fuseli to be “shockingly mad, madder than ever, quite mad.”

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Füseli and the Power of Dreams (Musée Jacquemart-André, 2022-09-16 - 2023-01-23) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Critique of Reason : Romantic Art, 1760–1860 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2015-03-06 - 2015-07-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Goya and Italy (Museum of Zaragoza, 2008-05-26 - 2008-09-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Gothic Nightmares - Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination (Tate Britain, 2006-02-15 - 2006-05-01) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Romanticism (Center Gallery, Bucknell University, 1990-02-24 - 1990-04-08) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Henry Fuseli (Tokyo) (Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, 1984-01-06 - 1984-02-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Henry Fuseli (Tokyo) (The National Museum of Western Art, 1983-11-11 - 1983-12-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

David Brown, Fuseli's Drawings for Ben Johnson's 'Masque of Queens,' and a Figure Study, Rediscovered in the Ashmolean Museum, Burlington Magazine, vol. 121, February 1979, pp. 111-113, N1 B87 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martin Butler, Ben Johnson in the Romantic Age, Studies in Romanticism, vol. 46, Spring 2007, p. 149, Available onine: Art Full Text databas and JSTOR [ORBIS]

Martin Butler, William Blake, 1757-1827, Tate Publishing, London, 1990, p. 100, NJ18 B57 B875 1990 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 94-95, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Exhibition Catalogue. 1785. 17th., Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, vol. 1: 2 (numbers 14-28), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1785, p. 5, N5054 A53 v (YCBA) [YCBA]

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, P. 19, ND466 G67 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Francisco Goya, Goya & Italy, Turner/Fundacion Goya en Aragon, Madrid, 2008, v.1, p. 214;v.2., no. 293, 293, NJ18 G69 A12 2008B OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts, A complete dictionary of contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904 , , Henry Graves & Co., London, 1905 - 1906, p. 184 (v. 3), N5054 G73 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martin Myrone, Gothic nightmares, Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic imagination , Tate Publishing, London New York, 2006, pp. 132-133, no. 82, ND467.5 G68 M97 2006 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martin Myrone, Henry Fuseli, Tate Publishing, London, 2001, p. 47, fig. 40, NJ18 F98 M97 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Kevin Salatino, Dressed to kill : Fuseli and the modern woman, Master Drawings, vol. 62, Spring 2024, pp. 92, 111, NC1 .M37 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Gert Schiff, Johann Heinrich Fussli, 1741-1825, vol. 2, Prestel, Munich, 1973, p. 561, no. 1752, NJ18 F98 S35 2 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Gert Schiff, L'Opera Completa di Fussli, Rizzoli, Milan, 1977, p. 93, no. 83, fig. 83, NJ18 F98 A12 S34 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Tate Britain, Tate Britain, Exhibition: Gothic Nightmares, Fuseli, Blake, and the Romantic Imagination , London, 2006, Room 5, Available onilne: Tate Britain website http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/gothic-nightmares-fuseli-blake-and-romantic-imagination [Website]

Peter A. Tomory, LIfe and Art of Henry Fuseli, Thames & Hudson, New York, 1972, p. 123, NJ18 F98 T65 1972 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

William Thomas Whitley, Artists and their friends in England, 1700-1799, Medici Society, London & Boston, 1928, pp. 37, 377 (v.2), no. 96, N6766 W45 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Jonathan Wordsworth, British romantic art, Center Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, 1990, p. 20, NX543 B74 1990 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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