Thomas Sully (American, born England, 1783–1872)
Oil on wood
28 1/8 x 22 1/2 in. (71.4 x 57.2 cm)
Gift of Louis Allston Gillet, in memory of his uncles, Sully Gillet and Lorenzo M. Gillet, 1921 (21.48)
Sully's only nude depicts the climactic moment in James Thomson's poem "Summer" from his opus The Seasons. While bathing in a forest stream, the maiden Musidora is startled by rustling footsteps that turn out to be those of her lover. His gentlemanly understanding of her modesty and concern for her virtue so impresses her that she confesses her love for him. The beauty of Sully's conception results from the lack of narrative device and the sheer expressive power of the unclothed female figure. Completed just two years before his trip to London, the picture may have been on his mind when he painted the young Queen Victoria.