I read Paradise Lost about twenty-five years ago. Though I remember the overall narrative of the poem, the major themes, and, of course, most of the characters (or rather how Milton depicted them), the passage of time has washed away the subtler aspects of the work from my memory. I suppose this accounts for my interest in William's posts on John Milton's magnum opus; they have served to remind me that Paradise Lost truly is epic work, in every sense of the word.
Though it is common knowledge, not everyone who reads Paradise Lost for the first time is aware that John Milton was blind when he "wrote" it, and that writing for Milton essentially boiled down to dictating the poem to various amanuenses, a group that apparently included his own daughters. Whether or not Milton actually dictated the poem to his daughters is debatable, but the notion captured the attention of the public and many painters made the scene a subject for painting all the same.
The first artist to depict the scene (as far as I can tell) was the Swiss born English painter Henry Fuseli.
When I look at Munkácsy's Milton I get the sense the figure in the painting really is dictating something epic. This is mirrored by the postures and expressions of the three daughters all three of whom appear to be completely engrossed by what their father is speaking to them. Look at the way the one recording the words leans forward in her chair, indicating complete dedication and interest. She is quite literally hanging on every word Milton utters. Now in all fairness, Munkacsy had the benefit of seeing the other two works before he composed his own rendition of the scene, and I imagine he studied both to some extent before he began his own composition.
What do you think? Is Munkácsy's scene the best, or are you more partial to either Fuseli's version or Delacroix's depiction?
Well, examining these three paintings inspired by William Wildblood's posts only serves to remind me I must reread Paradise Lost soon. Unfortunately, my to-read stack of books already touches the ceiling, so I am not sure when I will get to Milton's massive epic again.