Opening the Fold. Samuel Palmer, RWS 1805-81. 1880. Etching, printed on wove paper, , 6⅜ x 9 inches (16.5 x 22.9 cm); sheet 13⅛ x 15⅝ inches (33.6 x 42.3 cm). Fifth state (of ten). Signed in pencil “S. Palmer,” lower right. Provenance: Private Collection by descent; bought from The Fine Art Society in the nineteenth century. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by Gordon Cooke

It was Palmer’s long-held wish to publish his own translation of Virgil’s Eclogues. He wished to emphasise the ‘pastoral essence’ of the original, one of the greatest works of Latin poetry. The project was ultimately completed by his son Herbert, who published his father’s text illustrated with etchings and facsimiles of drawings, posthumously in 1883 and 1884.

The artist only completed one etching for the book, Opening the Fold which was published as a precursor by The Fine Art Society in 1880, illustrating Eclogue VIII:

Scarce with her rosy fingers had the dawn
From glimmering heaven the vale of night withdrawn,
Or folded #ocks were loose to browse anew
O’er mountain thyme or trefoil wet with dew,
When leaning sad an olive stem beside,
These, his last numbers, hapless Damon plied.


Cooke, Gordon. Samuel Palmer, His Friends, and Followers.Exhibition Catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society, 2012. No. 16.

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Lister, Raymond. Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer. Cambridge, 1988. pp. pp. 247–48 E12 v/VII.

Last modified 26 May 2014