Benjamin West, 1738-1820
Fidelia and Speranza, 1776
Oil on canvas, 136.5 x 108.3 cm (53-3/4 x 42-5/8 in.)
Benjamin West was the first American-born painter to study abroad. He left Pennsylvania in 1760 for Rome then in 1763 went to London, where he acquired an international reputation for his neoclassical style of painting historical and literary subjects. Here, West portrays a scene from The Faerie Queene, a book-length poem by Sir Edmund Spenser celebrating Christian virtues. Fidelia (Faith), holding the New Testament, and her sister Speranza (Hope) wait for the arrival of the Red Cross Knight. The knight, representing the human soul, is brought to the House of Holiness by Una (Truth) riding a donkey through the stormy landscape at left.
Acquired by the Putnam Foundation, 1969 
 The Timken painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777 (no. 364). John Boydell published, on November 9, 1778, a mezzotint by Valentine Green after the painting. Fidelia and Speranza may be an allegorical portrait, possibly of sisters, of a type that was common during the period. It does not appear in the early lists of West’s work, which is characteristic of his portraits.
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