During a tour to the Middle East, Richard Dadd developed paranoid delusions that he was being persecuted by the devil and on his return to Britain he brutally murdered his father, believing him to be the devil in disguise.

He escaped abroad only to spend ten months in a French lunatic asylum. After being extradited, he was confined in the state criminal lunatic asylum attached to Bethlem hospital from 1844 to 1864 and then in Broadmoor for the remaining 22 years of his life. He continued to paint but never recovered his sanity. Both the Middle Eastern and French episodes have a bearing on this work. He has titled the work in French and signed it 'Monsr. R. Dadd', although 21 years had elapsed since his confinement in France. The subject is drawn from memories of the ill-fated Middle Eastern trip, the foreground figure almost certainly intended to represent Sir Thomas Phillips, Dadd's patron and travelling companion on his Middle Eastern journey

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