The subject of this painting is based on a passage from Edmund Spenser’s
“Faerie Queene,” an epic poem published in 1590. Many American artists, including John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West, looked to Spenser’s work for inspiration. Allston’s representation of Florimell, a symbol of virtue and chastity who flees an unseen evil, follows Spenser’s description of the heroine very closely: “Still as she fled her eyes she backward threw / As fearing evil that pursued her fast / And her fair yellow locks behind her flew.”
Artist Washington Allston, American, 1779-1843
  • The Flight of Florimell
Date 1819
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 36 × 28 inches (91.4 × 71.1 cm)
Framed: 47 1/8 × 39 1/4 × 4 1/2 inches (119.7 × 99.7 × 11.4 cm)
Credit Line City of Detroit Purchase
Accession Number 44.165
Department American Art before 1950
On View American W271, Level 2 (see map)
1827-1839, Loammi Baldwin (Boston, Massachusetts, USA);
1839-1876, Mr. and Mrs. James F. Baldwin;
by 1876, Mrs. George R. Baldwin;
William Morris Hunt;
by 1944, M. Knoedler Co. (New York, New York, USA);
1944-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Letter from Allston to Leslie. November 15, 1819. The Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Dana Family Papers.

Letter from Allston to Gulian Verplanck. April 19, 1819. The Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Dana Family Papers.

Letter from C. R. Leslie to Allston. March 3, 1820. The Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Dana Family Papers.

Letter from Allston to William Collins. May 18, 1821. The Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Dana Family Papers.

First Exhibition of Paintings in the Athenaeum Gallery Consisting of Specimens by American Artists and a Selection of the Works of the Old Masters. Exh. cat., Boston Anthenaeum. Boston, 1827, no. 18.
Exhibition of Pictures Painted by Washington Allston. Exh. cat., Harding’s Gallery. Boston, 1839, no. 5. [as The Flight of Florimel]

Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer. “Exhibition of Allston’s Paintings.” Last Evening with Allston and Other Papers. Boston, 1839, pp. 13-16, 44-46.

Clarke, Sarah. “Our First Great Painter and his Works.” Atlantic Monthly XV (February 15, 1865): pp. 131, 136.

Second Catalogue of the Ancient and Modern Collection. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, 1876, pp. 410-449, no. 71.

Sweetser, Moses Foster. Allston. Boston, 1879, pp. 111, 190.

Exhibition of the Works of Washington Allston. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, 1881, pp. 93-103, no. 223.

Downes, William Howe. “Boston Painters and Paintings, Part II: Allston and his Contemporaries.” Atlantic Monthly 62 (August 1888): p. 260.

Flagg, Jared B. The Life and Letters of Washington Allston. New York, 1892, p. 162.

Richardson, E. P. American Romantic Painting. New York, 1944, p. 4.

______________. “The Flight of Florimell by Washington Allston.” Bulletin of the DIA 24, 1 (1944): pp. 1-5 (ill.).

Born, Wolfgang. “Sources of American Romanticism.” Antiques 48 (November 1945): p. 274.

Richardson, E.P. “The World of the Romantic Artist: Detroit Review.” Art News 43 (January 1945): p. 21.

The Hudson River School and the Early American Landscape Tradition. Exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1945, p. 23, no. 5 (ill.).

The World of the Romantic Artist: A Survey of American Culture from 1800-1875. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1945, no. 27.

Washington Allston, 1779-1843: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and Memorabilia. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1947, no. 27.

Richardson, Edgar Preston. “The America of Washington Allston.” Magazine of Art 40 (October 1947): p. 218.

Dame, Lawrence. “Boston Museum Evaluates Washington Allston.” Art Digest 21 (August 1947): p. 13.

Richardson, Edgar Preston. Washington Allston: A Study of Romantic Artists in America. New York, 1948, pp. 139-141.
Our American Heritage. Exh. cat., Denver Art Museum. Denver, 1948, no. 17.

Richardson, Edgar Preston. Painting in America: The Story of 450 Years. New York, 1956, pp. 146-147.

American Classics of the Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., The Carnegie Institute. Pittsburgh, 1957, no. 4.

Painting in America: The Story of 450 Years. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1957, no. 69.

Comstock, Helen. “The Connoisseur in America: 19th Century Painting.” Connoisseur 141 (March 1958): p. 66.

Canaday, John. “Metropolitan Seminars in Art.” Art in America 46 (Fall 1958): p. 75.

Bury, Adrian. “Round about the Galleries: Nineteenth Century American Painting.” Connoisseur 141, 567 (March 1958): p. 66.

Dorra, Henri. “Ryder and Romantic Painting.” Art in America 48, 4 (1960): p. 21 (ill.).

Classical America: 1815-1845. Exh. cat., Newark Museum. Newark, 1963, p. 260, no. 220.

Arts of the Young Republic: The Age of Dunlap. Exh. cat., The William Hayes Ackland Memorial Art Center, The University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill, 1968, no. 45.

Canaday, John. The Lives of the Painters, Volume 4. New York, 1969, no. 233 (ill.).

Novak, Barbara. American Painting of the Nineteenth Century. New York, 1969, p. 56, no. 2-13 (ill.).

Cummings, Frederick J. and Charles H. Elam, eds. The Detroit Institute of Arts Illustrated Handbook. Detroit, 1971, p. 136.

Cartland, B. Book of Love and Lovers. New York, 1978 (pl. 30).

Rivard, Nancy J. “American Paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts.” Antiques 114 (November 1978): p. 1047 (pl. 3).

Johns, Elizabeth. “Washington Allston and Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Remarkable Relationship.” Journal of the Archives of American Art 19. 3 (1979): p. 6.
A Man of Genius: The Art of Washington Allston (1779-1843). Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, 1980, pp. 133-134, no. 52.