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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Mariabella Fry   15 February 1873


Referring to p. 185 of your very interesting work on “Expression of the Emotions,” I think it may interest you to notice, should you not have already done so, the perfect representation of the action of the “grief-muscles” in a picture of Albert Dürer’s now exhibiting among the works of the old Masters at Burlington House, (No. 160 in the catalogue).1

It is a picture of the Crucifixion, (or more properly a descent from the Cross,) & the figure almost close to the cross, on the right hand of it, has tears painted on his cheeks, & the half-square wrinkle on the forehead most distinctly marked, giving an unmistakeable expression of grief to the face.

Apologizing for the liberty I have taken in writing to you, | I beg to remain | Sir, | Yours obediently | Mariabella Fry.

6 The Grove, Highgate, N.

Feb 15. 73.


According to the Royal Academy of Arts catalogue (Exhibition of the works of the old masters, associated with works of deceased masters of the British school, 1873, p. 17 (, accessed 4 November 2011)), item 160 was ‘A triptych: Christ bearing his cross—the crucifixion—the resurrection’ by Albrecht Dürer. The picture was described as a panel, 1114 in. by 17 in., lent by William Tetlow Hibbert. It has not been further identified. In Expression, p. 185, CD had referred to Fra Angelico’s ‘Descent from the Cross’ as an example of the depiction of grief muscles.


Remarks on the "grief-muscles" shown in a Dürer picture.

Letter details

Letter no.
Mariabella Fry
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 220
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8767,” accessed on 25 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21