Art and Images in Psychiatry |

The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004;61(6):541-542. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.61.6.541.
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On August 28, 1843, Richard Dadd (1817-1886), one of the most promisingyoung artists of his generation, lured his father, Robert Dadd, into a parkin Cobham, Kent, England. Believing that he was attacking the devil disguisedas "the person he had always regarded as a parent",1(p24) he attempted to cut his father's throat with a razor and, failingthat, stabbed him to death. He escaped to France, where he was arrested nearMontereau (southeast of Paris) after attempting to cut the throat of a fellowcarriage passenger; he had made his decision to attack based on his perceptionsof movements of the star Osiris (probably Sirius).2(p60) After being taken into custody, he confessed his crime and waseventually admitted to the Clermont Asylum, near Beauvais. A list of thosewho must die was recovered from him. In London, England, sketches of his friendswith a red line drawn across their throats, suggesting that they would becut, were found in his apartment.

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Richard Dadd (1817-1886), English. The Fairy Feller'sMaster-Stroke, c 1855-1864. Oil on canvas; 54.0 × 39.4 cm. Courtesyof the Tate Gallery, London, England/Art Resource, NY.

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