top of page

Mercy's Dream

Artist: Thomas Oldham Barlow; British
Year: c. 1864
Medium: Black and white engraving, copied from Daniel Huntington’s (1816-1906) painting (1858)
Size: Height - 28", Width - 22"
Original Location: Upstairs
2004.01.07 Belmont Mansion Association Purchase

Mercy’s Dream was the most successful painting of Daniel Huntington’s career. The scene is based on a passage from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come (1678) in which Mercy dreams she is visited by an Angel who reveals to her the presence of God. The Pilgrim’s Progress was second only to the Bible in popularity in late 1830s America. Adelicia’s family would have been familiar with the story. She probably felt a connection to the second book of the series in which Christina seeks her husband and her own salvation in the company of family and devoted friend (Mercy). The book also likened America to Eden as the new promise land and cautioned readers of the consequences of the country’s growing materialism. The subject of the painting is regarded as odd because it focuses on a secondary character of the story, Mercy, and takes place in the lesser published second book. Huntington was the first artist to actually depict this specific scene of the book. After he finished his painting others would create their own interpretations.

The story in the second book of the series was seen as more relatable to the public and was more cheerful and consoling. It presented a more humanized concept of the righteous life. Coming at a time when the divinity of dreams was beginning to be questioned, Huntington’s painting visually reinforced traditional beliefs. Mercy’s Dream served as an important pictorial monument in a period of great exploration and presentation of dream imagery in America. [1]

Huntington painted three versions of Mercy’s Dream during his lifetime. The first (completed in 1841) is regarded as the most successful while the others were done as studies for engravings. Mercy’s Dream provided a spiritual uplifting for Huntington’s generation and was recreated for thousands of homes through engravings like this one.

bottom of page