Von Host specialised in depicting literary subjects with emphasis on the macabre and the supernatural. This picture relates to the legend of Faust, as retold by the German romantic playwright Goethe in his great poetic drama published in two parts in 1808 and 1832. Faust is a late medieval scholar with a thirst for ultimate knowledge who enters into a pact with the Devil, thereby pledging his soul.
I stood and looked at this work for ages when I saw it in person at the Tate Britain. It is as haunting as it is beautiful, and as frightening to behold as it is enthralling. A perfect example of a work of the Romantic movement, with its artist taking inspiration from Gothic literature. This is one of my favourite paintings that I've come across.