The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery

Introduction: The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery

by Frederick Burwick, University of California, Los Angeles

1. The Gallery

An exhibition of paintings devoted exclusively to scenes from the dramatic works of Shakespeare was opened to the London populace in June, 1789. The Shakespeare Gallery was situated in a huge building at 52 Pall Mall. Formerly occupied by Dodsley's bookshop, the building had been rebuilt under the supervision of George Dance the younger. The exterior was sheathed in copper; the entrance featured a relief of Shakespeare reclining against a rock, with the Dramatic Muse to his right and the Genius of Painting to his left. [1] The exhibition suite on the ground floor was 130 feet long; the three rooms upstairs provided a wall area of over 4,000 square feet for exhibiting the paintings. Obviously there was room for many more than the thirty-four paintings which were displayed for the first visitors. The number of paintings doubled the ensuing year, and each spring an exhibition of newly completed paintings was announced, so that the Shakespeare Gallery, before it finally closed in 1805, eventually housed 167 canvases by thirty-three artists.

The promoter of the Shakespeare Gallery was "Alderman" John Boydell (who acquired that title in 1782, and would become Lord Mayor in 1790). In November 1786, at a dinner hosted by Josiah Boydell at his Hampstead home, the evening conversation turned to the possibility of producing "a fine Edition of Shakespeare" that might rival the elegant volumes with which the French celebrated their foremost authors. Alderman Boydell and his nephew Josiah were publishers of engraved prints; the artists George Romney, Benjamin West, and Paul Sandby were among their guests. Such an edition, they agreed, ought to be lavishly illustrated. Within a week, the Boydells announced a plan not just to publish an edition of Shakespeare but to establish as well a Shakespeare Gallery. Leading artists would be commissioned to execute a series of oil paintings depicting scenes and characters from Shakespeare's plays. The paintings would be exhibited in the Gallery, and then they would be published by John and Josiah Boydell as engraved prints. [2] The Gallery, it was expected, would promote sales of the prints.

Headed by such distinguished artists as Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, James Barry, Thomas Stothard, James Northcote, Benjamim West, Johann Heinrich Füssli (Henry Fuseli), and Angelika Kauffmann, commissions were extended to thirty-five established painters of the period. From these paintings, Boydell would have two sets of engravings made: large ones to be gathered in an imperial folio album without text; small ones to be incorporated in George Steevens's edition of the text. To avoid duplication of the paintings in these two series, Boydell began in 1794 to commission separate designs for the small engravings. The promised edition of Shakespeare as well as separate volumes of prints appeared between 1791 and 1805. The anticipated profits, however, were not forthcoming. When the war with France broke out in 1793, the lucrative European market for prints was cut off. The return from the sale of the books was slow and far below expectations. To make things worse, imitators quickly invaded the market. The public appetite which may have been keen in 1790 was sated by 1800. Boydell's outlay for the paintings, the engravings, and the exhibition building exceeded £&nbsp100,000. At the verge of bankruptcy in 1804, the Boydells secured special permission from Parliament to hold a lottery in an attempt to recoup their losses. As prizes, they offered their collection of paintings, their inventory of prints, and even the decorative sculpture which had adorned the building in Pall Mall. Dismantled and dispersed in 1805, the Shakespeare Gallery ceased to be.

Some indication of what the Shakespeare Gallery represented for the Romantic Age, however, can still be witnessed in the rare copies of the quarto and folio volumes that have survived intact. At the beginning of 1791 appeared the first parts of the edition of Shakespeare, with engravings from the small-sized pictures. The Shakespeare edition would not be completed until 1805, nor until that year would the folio containing the large-size pictures be published. The two-volume collection of 100 large copper-plate engravings (crown folio), A Collection of Prints, from Pictures for the Purpose of illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, by the Artists of Great Britain (London, 1803 [1805]), was intended as supplement to the elegant edition, The Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, 9 vols. (London, 1791-1802), which already included the first series of 100 smaller copper-plate engravings (quarto).

2. The Artists

Two hundred years after the rise and fall of the Shakespeare Gallery, the paintings and engravings continue to stir critical controversy. Although John Boydell may have intended to lend his support to history painting, he was, in fact, encouraging a rival genre of theater painting, competing with, yet very much influenced by, the more traditional genre. While Josiah Boydell's representation of the Field of Battle in Henry VI, part 3, foregrounds the dramatic pathos of civil strife in which a Son has slain his Father and a Father has slain his Son (II.v), Boydell cannot resist the opportunity to give epic scope and grandeur to his painting. What Shakespeare in the opening lines of the scene imaginatively conjures in King Henry's description of the battle ("This battle fares like to the morning's war, / When dying clouds contend with growing light"), Boydell explicitly elaborates in terms of the historical genre. Armies contending on horseback gallop across the background. Such staging would have been possible at the Astley's, but not at Covent Garden or Drury Lane. On the other hand, Boydell's depiction of Richard Plantagenet at the rose bush (Cat. II:14. Henry VI, part 1. II.iv. Boydell/John Ogborne), exercises allegiance not simply to dramatic representation, but to specific stage performance and stage design as well. More a copyist than an original painter, Josiah Boydell may well have found it more within his artistic scope to rely on sketches taken directly from stage performance. While Boydell's rendition of the Temple Garden retains its stage dimensions, one may wonder whether the actors were as feeble in their performance as they appear to be in Boydell's representation. The dramatic portent of plucking the red and white roses seems artificially suspended in a posed tableau. There is no reason to insist that theater painting and history painting must conform respectively to the generic conventions of drama or epic. But should theater painting be expected to conform, at least, to the conventions of the theater? In his scene from the Field of Battle (Cat. II:19. Henry VI, part 3. II.v. Boydell/John Ogborne), Boydell chose to visually represent a scene not staged, the actual battle as described by King Henry. In fact, several of the artists for the Shakespeare Gallery similarly took their subject-matter not from the on-stage action, but from the description of off-stage events.

Although their purpose was most often, as in Boydell's case, to appropriate theater painting to the more dynamic panorama of history painting, there were also paintings in the Shakespeare Gallery that adapted the poses of portraiture or the vistas of landscape. Portrait artists of the period often sought to stage their subjects within some dramatic setting that might make the moment appear momentous. William Hogarth's David Garrick as Richard III, painted in 1745 and distributed as engraving the following year, had achieved its notable success by depicting the actor playing his theatrical role and thereby bridging the presumed gap between portraiture and history painting.

This was the model that James Northcote effectively emulated when he brought John Philip Kemble into his studio to pose as Richard III. [3] Garrick's Richard is depicted in that distraught anguish of "coward conscience" when the ghosts parade before him in his tent on Bosworth Field (V.iii). Kemble's Richard is shown greeting the royal children with mock cordiality while plotting their murder in the Tower (Cat. II:22. Richard III. III.i. Northcote/Robert Thew). Northcote's rendition of the tower scenes, in which the children are murdered and their bodies carried off (Cat. II:23. Richard III. IV.iii. Northcote/Francis Legat; and II:24. engr. W. Skelton), were on display in Boydell's print-shop in Cheapside three years before they became apart of the Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall. Sophie von La Roche, who visited Boydell's print shop in on September 28, 1786, was impressed by the artist's "astonishingly striking accuracy of performance." [4] In these Tower scenes, Northcote endeavored to capture visually the cause-effect movement of dramatic action. Josiah Boydell appropriates both the reliance on portraiture and the use of before-and-after sequence in the scenes of Prince Hal at the King's bedside, coveting his father's crown (Cat. II:10 and 11. Henry IV, part 2. IV.iv. Boydell/Thew). Boydell has painted Richard Wroughton in the role of Prince Hal, a role which he did in fact play with the Drury Lane Company at Haymarket in November, 1791, but Boydell has restored the more youthful features that Wroughton certainly possessed when he played Romeo at Covent Garden fourteen years earlier.

Another example of portraiture is Romney's peculiar addition of Emma Hamilton as Miranda (Cat. I:3. The Tempest. I.ii. Romney/Benjamin Smith), standing at her father's side on the very margin of a scene dramatically dominated by the shipwreck instigated by Prospero's magic. Lady Hamilton sat for twenty-three portraits painted by Romney, as well as for his "studies from the nude." Having portrayed her as a bacchante, as a sibyl, as his Leda and the Swan, it is hardly surprising that he should also cast her in the role of Miranda. [5] According to contemporary accounts of her private entertainments, she frequently performed in classical poses, representing "in succession the best statues and paintings extant." In these poses she would assume "their attitude, expression, and drapery. with great facility, swiftness, and accuracy [...] the chief of her imitations are from the antique." [6] Apparently it was her accomplishment in striking such "attitudes" that made her useful as artist's model, but it also gave rise to scurrilous gossip.

Thomas Rowlandson sketched a scandalous rendition of Lady Hxxxxxxx: Attitudes, in which a young man is shown drawing Emma, who has lifted her draperies to expose herself completely nude, while an attending gentleman presumably her husband, the diplomat and antiquarian Sir William Hamilton is encouraging with pointed finger the young man to observe specific details of her anatomy. Sir William Hamilton had, in fact, commissioned the German artist Friedrich Rehberg to document "the extraordinary talent" his wife demonstrated in her "attitudes." These were subsequently published in a volume of prints, Drawings faithfully copied from Nature at Naples, and with permission dedicated to the Right Honourable Sir William Hamilton (1794), a volume more popularly known as Lady Hamilton's Attitudes.

Not only Rowlandson, but also James Gillray found something in the "attitudes" deserving a caricaturist's satirical jest. Gillray's jest, entitled Dido in Despair (6 Feb. 1801), shows Emma, extremely overweight, [7] lamenting the departure of Admiral Nelson, her lover. Gillray followed this jest with another, equally cruel, just four days later. Entitled A Cognoscenti contemplating the Beauties of the Antique (10 Feb. 1801), the caricature depicts Sir William Hamilton examining the central piece among a display of antique artifacts: it is a bust of Cleopatra, but the lower part of the face has been broken away so the beauty is sadly deformed. As Hamilton attempts to magnify the features, examining them through the lens of his reading glasses held inverted before his gaze, the figure seems to look back with a pleading expression in her eyes. [8] Gillray constructs his message of moral retribution on the ravages of time that have robbed Lady Hamilton of her beauty. Whatever the state of her beauty in 1801, she still made a stunning Miranda a decade earlier. And she had indeed, as Gillray knew, posed in the role of Cleopatra for Henry Tresham (Cat. II:31. Antony and Cleopatra. III.ix. Henry Tresham/G. S. and J. G. Facius).

While Northcote's preference for posing the actor in his studio gave rise to such paintings as Hubert de Burgh with young Arthur (Cat. II:1. King John. IV.i. Northcote/Thew), Richard Plantagenet visiting the aged Mortimer in the Tower (Cat. II:15. Henry VI, part 1. II.v. Northcote/Thew), or the Queen presenting the infant Prince to King Edward (Cat. II:24. Henry VI, part 3. V.vii. Northcote/J. B. Michel), in which the historical or dramatic moment is quietly suspended in the portrait-like setting. Reverend Peters, too, is exhibiting his skills at portraiture when he depicts Mistress Page and Mistress Ford discovering they have received identical letters (Cat. I:11. Merry Wives of Windsor. II.i. Peters/Thew), or Hero and Ursula whispering while Beatrice eavesdrops (Cat. I:16. Much Ado About Nothing. III.i. Rev. Peters/Jean Pierre Simon). Peter's mastery of portraiture serve him well in rendering character and expression, and with his trompe l'oeil skill in conjuring the very weave and fold of the ladies' dresses, he displays his academic mastery. To the extent that dramatic action can be effectively carried by the presence of character and by pose, gesture, and expression, Peter's portraiture is adequate to the task.

Just as the dominance of portraiture suppresses dramatic verve, landscape, even as it extends the spatial dimensions of the stage, but inevitably distances and subdues the action. There is, nevertheless, astonishing and effective use of landscape in the Shakespeare Gallery, from William Hodges's sedate classical moonlight setting in the grove before Portia's villa (Cat. I:22. The Merchant of Venice. V.i. Hodges/J. Browne), to the romantic grotesquery of Orlando's discovery of the "wretched ragged man, o'ergrown with hair," sleeping beneath a gnarled oak while a serpent coils about his neck and a hungry lioness crouches, waiting for her prey to stir (Cat. I:26. As You Like It. IV.iii. Raphael West/W. C. Wilson). To his obvious skills in landscape Joseph Wright of Derby also bring a stunning manipulation of light in his depiction of Antigonos pursued by the bear. The hapless Antigonos races along the rocky seashore, his way lit by the fickle light of the moon breaking between the clouds almost as tumultuously as the storm-tossed waves breaking upon the rocks (Cat. I:24. Winter's Tale. III.iii. Wright/S. Middiman). That landscape was deliberately sought as a subject is readily evident from the circumstances that produced the only collaborative engagement of two artists for a single painting. For the scene in which Falstaff is waylaid on the road to Gadshill it was the great landscape artist Joseph Farington who supplied the forest setting with the moonlight breaking through the clouds on the distant horizon and casting its eerie light beneath the dark cover of trees. Robert Smirke, making effective use of the angled light, then painted the skirmish in the foreground (Cat. II:4. Henry IV, part 1. II.ii, Smirke and Joseph Farington/S. Middiman). All four of these nocturnal scenes provide the engraver with subjects can be effectively rendered in the chiaroscuro medium of the engraved print. Their place among the many other "off-stage" scenes represented in the Shakespeare Gallery, however, can only be defended in terms of landscape, not in terms of history or theater painting.

The conventions of landscape dictated, as well, the scene which William Hodges chose from As You Like It (Cat. I:25. As You Like It. II.i. Hodges/Middiman). Again, this is a scene drawn from the description of an off-stage event. The Lords report to the banished Duke in the Forest of Arden how they crept behind the melancholy Jacques,

    as he lay along
Under an oak whose antique root peeps out
Upon the brook that brawls along this wood;
To the which place a poor sequester'd stag,
That from the hunters' aim had taken hurt,
Did come to languish; and, indeed, my lord,
The wretched animal heav'd forth such groans
That their discharge did stretch his leathern coat
Almost to bursting, and the big round tears
Cours'd one another down his innocent nose
In piteous chase; and thus the hairy fool,
Much marked of the melancholy Jacques,
Stood on the extremest verge of the swift brook,
Augmenting it with tears. (II.i.30-43)

Hodges has been attentive to detail: the brawling brook, the injured stag, Jacques himself beneath the exposed root of the antique oak, and hidden behind him the interloper who describes the scene. Since Hodges's skills lay in landscape, it was George Romney who painted in the reclining figure of Jacques, and Sawrey Gilpin, who excelled in animal figures, painted the weeping deer. But even with all these actors, the scene itself is not a stage-piece.

One of the great sources of confusion amongst the visitors to the Boydell Gallery, and amongst the larger audience who perused the engraved prints, was the grand variety among the artists. Many of the scenes are thoroughly theatrical, replicating a sense of the actors upon the stage. Others, however, are dedicated to precisely the sort of conjuration which may be stimulated in the imagination by Shakespeare's descriptive language, but which virtually defy stage representation. Neither sort of painting could satisfy the critic who saw the artist engaged in rivalry with the playwright. If the painting were judged by the standards of the drama critic, it was doomed to failure. Such is the difficulty with the criticism of Ludwig Tieck. In representing a scene from a play, Tieck reasons, the artist should not rely on stage performance, but endeavor instead to recreate the characters and actions through his or her own imagination. [9] To copy the representation upon the stage, in Tieck's judgment, is to copy a copy rather than to engage directly the vitality of the original. In terms of this criterion, one might expect Tieck to be tolerant of the artist who endeavors to depict a description of an off-stage event. Yet he faults Hodges for taking the subject of "melancholy Jacques," "not from the scene itself, but from a description out of the mouths of one of the speaking persons." [10] The artist should not be bound by stage performance, but it is nevertheless an error to depart from what Shakespeare intended as part of the stage action:

Without yet commenting on the value of the drawing itself, this procedure seems to be very much in error, for I cannot possibly hold this plate for a subject taken from the play itself. Granted, that very many descriptions in Shakespeare offer the artist every thing possible for the most beautiful compositions; nevertheless here, where the action of the play should be presented to view, must only that be represented which actually occurs in the play, and not that which external, or merely narrated. [11]

After thus opposing the choice of the subject, Tieck then turns his attention to the execution. In his critique of the illustrations to Lear, he had made the point that the artistic rendition were too one-sided, depicting anger but not anguish, the seeming coldness but not concealed suffering. The representation of "melancholy Jacques," as a comic character described in a comic dialogue, would seem, in accordance with Tieck's critical argument, to call for a certain co-presence of the light and dark, the cheerful and the pathetic. But Tieck is not satisfied with the resulting ambiguity.

The misanthropic Jacques lies in the forest; a stag wounded by a hunter sadly approaches the forest brook; about this object Jacques speaks to himself, fully in the character of his moody temperament. What the artist want to express here, if his primary purpose were not to reveal the dark mood of the misanthropist? and how could he express it? The tiny figure of Jacques is almost lost, and the splendid landscape can arouse in the viewer feelings cheerfulness as well as of melancholy. This plate, therefore, is merely a vignette among the paintings of Shakespeare's plays. The execution deserves all praise; it is very painstaking, but the figures are much too lost. [12]

If this scene were to be staged, Tieck is right in objecting that "the figures are much too lost." On stage, they would have to assert more commanding stage-presence. Dramatic intrigue would fail, for example, if the eavesdropping Beatrice were not as obvious to the theater audience as she is to the viewer of Reverend Peter's rendition of the scene (Cat. I:16. Much Ado About Nothing. III.i. Peters/Simon). Hero, of course, has deliberately contrived that her conversation with Ursula be overheard by Beatrice. But the scene in which the lords report to the Duke is not a stage scene. Its dramatic action is conveyed in terms of the more subtle dynamics of landscape painting.

The figure of the observer in the landscape painting, however, remains effective even when he or she is "lost." Indeed, part of the efficacy is in the challenge to the viewer to locate the figure within the painting and interpret the significance of his or her presence. What is the observer observing? Why? With what response? The narrative interest added to the landscape painting by introducing figures into the fore- or middle-ground had been extensively exploited by such artists of the seventeenth century as Gaspard Dughet and Claude Lorrain. [13] In the Romantic era, no artist utilized the figure in the landscape with more ingenuity and effect than Caspar David Friedrich, whose Rückenfiguren provided a complex existential mediation to the act of beholding the scene depicted. When Hodges's, or rather Romney's, rendering of the "melancholy Jacques" is examined in this context, rather than simply as illustration to Shakespeare, he may be seen to have given an intriguing new dimension to the narrative role of the figure in the landscape. Both Sir George Beaumont and John Constable were influenced by Hodges's conception of the scene.

Figure 3
Figure 1
Figure 2

Figures 1 - 3

In Hodges's scene, the reclining Jacques is watching the stag, but is himself being watched by the two concealed figures concealed behind the tree on the bank above him. In Beaumont's version (Fig. 1), there are no hidden lords spying on Jacques. He leans on the bank in the lower right foreground and look across the stream to where the stag has come to quench his thirst. On the opposite bank, Jacques can behold the hunter and his hound in pursuit of the wounded stag. A frequent visitor to Coleorton, the Beaumont estate, Constable knew Beaumont's paintings of this period. Indeed, the two often worked together, copying each other's compositions, and advising each other on color, light, and shade. [14] Constable began a series of sketches for Jacques and the Wounded Stag. One, in watercolor, he sent to David Lucas in 1830; another, also in watercolor, he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832. In Lucas's engraving (Fig. 2), Jacques, dressed in cavalier costume, is seen kneeling behind a knarled root over which he gazes at the wounded stag drinking from the stream. Peering around the tree directly behind him, less obscure than in Hodges's version, are the two lords who later give their account to the Duke. During 1835, at least seven more drafts of Jacques and the Wounded Stag, were executed in pen and ink with sepia wash. At least one of these were among the twenty variant sketches submitted by Constable as illustrations for The Seven Ages of Shakespeare, projected by John Martin. [15]

In all of these versions Hodges's, Beaumont's, Constable's the viewer's gaze is directed by the gaze of the figures within the scene. Depicting an observer being observed, the scene thus exploits the complex dynamics of what Lichtenberg called the Blick-Linie of visual narrative. [16] The refractions of the Blick-Linie which Constable had adapted from Hodges and Beaumont undergoes still further complication in Constable's final variation on the theme of the stag, the painting entitled The Cenotaph, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 (Fig. 3). The stag is not wounded; there is no "melancholy Jacques" as on-looker. The painting, nevertheless, is imbued with a melancholy atmosphere sustained by the rich brown tones of the autumnal foliage of the tree-lined way, at the center of which stands the memorial to Sir Joshua Reynolds erected at Coleorton by Sir George Beaumont. Instead of human figures a plinth stands on either side: the one to the left bearing a bust of Michelangelo; the one to the right a bust of Raphael. Although Constable had sketched a figure standing close to the right-hand plinth, he thought better of having an interloper present and has painted it out. What remains is a tranquil tribute to the artists in an undisturbed setting at Coleorton Park. Even in the absence of the human figure, the Blick-Linie still moves dynamically within the painting: Michelangelo's eyes are directed across the way to Raphael; Raphael's gaze is turned toward the memorial to Reynolds, where a robin perches on one corner; and the stag, apparently cautious of some intruder, has turned its head as if staring directly out of the painting at the viewer who stands before it.



The images of the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, as evident in the examples of Beaumont and Constable, are repeated and varied in the art of several ensuing decades. Theater painting, a genre in the process of defining itself, invited a considerable range of experimentation among the artists who had accepted commissions from Alderman Boydell. In spite of a prevailing allegiance to the conventions of history painting, theater painting might focus on any one of the many aspects of the drama. Grand historical panorama, passionate personal encounter, meditative interludes were all among the options from which individual artists chose the subjects for their contributions to the Gallery. Johann Heinrich Füssli, better known as Henry Fuseli among his fellow artists at the Royal Academy, was undoubtedly the most bold in his experimentation, frequently choosing to represent the mental psychodrama rather than anything that might possibly be realized on-stage. Nor can Fuseli's subjects be classified among the scenic depictions of events supposedly taking place off-stage, unless, of course, "off-stage" includes the fantastic realm of the imagination itself. Fuseli, who sought out scenes which would allow him visually to externalize subjective experience, elaborated the interlude of Titania's amorous attentions to Bottom, as he discourses with Pease-blossom, Cavalery Cobweb, and Mustard-seed (Cat. I:20. Midsummer-Night's Dream. IV.i. Fuseli/Simon). At Oberon's command, Puck has entranced Titania's vision by touching her eyes with Cupid's flower. The touch of Dian's bud releases from the spell, and she again can see as she was "wont to see" (Cat. I:21. Midsummer-Night's Dream. IV.i. Fuseli/T. Ryder and T. Ryder, Jr.). In representing the enchantment dispelled, Fuseli shows Puck removing the ass's head from the still slumbering Bottom, and Titania reunited with Oberon, but he also makes abundantly manifest that Shakespeare's scene is set in the magical world of fairy. Oberon bids Titania to call forth music to charm the sleep Duke Theseus and his court.


3. Theater Painting and History Painting


The problems of time and space had been identified and discussed a generation earlier by Lessing in Laokoon: oder über die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie (1766). What is given to the artist's medium is space, and what challenges but also limits visual representation is the possibility of creating within that static space the illusion of temporal movement. What is given to the poet in the consecutive sequence of language is temporal movement, and the poet must strive to create illusions of space. That the romantic artists and critics continued to struggle with these problems is evident in William Blake's graffiti-encumbered engraving of the Laocoon and in the probing debate with Lessing's contentions which Thomas De Quincey sustained in his essay on Lessing and his annotated translation from the Laocoon (1827).

In addressing the supposed temporal limitations of the visual arts, De Quincey recognized the peculiar challenge of providing a verbal description of a visual artifact, or a visual representation of a literary passage. De Quincey addressed what he saw as an insurmountable crux in Lessing's critique of the classical examples of ekphrasis: Homer's description of the shield of Achilles and Virgil's description of the shield of Aeneas. Lessing grants the laurel to Homer rather than to Virgil because the poet of the Iliad succeeded in liberating the "frozen moment" of art by narrating the process of its creation (XI 211-212). De Quincey, however, was suspicious of the claims for a liberating language, for the capacity of poetic ekphrasis to reanimate the "imitation of human action," presumably "frozen" in the visual artifact. Ekphrasis is but an illusion, and all mimetic illusions of language are entrapped in the stasis of a literary text.

The drama, as a performing art, asserts its presence visually as well as verbally, spatially as well as temporally. The discussion of an appropriate "moment" of artistic representation, therefore, must have reference to considerations of dramatic action and character as engendered within their own particular dimensions of theatrical space and time. Time and space are performatively interdependent. Nevertheless, certain scenes from Shakespeare, one might even say certain plays in their entirety, seem more exclusively dominated by one or the other. Time, for example, seem suspended while we enter the magical world of temporally specific enchantment, a Midsummer-Night's Dream. Not so, however, in Julius Caesar where we are made to feel the relentless course of the "ides of march." We may thus remark in Shakespeare's plays a pattern whereby the exigencies of time dominate over those of space, and vice versa. As an example of the drama of spatiality, one might name Henry V, of temporality Winter's Tale. The paintings which Henry Fuseli and William Hamilton executed of these two plays indicate an artistic awareness of the respective spatial and temporal preoccupation evident in both chorus and dialogue.

In his representation of Henry V, Fuseli chose as central dramatic moment the revelation of the conspiracy of Cambridge, Scroop, and Grey at Southhampton (Cat. II:12. Henry V. II.ii. Fuseli/Thew). Shakespeare's exposition through the Henriad of Hal's growth as wise and capable monarch comes into its final maturation in this scene. Royal Henry must act in decisive judgment; he here demonstrates unwavering authority in exercising the severity of the very law to which the conspirators themselves had appealed for mercy. The sentencing of the conspirators at Southampton was one of those episodes in history that had assumed a mythic portent larger than fact; indeed, it mattered not whether the event had actually occurred. In its mythic portent in the history of the nation it looms as powerfully as that moment which Joshua Boydell's sought to capture in his painting from Henry VI. As we have already observed, Boydell's depiction of Richard Plantagenet and the plucking the red and white roses seems too much a posed tableau, failing to convey the sense of historical consequence with which Shakespeare had charged the dramatic scene. Fuseli, too, uses a tableau setting to depict the scene as a frieze-like panorama of crime and punishment: to our left, Cambridge, Scroop, and Grey; to our right, Exeter, Bedford, and Westmoreland; Henry stands in the middle, pointing his finger in condemnation of the conspirators. The grouping and posturing, however, has less in common with Boydell's scene at the rose bush than it does with Fuseli's own painting of Lear condemning Cordelia. Gone, in the present scene, is the excess of rage which had taughtened the muscles and distorted the face of Lear. Henry's gesture has firmness of duty; his facial expression is tempered by sorrow for the "Poor, miserable wretches," who "would have sold your king to slaughter, / His princes and peers to servitude, / His subjects to oppression and contempt, / And his whole kingdom into desolation." (Henry V, II.ii.170-73).

As Shakespeare reminds us in the chorus which introduces Act II, this is less a play about King Henry, and more a play about kingship and nation.



    O England! model to thy inward greatness,
    Like little body with a mighty heart,
    What mightst thou do, that honor would thee do,
    Were all thy children kind and natural!
    But see, thy fault France hath in thee found out,
    A nest of hollow bosoms, which he fills
    With treacherous crowns; and three corrupted men,
    One, Richard Earl of Cambridge, and the second,
    Henry Lord Scroop of Masham, and the third,
    Sir Thomas Grey, knight, of Northumberland,
    Have, for the gilt of France (O guilt indeed!)
    Confirm'd conspiracy with fearful France;
    And by their hands this grace of kings must die,
    If hell and treason hold their promises,
    Ere he take ship for France; and in Southampton;
    Linger your patience on, and we'll digest
    Th' abuse of distance; force a play:
    There is the playhouse now, there you must sit,
    And thence to France shall we convey you safe,
    And bring you back, charming the Narrow Seas
    To give you gentle pass [...] (II. Chorus 16-39)

The conventional figure of speech, by which kings are named as countries, is taken earnestly, not as mere ploy of rhetoric. The character Henry V, as well as Shakespeare's play, Henry V, are both engaged in a grand metonymy. In the opening chorus, Shakespeare had already called upon the audience to lend their "imaginary forces" to conjure this vast expansion; the "wooden O" of the theater, so the chorus affirms, should itself serve as that figure of spatial extension through which the part becomes the whole. Through the magic of that metonymy, Shakespeare accomplishes his dramatic end: "within the girdle of these walls / Are now confin'd two mighty monarchies." Again in the chorus to Act II, the playhouse must "charm the narrow seas" to transport the audience from England, to France, and back again. A hint of that transport is given in Fuseli's tableau of the scene at Southampton, for even as the conspiracy with France is revealed, the artist allows us a glimpse into the harbor where ship bound for France awaits its passengers.

Just as the chorus in Henry V conjures a vast extension of space, the chorus in the Winter's Tale seeks to carry the audience through a lengthy passage of time. The events of Henry V required an "abuse of distance" to "force a play." The plot of the Winter's Tale requires an "abuse of time."

In the role of Hermione as statue come to life, Shakespeare has appropriated explicitly to the theme of nature vs. art the resurrection motif that recurs in many of his plays: the "death" of Imogen, for example, in Cymbeline, or the resurrection of the dead bride as motif in Much Ado About Nothing or All's Well That Ends Well. Art as art is essentially fixed and dead, but it can be animated and brought into life. The problem of the animate versus the inanimate, of course, is intimately related to the problem of space versus time as the supposed demarcation between the verbal and visual arts, the work of Shakespeare versus the painting in the Shakespeare Gallery. That Shakespeare himself recognized, and thematized, the limits of space and time, nature and art, in his own plays, is more than just an element of self-reflexivity to provide a moment's irony.

Just as his frequent reliance on characters who put on disguises and play roles, as well as his use of the play-within-a-play, gave Shakespeare an occasion to push against the boundaries of his medium and give some credence to Jacques' declaration that "all the world's a stage," so too does the animation of the statue, the resurrection of the dead bride, the work of art within the work of art, enable the painter of these Shakespearean scenes to achieve something of the same liberation from the temporal constraints that Lessing, and subsequent critics, had pronounced as a doom upon the visual arts. Although Tieck was fully aware of how Hamlet's instruction to the players enabled Shakespeare to heighten the illusion of reality in Hamlet's own presence in theof Elsinor, he seemed to have missed the point that Thomas Kirk had endeavored to gain a similar leverage between the levels of illusion by introducing the statue and pillar into the painful scene in which the mutilated Lavinia struggles to reveal the identity of her attackers (Cat. II:33. Titus Andronicus. IV.i. Kirk/Kirk).

In this plate [...] painted and engraved by Kirk there is perhaps much to praise and little to blame. One sees that the artist possesses a very proper idea of composition, and that he knows how to present his object with both taste and delicacy. He allows us merely to suppose the severed arms of Lavinia; the clever billowing of the veil draws the eyes away from the unpleasant sight. The boy has ample expression, and the robes are excellent The figures are grouped beautifully, and the only feature deserving blame is the exaggeratedly colossal pillar. [17]




I hesitate to quibble with Tieck in one of the rare instances in which he has been generous in his praise of the artist, especially in thus supporting one of the minor artists after dealing harshly with the major artists of the Shakespeare Gallery. Certainly, I can see reason to object to the architectural design and proportion as historically inaccurate. But the function of the pillar is precisely to accentuate the architectural lines and provide contrast to the movement of Lavinia in her frantic plight. The pillar furthermore provides a demarcation between the "live" action and contrasting pose of the statue. The scene, as is also documented with the book carried by the boy and the page which lies at his feet, is one which appeals to the efficacy of the textually recorded and visually inscribed. The engraved lines which inscribe the inanimate statue offer a contrast to the engraver's art which also gives us the illusion of the bellowing robes and Lavinia's gesture of fervent pleading. The statue is mute, so too is the maimed Lavinia, but in this scene with her father and her uncle, she takes a staff between her mutilated stumps and inscribes in the sand the names of "the lustful sons of Tamora / Performers of this heinous bloody deed" (79-80).




The reflexive cross-referencing between art as art and art as dramatic illusion may be only incidental in the appeal to the statue, but in the case of Hermione, the animation of the statue is also the resurrection of the dead bride. Although the motif, as we have noted, recurs often in the comedies, it is central to the tragic action of Romeo and Juliet. John Opie painted the scene in which Juliet is presumed dead after she has swallowed the laudanum (Cat. II:42. Romeo and Juliet. IV.v. Opie/G. S. and J. G. Facius). As Shakespeare emphasizes in his dialogue, the acting of death is an acting that ends all acting, all dialogue, all action. At the beside, Capulet speaks of the inability to speak: "Death, that hath ta'en her hence to make me wail, / Ties up my tongue, and will not let me speak" (31-32). The resurrection of the dead bride, a moment of reconciliation in the comedies, is the moment of resignation in the tragedy. James Northcote painted the scene in which Juliet awakens, not yet aware that Romeo and Paris lie dead at her side (Cat. II:43. Romeo and Juliet. V.iii. Northcote/Simon). In his hand Romeo clutches the vial of poison. There lies, too, the bloodied sword with which he has slain Paris. A statue of the reposing knight upon the tomb gives an image of death that is but an effigy in stone in contrast with the outstretched bodies beneath Juliet's bier. The white funeral garments seem to glow under the radiance of Friar Laurence's lanthorn. Embroidered upon the draperies of the bier is an image virtually cradled within Romeo's arm: the winged hourglass, emblem of mutability, apt marker of the boundary between life and death, the stasis of the arts, the entombment even of the drama within the text, and the form-transcending temporal flux of aesthetic experience. The problems of displacing verbal with visual signs, visual with verbal signs, contributes significantly to the complexity of the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery and its reception in contemporary reviews and in the criticism of Christian Gottlob Heyne, Ludwig Tieck, and Georg Forster in Germany, and subsequently of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, and Charles Lamb in England. In Germany, the Boydell engravings found several major critics and interpreters. If Lichtenberg may be credited with introducing a new genre and a new mode of visual hermeneutics in his Ausführliche Erklärung zu Hogarth (1794/99), then it is certainly true that this genre was given a more radically contentious critical thrust in the romantic commentaries on the Shakespeare Gallery. Images from the Gallery haunted Coleridge's Lectures on Shakespeare and Hazlitt's dramatic criticism. For better or worse, the Shakespeare Gallery influenced the taste of a steadily widening reading public for many years. In spite of the critical protest, the Boydell engravings de termined their visual conception of Shakespeare's characters and scenes.


4. The Commercialization of Art



The opening of the Shakespeare Gallery in 1789 was the onset of what, as Morris Eaves has proclaimed, "can only be called the Boydell era." The advent of "the Boydell era" may have seemed surprising, granting the "anti-commercial" convictions upheld within the domain of the Royal Academy, yet, as Eaves goes on to declare, they were prevailing against the growing power of industrialization and the mercantile middle class. "The Boydell era," Eaves observes, was therefore "inevitable, and the only wonder is that it did not arrive sooner." [18] Through the system of "subscribed" editions, poets had already sought financial support without dependency on aristocratic patronage: Dryden with his translation of Virgil's Aeneid, Pope with his rendition of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

When George III, in December 1768, signed the Instrument of Foundation for the Royal Academy of Arts in London, artists in England may well have had hopes for vast improvements in training as well as in more extensive opportunities for exhibition and patronage. Certainly the instruction in anatomy, perspective, architecture, geometry, painting, and design provided valuable discipline to the young academicians, but the history and theory they acquired seemed totally estranged from the realities of the marketplace. History painting, they learned, was the highest and most honored mode of artistic expression. But the commissions, under the patronage of the aristocracy and the landed gentry, were restricted almost exclusively to portraiture. Indeed, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough had achieved considerable reputation for their skills in portrait painting. But history painting was not an enterprise in which an artist of the Royal Academy had gained great recognition.

Not, that is, until Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe (cf. Fig. 7) was exhibited in 1771. West broke with neo-classical convention by taking his subject from immediate events and by exhibiting his figures in contemporary dress. When Wolfe fell in battle as he led his British troops against the French at Quebec, he gave to history, and to the history painter, a subject of nationalist interest with powerful reverberations for the extension of empire. The conception was innovative, the execution dramatic, but the international acclaim West achieved was brought about by John Boydell, who published and distributed William Woollet's engraved version. Boydell held only a one-third share in the print, yet, as Winifried Friedman has reported, "in the first fifteen years he garnered £ 15,000 from this source." How might this success be repeated?

Such a question was certainly in the minds of those dinner guests at the home of Josiah Boydell in November 1786, when they begin to discuss what might be done to support history painting in England. Benjamin West was present, as were George Romney, as well as the publisher George Nicol, the poet Hayley, and Hoole, the translator of Tasso. Both John and Josiah Boydell gave various accounts of what was discussed and what resolved that evening. In the version Josiah Boydell later related to Joseph Farington, the discussion had turned to the fine illustrated editions of their distinguished authors that the French were producing, and the lament that the English had failed to publish any works of comparable elegance. An edition of Shakespeare, it was agreed with apparently unanimous enthusiasm, would provide substance for a rich profusion of historical illustrations. In his preface to the catalogue for the opening of the exhibition in 1789, Josiah Boydell asserted that, "in a country where Historical Painting is still in its infancy," his abiding purpose was "to advance that art towards maturity, and establish an English School of History Painting."

Most of the paintings that were exhibited at the Shakespeare Gallery could not even be classed as history paintings. Nor is it surprising that a generation that had achieved stunning refinements in landscape and portraiture would be willing to surrender those skills for the sake of history painting. Whatever claims Boydell might make about furthering the cause of history painting in England, the actual rallying force that brought the artists together to create the Shakespeare Gallery was the promise of engraved publication and distribution of their works. Of course the artists received direct payment for their commissions, typically in amounts from £ 105, to £ 210, or even £for a large paintings these were the amounts received, respectively, by Northcote for his Richard III, Fuseli for his Macbeth and the Witches, and Barry for his Lear and the dead Cordelia. There were, to be sure, a few higher payments: Benjamin West was paid £for his Hamlet and the same amount for his Lear; this was also the amount given to Reynolds for his Death of Cardinal Beaufort (Cat. II:17), and for his Macbeth and the Witches (Cat. I:39) Reynolds received £ 1000. These payments were generous for the period. The payments given to the engravers, while they never matched the fees given to Reynolds or West, were nevertheless generally higher than what was paid to the painters, seldom less than £or £ 315, sometimes as high as £ the amount received by Thew for his engraving of Reynolds's Macbeth and the Witches or even higher. Bartolozzi received £for his engraving of Hamilton's painting of the final scene of Twelfth Night, a painting for which Hamilton was paid £ 210. The engravers often earned twice as much for their labors than did the painters.




5. The Engravers

Although this disparity might seem to invite discrimination between artist and artisan, such discrimination did not suit Boydell's sense of hierarchy. Boydell knew that engraving was a labor-intensive and exacting. His engravers typically worked at least twice as long in finishing plate than the painter had spent at the canvas. Woollet, for example, had spent four years at his engraving of West's Death of General Wolfe. Moreover, the engravers were themselves trained artists. In setting a precedent as artist-engraver, Hogarth had many worthy successors, among them John Flaxman and William Blake. Blake, all but excluded from the Boydell project, executed but one plate, and that a quarto "variation," of John Opie's painting from Romeo and Juliet (Quarto 89: Romeo and Juliet. IV. v), the folio version of which had been engraved by G. S. and J. G. Facius (Cat. II:42).

Several engravers employed by Boydell worked as well as painters. John Boydell himself had launched his career with engravings of his own sketches; Josiah Boydell, his nephew and business-partner, was trained as engraver. Although Thomas Kirk was the sole contributor to the Shakespeare Gallery to engrave his own painting (Cat. II:33. Titus Andronicus. IV.i, Kirk/Kirk), many of the Boydell engravers had established themselves as artists. William Hodges was skilled at engraving and aquatint; for the Shakespeare Gallery, however, he accepted commissions only as a painter. Samuel Middiman was an artist-engraver trained in landscape and also, in the tradition of Luigi Piranesi, in architectural design. It was Middiman's landscape skills that were put to use in engraving the paintings by Hodges, Wright of Derby, and the collaborative painting by Smirke and Farington (Cat. I:25. As You Like It. II.i. Hodges/Middiman; Cat. I:34. Winter's Tale. III.iii. Joseph Wright/S. Middiman; Cat. II:4. Henry IV, part 1. II.ii, Robert Smirke and Joseph Farington/S. Middiman). As Farington recorded in his diary, he had discussed engraving technique with Smirke, who had observed that "the excellence of stroke [line] engraving consisted of the difficulty of execution and [...] dotted [stipple] engraving produced a better imitation of color and effect."[19] Middiman, it will be noted, utilizedline engraving for his figures, but preferred the stipple method for his foliage and landscape detail.

One of the best known engravers of the day, and highest paid by Boydell, was Francesco Bartolozzi, who had been trained in the Academy of Florence, become a foundation member of the Royal Academy in London, and subsequently served as Director of the National Academy of Portugal. It was Bartolozzi who developed the stipple, or "dotted," process of engraving that liberated the engraver from reliance on linear contours so that an appearance of "modelling" might be achieved. Stippling also had the advantage of enabling the engraver to fill large non-discriminated space, such as open sky or background walls, more rapidly than the linear method. For this reason, stippling has been criticized as a slap-dash departure from the exacting detail of line engraving. Bartolozzi, however, was a genius at minute detail and used his methods to produce effective "three-dimensional" illusion in the engraved surface. Bartolozzi had many followers. His pupil and countryman, Luigi Schiavonetti, produced stipple engravings in the style of his master. Samuel Middiman and John Ogborne were also trained in stipple by Bartolozzi.

Boydell was also generous in his commissions to the brothers from Regensburg, Georg Sigmund and Johann Gottlieb Facius. Schooled in Brussels, the Facius brothers were especially gifted at copying the crowded scenes of Titian, Rubens and Van Dyck in deftly modulated stipple. Boydell knew their abilities and commissioned them to engrave precisely such crowded scenes for the Shakespeare Gallery. It is their carefully stippled modelling that gives dimension and force to the figures of the swooning Cleopatra played by Emma Hamilton and Antony, "unqualitied with very shame" (Cat. II:31. Antony and Cleopatra. III.xi. Henry Tresham/ G. S. and J. G. Facius); again, it is their stippling that dramatically highlights the central figures of the proud Diana and the shamed Bertram among the fourteen characters Francis Wheatley had arrayed across his canvas (Cat. I:30. All's Well that Ends Well. V.iii. Frances Wheatley/G.S. and J. G. Facius).

Another stipple engraver, capable of rivalling Bartolozzi's excellence in detailed miniature work, was Caroline Watson. She received her training from her father, James Watson, an accomplished mezzotint engraver who had produced over fifty plates from the portraits by Reynolds. After he introduced his daughter to the stipple method, she produced many finely wrought miniature engravings. Her delicate control is evident in her engraving of Ferdinand and Miranda (Cat. I:16. The Tempest. V.i. Wheatley/Caroline Watson), and she was also assigned to engrave Reynold's The Death of Cardinal Beaufort (Cat. II:17. Henry VI, Part 2. III.iii. Joshua Reynolds/Caroline Watson).

Jean Pierre Simon was also among Boydell's most capable stipple engravers, and he was responsible for fifteen of the folio plates, including paintings by Hamilton, Opie, Peters, Reynolds and Smirke. The engraver who contributed the most plates twentyfour and therefore had a major influence on the quality of the graphic reproduction of the "Shakespeare Gallery," was Robert Thew. It was not only quantity and quality of his productivity that was significant, it was also the rapidity with which he was capable of executing a folio size engraving. It is useful, here, to recollect that Woollet labored four years on his engraving of The Death of General Wolfe. In part it was the very tempo of production that gave "the Boydell era" its unique character. Thew gained his speed through his reliance on stipple, but he did not sacrifice clarity of contour nor effective chiaroscuro contrast. A good example of his technique is his rendition of Prospero's Cell (Cat. I:5. The Tempest. IV.i. Joseph Wright/Robert Thew). Wright of Derby has already been mentioned above as artist who exhibited more allegiance to landscape than to history painting. His painting of Prospero's Cell, however, is densely structured with narrative detail: Caliban, Trinculo, and Stephano are drunkenly carousing along the shore at the mouth of the cave; Iris, Ceres, Juno, and the Nymphs dance their masque in the magical sphere of light above the tip of Prospero's wand; Miranda has eyes only for Ferdinand, and Ferdinand looks on Prospero with respectful awe; Prospero himself, the center and orchestrator of this grand display, gazes shrewdly from out the corner of his eye to challenge the viewer standing before the picture, and with a gesture he seems to beckon the viewer into the very arena of his magic. What makes the magic of this painting work, however, is not its rich implication of Shakespeare's play, nor tempestuous invocation of nature beyond the cave, a scene with lightning flashing down upon the moonlit sea much like his painting of Antigonus pursued by the bear (Cat. I:34. Winter's Tale, III.iii. Wright/Middiman). Wright's great gift as an artist was his ability to paint the very propagation of light, how it reflects, refracts, and defines the space through which it moves and the surfaces which it touches. The Orrery (1766) is one such painting; The Experiment with an Airpump (1768) is another. This contribution to the "Shakespeare Gallery," Prospero's Cell, is a third. And it is to Thew great credit as an engraver that he fully realized in line and stipple just what Wright had accomplished with the effects of light and shadow.

In addition to those engravers who relied on the new techniques of stippling, Boydell also engaged those who had mastered the burring technique of mezzotint, in which the copper surface was scored with a serrated rocker. The heavily burred areas would hold the ink to produce the darkened shadows; for that part of the picture where lighter tones were wanted, the burrs could then be gradually polished down, or completely smoothed for highlighted areas. This technique was used by Richard Earlom, who effectively combined the burring of mezzotint with the acid process of etching as well as stipple engraving.

The French trained engraver Jean Baptiste Michel, who had studied under Chenu in Paris, was also among those who adhered to line engraving for his figures and stipple for background. His engraving of the Queen presenting the infant Prince to King Edward (Cat. II:26. Henry VI, part 3. V.vii. Northcote/Michel) is a fine example of his combined technique.

As Sadakichi Hartmann has observed, William Sharp's "marvelous line-engraving of West's `King Lear' has scarcely been excelled." [20] This is an engraving (Cat. II:39. King Lear. III.iv. Benjamin West/Sharp) which will reward the scrutiny of a magnifying-glass examination of its mastery of line and its sculptured contours of dot-and-lozenge. Sharp was the engraver who also executed the paintings by Robert Smirke for the quarto edition. Sharp's engagement by Boydell was disrupted when he became attached to the cult that gathered around the visionary Joanna Southcott, who commenced writing her prophecies in 1792.

Another dedicated adherent of the excised line and dot-and-lozenge was Francis Legat, who engraved Northcote's Royal Children in the Tower (Cat. II:23. Richard III. IV.iii), Romney's Cassandra Raving (Cat. II:34. Troilus and Cressida. II.ii), and Barry's The Death of Cordelia (Cat. II:40. King Lear. V.iii). Legat was also one of those engravers who pursued as well a successful career as an artist, exhibiting his paintings at the Royal Academy from 1796 to 1800.

6. Boydell's Bankruptcy

Boydell's emergence as "Commercial Maecenas" marks a new chapter in the history of art. The power once wielded over the artist by the church or by the aristocracy was now being wielded by the much less predictable whims of the "marketplace." As Friedman appraises Boydell's pledge to support an "English School of History Painting," the Alderman was "walking the tightrope of his ambivalence toward culture and commerce." The failure of the commercial aspects of that enterprise, Friedman attributes directly to the shortcomings of the cultural accomplishment: Boydell was forced into bankruptcy because the artistic wares that he was peddling did not meet the high standard of history painting.

It is more likely, however, that Boydell's own explanation of the financial failure of the Gallery is closer to the truth. He had lost his European market, and he had been confronted with domestic competition that he had not anticipated when he commenced the project. But even with his diminished market, he had not lost the confidence and support of his artists. In 1827, twenty-three years after John Boydell's bankruptcy and death, Northcote still remembers him as the Maecenas, "`a man of sense and liberality, and a true patron of the art.'" Boydell, from the stunning commercial success of Woollet's engraving of West's The Death of General Wolfe through the grand entrepreneurial project of the Shakespeare Gallery, had shown the world a new way of supporting art. That art could be commodified as graphic reproduction and sold in the commercial marketplace may, in some minds, have cheapened its aesthetic value. [21] For the population at large, even those fortunate enough to visit major collections throughout Europe, a vast number of the great paintings of the past and present were known only through engraving. Most artists, therefore, welcomed the distribution of their works among a wider audience. Surprisingly enough, the loss of color in the engraved reproduction of an oil painting was not weighed as a serious distortion. J. M. W. Turner, an artist who centered his attention on the perception of light and color, also lectured on "The Art of Engraving" at the Royal Institution. [22] He devoted extensive study to the methods of mezzotint, aquatint, and etching in producing the engraved plates of his Liber Studiorum, and throughout his career avidly sought out collaboration with engravers. Among these collaborative projects were his Picturesque Views of the Southern Coast of England (1815), with engravings by George Cooke and William Bernard Cooke; The Rivers of England (1823), with Thomas Goff Lupton; Picturesque Views of England and Wales (1833), with engravings by Edward Goodal, Thomas Higham, R. Wallis, and J. T. Willmore. Indeed, the list of engraved reproductions goes on and on, for Turner discovered in the graphic media a major means of communicating with a vast public. [23]

The engraving trade had begun to flourish in the eighteenth century with the expansion of the book trade, which had in turn its impetus from the growing literate middle-class. Illustrated books were an important venue, but the graphic reproduction of art works by Renaissance masters as well as by contemporary painters began to consume a major share of the print market. What Boydell brought to this emerging market was a new concept of marketing, combining a gallery exhibition of paintings to stimulate the sale of prints of those paintings. Boydell's "Shakespeare Gallery" soon had many imitators: Thomas Macklin's "Poet's Gallery," Henry Fuseli's "Milton Gallery," Robert Bowyer's "History of England," Robert John Thornton's "Temple of Flora." [24]

It seems fitting and proper that the fate of "the Commercial Maecenas" was darkened by bankruptcy. A primary factor in the new system of marketplace patronage, after all, were the conditions of supply and demand. While the commercial value of a print or a painting may influence and be influenced by the sense of its inherent aesthetic value, the two systems of valuation have at best a very fickle relationship. Neither Boydell's successes nor his failures can be adequately explained in terms of aesthetic merit of the graphic reproductions he offered for sale. [25]

His entrepreneurial enthusiasm, coupled with his genuine magnanimity as Maecenas, may simply have clouded his usual business acumen and his awareness of changing trends in commodity prices. His total investment in the Shakespeare Gallery, including payments to artists, engravers, as well as the refurbishing of the building in Pall Mall, exceeded £ 100,000. The major returns on this investment would not come until the nine-volume quarto edition and the two-volume folio edition were ready for sale. Printing, however, had suffered a series of unanticipated delays. The volumes would not be ready for sale until 1805. But already in 1804, Boydell was faced with demands from his creditors. He had no alternative but to plead bankruptcy and secure permission, granted only by Act of Parliament, to hold a lottery. Twenty-two thousand lottery tickets were printed and were offered at three guineas each. The last of the tickets had been sold by 10 December 1804 the day that Alderman Boydell died at age 86. The business was thus saved, but it was only the Alderman's nephew and business-partner who could make use of the £ 45,000 brought in by the lottery to complete the publication of the Gallery prints and continue the operation of the engraving trade. The winner of the grand prize in the lottery the Gallery and all its paintings was the nephew of a cameo-maker named Tassie. Josiah Boydell offered to buy back the prize at £ 10,000, but Tassie was confident that an auction would bring him at least twice that amount. So the auction was held on May 17 through 19, 1805, and all the paintings were sold. When Tassie's profits from the auction were tallied, he found that he had earned £ considerably less than Josiah Boydell had offered him; considerably less, too, than John Boydell had paid the artists.

As a commercial endeavor, however, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery had not come to an end with the dispersal of the building and its paintings. The bound editions had not yet gone on sale. Josiah Boydell's first legal action as head of the business was to track down all those who had pledged their subscription many of them fifteen or sixteen years earlier. There were those who reneged and whom Boydell endeavored to bring to court. But new buyers came in to purchase the volumes left unsold by errant subscribers. The plates were re-used until worn, and new plates were engraved. "The Boydell era" may have closed with the bankruptcy and death of the Alderman. But the commercial enterprise which he launched was just beginning.


[1] See: Elinor S. Shaffer: "'Shakespeare between the Dramatic Muse and the Genius of Painting': From Boydell Façade to Shakespeare Shrine," here pp. 75-87.

[2] See: John Gage's and Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel's essays in this catalogue.

[3] William Hazlitt: Conversations of James Northcote (1830). Complete Works vol. 11, p. 196.

[4] Sophie in London 1786, Being the Diary of Sophie von La Roche, trans. Clare Williams (London, 1933), pp. 37-9; quoted in Friedman: Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, pp. 61-3.

[5] Cunningham: The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters vol. 2, p. 186; Romney: Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney, pp. 181-13.

[6] Frances St. George, wife of Colonel John St. George of Parkfield, Birkenhead; quoted in Grego: Rowlandson the Caricaturist vol. 2, p. 312.

[7] A New Edition, considerably enlarged, of Attitudes faithfully copied from Nature, and humbly dedicated to the Admirers of the Grand and Sublime (1807) burlesqued Rehberg's original drawings by depicting a very fat Lady Hamilton attempting to execute the same poses with which she had charmed admirers in her younger years.

[8] Gillray: The Works from the Original Plates, plates 497, 498; Wright and Evans: Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of James Gillray, p. 462.

[9] See: Hölter's essay in this volume.

[10] Tieck: "Über die Kupferstiche nach der Shakespearschen Galerie in London. Briefe an einen Freund" (1795). Schriften vol. 1, pp. 665-66: "Statt dieser Gegenstände aber hat Hodges die erst Szene des zweiten Akts gewählt, und nicht die Szene selbst, sondern eine Schilderung im Munde einer der sprechenden Personen."

[11] Ibid., p. 666.

[12] Ibid.: "Der menschenfeindliche Jacques liegt im Walde, ein vom Jäger verwundeter Hirsch nähert sich betrübt dem Waldstrom, Jacques spricht über diesen Gegenstand mit sich selbst, ganz dem Charakter seiner trüben Laune gemäß. Was hat der Künstler hier nun ausdrücken wollen, wenn sein Hauptendzweck nicht das finstre Gemüt des Menschenfeindes war? und wie konnte er dieses ausdrücken? Die kleine Figur des Jacques verliert sich, und die reizende Landschaft kann im Gemüte des Beschauers eben sowohl Heiterkeit als Melancholie erzeugen. Dieses Blatt ist also gleichsam nur eine Vignette unter den Gemälden der Shakespearschen Stücke. Die Ausführung darin verdient alles Lob; nur verlieren sich die Figuren zu sehr."

[13] Anabel Thomas: Illustrated Dictionary of Narrative Painting, discusses the narrative elements in Gaspard Dughet's Landscape with Abraham and Isaac approaching the Place of Sacrifice, Landscape with Elijah and the Angel, pp. 3-4, 105; Claude Lorraine's Landscape with Aeneas at Delos, pp. 5-6.

[14] Owen and Brown: Collector of Genius: A Life of Sir George Beaumont, pp. 218-22.

[15] The Seven Ages of Shakespeare (London: John van Voorst, 1840) contains another version of Constable's "Jacques and the Wounded Stag" as a woodcut by S. Williams. See: Reynolds: The Later Paintings and Drawings of John Constable, Catalogue 32.9-10, Plates 823, 824; 35.32-38, Plates 1040-1046.

[16] Burwick: "The Hermeneutics of Lichtenberg's Interpretation of Hogarth."

[17] Tieck: Schriften vol. 1, p. 675: "An dem Blatte zum Titus Andronicus, (Akt IV. Sz. 1) von Kirk gemalt und gestochen, ist vielleicht viel zu loben und wenig zu tadeln. Man sieht, daß der Künstler eine sehr richtige Idee von der Komposition hat, und daß er seinen Gegenstand mit Geschmack und Delikatesse zu behandeln weiß. Er läßt uns die abgeschnittenen Ärme der Livinia nur vermuten; der geschickt geworfene Schleier entzieht unserm Auge den unangenehmen Anblick. Der Knabe hat sehr vielen Ausdruck, und die Gewänder sind vortrefflich. Die Figuren bilden eine schöne Gruppe; und eigentlichem Tadel verdient nur die übertrieben kolossalische Säule."

[18] Eaves: The Counter-Arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake, p. 33.

[19] Joseph Farington, Diary (1793-1831); typescript on deposit in the Print Room of the British Museum. Quoted in Friedman: Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, p. 92.

[20] Hartmann: Shakespeare in Art, p. 58.

[21] Eaves: The Counter-Arts Conspiracy, pp. 66-9, 70-4, 89-96.

[22] Gage: Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, pp. 50-1, 181-84.

[23] Lyles and Perkins: Colour into Line. Turner and the Art of Engraving, esp. pp. 44-52, 24-8, 31-3, 36-9.

[24] Altick: The Shows of London, pp. 108-09; Altick: Paintings from Books. Art and Literature in Britain, 1760-1900, pp. 37-55.

[25] Bruntjen: John Boydell, 1719-1804.