|Stipple and etching
|Robert Thew after Sir Joshua Reynolds
|Painted by the late Sr. Joshua Reynolds, President of the Royal Academy. Engraved by Robt. Thew, Hist. Engraver to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Pub. Decr. 1, 1802, by J&J Boydell, at the Shakspeare Gallery, Pall Mall, & Nr. 90 Cheapside, London.
|Image 440 x 588 mm, Plate 500 x 625 mm, Sheet 550 x 800 mm
Subscriber's Proof, before addition of verses from the play to left and right of title.
A large-scale illustration of Act 4, Scene 1 of Macbeth, after the painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The scene is a visceral depiction of Macbeth's paranoia. He stands at centre, his back to the viewer, as he confronts the trio of witches in an effort to gain some reassurance of his actions. On the contrary, the visions summoned by the grotesque witches serve only to unnerve and alarm, even though the words of the apparitions appear at first glance as a comfort: that he will not die at the hands of man born of woman, and that he will remain unvanquished 'until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come...' The witches, with their chief seated on a throne of bone, occupy the foreground, while the various visions fill the scene. In an ouroboros before Macbeth stand the helmeted head, the bloody infant, and the crowned child holding a tree. Behind, the colossal figure of Banquo's ghosts points in mockery at his alarmed murdered, who brandishes a dagger in an attempt to dispel the 8 kings of Banquo's line that are to reign after him. With the exception of a trio of beautiful women dancing in the smoke of the cauldron, the rest of the scene is filled with figures of grim aspect and the ingredients used in the witches' famous brew.
This print was one in a series published by the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, a project founded by the engraver, print-maker, and publisher, John Boydell. Boydell brought together many of Britain's most famous artists to work on the project, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, Henry Fuseli, and George Romney. The resurgent interest in Shakespeare during the late 18th century eventually inspired Boydell to publish a 'magnificent and accurate' illustrated edition of Shakespeare's works.
John Boydell (1719 - 1804) was an English engraver, and one of the most influential printsellers of the Georgian period. At the age of twenty one, Boydell was apprenticed to the engraver William Henry Toms, and enrolled himself in the St. Martin's Lane Academy in order to study drawing. Given the funds raised by the sales of Boydell's Collection of One Hundred Views in England and Wales, 1755, he turned to the importation of foreign prints. Despite great success in this market his legacy is largely defined by The Shakespeare Gallery; a project that he initiated in 1786. In addition to the gallery, which was located in Pall Mall, Boydell released folios which illustrated the works of the Bard of Avon and were comprised of engravings after artists such as Henry Fuseli, Richard Westall, John Opie and Sir Joshua Reynolds. He is credited with changing the course of English painting by creating a market for historical and literary works. In honour of this, and his longstanding dedication to civil duties, Boydell became the Mayor of London in 1790.
Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) was one of the most important figures of the eighteenth century art world. He was the first President of the Royal Academy and Britain's leading portrait painter. Through a series of lectures on the Discourses on Art at the Royal Academy he defined the style later known as the Grand Manner, an idealised Classical aesthetic. He had a profound impact on the theory and practice of art and helped to raise the status of portrait painting into the realm of fine art. A flamboyant socialite, Reynolds used his social contacts to promote himself and advance his career becoming one of the most prominent portrait painters of the period.
Robert Thew (1758 - 1802) was a British line and stipple engraver, and a one time basis, acted as historical engraver to the Prince of Wales.
Condition: Superb dark impression with full margins. Minor time-toning to edges of sheet.