London: Oct. 23, 1788.
1p. Inlaid into a larger sheet. Very small tear within the document repaired at an early date. 2 5/8 x 6 3/8 inches. Inlaid Item #319631
Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), Swiss-born painter, draughtsman, and writer on art, lived most of his life in England and was one of the preeminent figures of the Romantic movement. When he turned from poetry to painting, at the encouragement of Joshua Reynolds, he soon began painting scenes from Shakespeare. He lived in Rome for most of the 1770s before returning to England in 1779, after a brief visit to Zürich.
“Fuseli was present at the dinner given by John Boydell in November 1786 when the creation of what became the Shakspeare Gallery was discussed, and he undoubtedly played a significant role in the discussions that made Boydell's ambitious project a reality. Fuseli was already widely recognized as 'Shakespeare's painter'” (ODNB). The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery in London was the first stage of a three-part project by engraver and publisher Boydell in an effort to foster a school of British history painting. The Shakespeare Gallery, when it opened on 4 May 1789, contained 34 paintings, and by the end of its run had approximately 170. In addition to the establishment of the gallery, Boydell famously produced an illustrated edition of Shakespeare's plays based upon many of the paintings.
Fuseli's painting of Hamlet is listed with Boydell's A Catalogue of the Pictures &c. in the Shakspeare Gallery (London: Baldwin, 1790) as No. XXXIV, illustrating Act I., Scene IV, depicting Hamlet being restrained by Horatio and Marcellus from approaching the ghost.
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