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Painting Title Prospero, a Fragment from 'Prospero, Miranda and Caliban'
Alternative Title Prospero (a Fragment); King Lear
Collection York Art Gallery
Artist Fuseli, Henry (Swiss painter, 1741-1825, active in England)
Date Earliest probably 1786
Date Latest 1787
Description

This is a fragment of Miranda, Prospero, Ariel, and Caliban, painted for the Boydell Gallery between 1786 and 1789: the subject is taken from The Tempest by William Shakespeare (act I, scene II). During 12 years of exile, Prospero, accompanied by his daughter Miranda has ruled by magic over an enchanted island inhabited by spirits (one of them was Ariel, who served Prospero) and a deformed monster Caliban. He taught Prospero how to survive on the island, while Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban religion and their own language. After Caliban tried to rape Miranda, Prospero forced him to serve as his slave.

Fuseli wrote to William Roscoe (letter number 1599 in Liverpool Public Library, dated London, 25 November 1789): 'I have sent home to Boydells a picture from 'The Tempest'. Prospero, Miranda, Caliban, Ariel near a cave on an Island...'. We know how the whole composition looked as it was engraved by J. P. Simon and published for Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery on 29 September 1787; it was also reproduced in The Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, edited by G. Stevens, published by John and Josiah Boydell and Nichols in 1802. Fuseli painted eight large and one small pictures for the Shakespeare Gallery, which was first conceived by Johh Boydell in November 1786, set up in 1789, and which finally comprised 177 paintings by 44 artists.

Current Accession Number YORAG : 540
Subject literature (William Shakespeare, The Tempest); figure
Measurements 63.7 x 50.2 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased from Messrs. Appleby Bros, London 1950.
Provenance Purchased from the artist by John Boydell for the Shakespeare Gallery, London 1789, 210; Boydell sale at Christie, Manson & Woods, London 20th May 1805, purchased by John Green, 22.
Principal Exhibitions Peintures Anglaises des Collections d'York et du Yorkshire, Dijon, 1957, no. 14; Shakespeare in Art, The Arts Council Gallery, London 1964, no. 27.
Publications Catalogue of Boydell Gallery, London 1789, no. XXXVI; Catalogue of Boydell Gallery, London 1790, no. XXXVI; Catalogue of Boydell Gallery, London 1802, no. 2; PREVIEW. City of York Art Gallery Quarterly, 14, April 1951, vol. IV, p. 157 as 'King Lear'; PREVIEW. City of York Art Gallery Quarterly, 18, April 1952, vol. V, p. 209; York Art Gallery Catalogue - Catalogue of Paintings vol. II: English School 1500-1850, City of York Art Gallery, York, 1963, p. 48, pl. 36; Schiff, G., Johann Heinrich Fuseli 1741-1825, Zurich 1973, vol. 1, page 493, cat. 743; Shakespeare in art: paintings, drawings and engravings devoted to Shakespearean subjects, London 1964, cat. 27, p. 19; Oil Paintings in Public Ownership. North Yorkshire, London, 2006, p. 284.
Notes

A sketch for YORAG : 540 is, mentioned in 1830 (Cunningham, A., The lives of the most eminent British painters, sculptors, and architects, volume 2, page 328), and in 1860 (Timbs, J., Anecdote Biography, page 224), and listed as 'lost' by G. Schiff (Johann Heinrich Fuseli 1741-1825, Zurich 1973, vol. 1, p. 648, no. 15).

It is uncertain when the painting was cut into pieces; it might have been done by John Green, as there was a painting by Fuseli, Caliban from the Tempest, purchased by Houghton from the John Green collection at Christie, Manson & Woods, London 1830, lot 83 (it might have been either the whole painting or its right fragment, now lost).

Rights Owner York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)
Author Dr Magdalena Łanuszka
 

 

 

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