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John Boydell

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Image of Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1

John Boydell
English, 1719–1804
Josiah Boydell (aka Joshua Boydell)
English, 1752–1817
William Charles Wilson
English, about 1750–date unknown
after Richard Westall
English, 1765–1836

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 1

about 1804
From Boydell's Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare

Object Type: Print
10 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (27 x 17 cm)
Medium and Support: Engraving on paper
Accession Number: 2016.0008.0009

Credit Line: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase and Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald A. Winer, by exchange

In 1786, a successful London publisher, alderman John Boydell, conceived of a gallery of art devoted to scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Named for its founder, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery was one of the first large-scale commercial endeavors intended to promote British literature and artists both in Great Britain as well as throughout the European continent. He commissioned over 167 paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and produced engravings based on these paintings. In creating the engravings, John Boydell partnered with his son, Josiah, whose name appears after his father’s in the list above. The third name is that of the engraver, and the fourth is that of the painter who created the original composition in oils. The role of the engraver was to transfer the painter’s composition onto plates for printing.

About this scene:
At night in Dunsinane palace, a doctor and servant wait upon Lady Macbeth, who sleepwalks, wringing her hands. She has seemingly descended into madness, suffering the guilt caused by her assistance to Macbeth when he murders Duncan to become King. She wrings her hands, saying, "What, will these hands ne'er be clean?" and "Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand."

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