Shakespeare as Artistic Inspiration
The literary beauty of Shakespeare has inspired artists in many different media since his time. These artists attempt to express in their own media what Shakespeare expressed through the written word.
This work depicts Shakespeare with the Muse of Literature and the Genius of Painting, who combine to celebrate him. Published by John Boydell, a noted publisher of prints, the engraving was made from a work in the Shakespeare Gallery, a public art gallery of paintings based on the works of Shakespeare by some of the most well-known painters of the late 18th century. This print was based on a sculpture placed over the entryway to the gallery. The gallery opened in 1789, and this collection of prints was published in 1803.
This image is from an edition of prints produced to illustrate an edition of the complete works of Shakespeare, the introduction of which was written by Christopher Morley. Morley, Haverford class of 1910, was a writer and editor, the author of more than 100 books. The print is by Rockwell Kent, a noted American artist. In the printed edition of this illustration, the caption is given as “Shed thou no blood; nor cut thou less nor more”: this is an illustration from the Merchant of Venice, in which Portia hands down her judgment in favor of Antonio.
This extraordinary binding was done by a Danish binder, D. L. Clements. Following the theme of the quarto, which chronicles the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York over control of the throne of England, the cover is decorated with a red and a white rose: the symbol of the house of Lancaster was a red rose, while the symbol of the house of York was a white one. The wars ended with the rise of Henry VII and the beginning of the Tudor era.