Macbeth, Banquo and the Witches (from William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', Act I, sc.iii)
Henry Fuseli (Zurich 1741 - London 1825)
Macbeth and Banquo stand transfixed as three ghastly witches emerge from the haar on a battlefield. Macbeth is tartan-draped, holding a bloody sword; Banquo is helmeted and armoured. Fuseli, a British painter of Swiss origin, was fascinated by the grotesque and the macabre. This scene from 'Macbeth' (Act I, scene iii) was one of five scenes that Fuseli painted for James Woodmason’s abortive scheme for a Shakespeare Gallery to rival that of Alderman Boydell.
Oil painting on canvas, Macbeth, Banquo and the Witches (from by William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', Act I, sc.iii) by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), 1793-4. Macbeth and Banquo stand on the right-hand side, the witches floating in a mist to the left and horsemen with lances below. One of five paintings for James Woodmason's Shakespeare Gallery: Oberon bathing the eyes of the sleeping Titania (Kunsthaus, Zurich); Titania awakening and embracing Bottom with an ass’s head (Kunsthaus, Zurich); The Ghost of Hamlet’s Father appearing to Hamlet and Queen Gertrude (Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Parma); Macbeth consulting the vision of the armed head (Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington). Woodmason opened his Irish Shakespeare Gallery in Dublin in May 1793 and in January the following year he re-opened his gallery in London. The prospectus of his 'New Shakspeare Gallery' shows that he envisaged a project (aborted) to rival the scheme by Alderman John Boydell (1719 - 1804) of his Shakespeare Gallery (open in 1789 and final publication in 1803), commissioning paintings and publishing illustrations with text. A smaller version/copy of this painting of around 1800 is in a private collection in the USA.
Painted in 1793/94 for James Woodmason's abortive scheme for a rival Shakespeare Gallery to Alderman Boydell's (see NT/PET/P/61 by Sir Joshua Reynolds); Sir Gregory Osborn Page Turner, Bt.; his sale, Christie’s, 7 June 1824, lot 47; bought for £6. 8s. by John Bartie (? on behalf of) George O’Brien (Wyndham), 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837); in the collection of the 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837) by 1835. Thence by descent, until the death in 1952 of the 3rd Lord Leconfield, who had given Petworth to the National Trust in 1947, and whose nephew and heir, John Wyndham, 6th Lord Leconfield and 1st Lord Egremont (1920-72) arranged for the acceptance of the major portion of the collections at Petworth in lieu of death duties (the first ever such arrangement) in 1956 by H.M.Treasury.
Petworth House, The Egremont Collection (acquired in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 1957 and subsequently transferred to the National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
Recto: On top member, in black: Nº 11 MACBETH, Act 1. SCENE  Hy, FUSELI, R.A.
Makers and roles
Henry Fuseli (Zurich 1741 - London 1825), artist
Re-Imagining Shakespeare, Compton Verney , 2016 Witches and Wicked Bodies, Scottish National Portrait Gallery , 2013, no.62 The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, 1985 - 1986, no.522
Farington 1804 Joseph Farington, The Diary of Joseph Farington, ed. Kenneth Garlick & Angus Macintyre, New Haven and London, 16 vols 1978-84, vol.II (1804), p.192 Federman 1927 Arnold Federman, Johann Heinrich Füssli: Dichter und Maler 1741-1825, Leipzig & Zurich, 1927, pp.53, 170 Irwin 1966 David G. Irwin, English Neo-Classical Art;studies in inspiration and taste, London 1966 , pp. 38, 128, 129 & pl.136 Schiff 1973 Gert.Schiff, Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741-1825 Leben und Oeuvrekatalog, Zurich, 1973 , vol.I, pp.163, 187, no.880, repd. Sunderland 1976 John Sunderland, Painting in Britain, 1525-1975, Oxford 1976, p.225, pls.88 & 89 (detail of witches) Schiff and Viotto 1977 Gert. Schiff (ed.), L’Opera Completa di Fuseli, Milan 1977, no. 104 Hamlyn 1978 R. Hamlyn, ‘An Irish Shakespeare Gallery’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.CXX, August 1978, pp.521, 525, 529; no.XI; pl.32 Piper & Viney 1989 David Piper & Nigel Viney, The Great Paintings of England, London 1989, repr. p.189 Pressly 1993 William L. Pressly, Folger Shakespeare Library Catalogue, Yale, 1993, no.24, pp.55-57, fig.17 Witches and Wicked Bodies, Modern Two (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art), Edinburgh, 27 July - 3 November 2013, 62