Collection title devised by cataloger
All but one or two of the drawings were glued to a backing, which has since been removed (with the exception of the items bound in ART Vol. d98, some of which are still matted). Most of these backings bore a J. Whatman watermark, and some the watermark date of 1830. On all but four there was at least the remnant of a brown ink script reading 'M. Wright', with a flourish along the top of it. This signature, which may not be in the hand of Wright, was found along the edge of the backing versos and is often severly clipped leaving only the flourish. Most of the items had pencil markings, numbers and/or letters, on the backings. One item is signed on the drawing itself (ART Box W951 no.28). The backings for all but one of the items were labeled as to play and almost all include the act and scene division as well as a quotation, usually written in brown ink in Roman style capitals with an italic hand. These labels have been saved and are encapsulated in mylar along with the drawings themselves
History: These 16 watercolors appear to have been done as a series (with the possible exception of ART Box W951 no.35), probably around the same time period and possibly for a commission. Most of the items are similarly mounted and labeled which seems to verify this assumption. Unfortunately the items were not all acquired at the same time and provenance information is limited. It is possible that the drawings were intended for book illustrations though there is no evidence of publication
Provenance: ART Box W951 no.22-32 were formerly part of ART Inventory 289 (no.2-10,19,22), a collection of 122 Shakespearean watercolors, most of which were attributed to Wright. The collection was purchased from a private owner by 'Sabin' c. 1898 and sold to the Folgers by Gabriel Wells, April 28, 1920 (Cs. 889). ART Box W951 no.33 was formerly part of ART Inv. 286 (no.17), see record for 'Comedy and tragedy' under Wright for prov. information. ART Box W951 no.34 was purchased separately from Maggs Bros., Aug. 1925. Maggs identified the scene as being from King Lear, here it is listed as an ill. for All's well (Cs. 1452). ART Box W951 no.35 was purchased by the library in April 1947 from C.A. Stonehill (see letter in acc. file , Apr. 17, 1947). It is possible that this watercolor does not belong to this set of illustrations. ART Vol. d98 no.7-11 are part of a bound volume, for prov. see entry for 'Atkinson, John Augustus, Scenes from King Henry V ... '
Subject: Drawings all represent a scene from the fifth act of the play they are illustrating. Regardless of the number of characters included in the scene in the text Wright has contrived to portray at least all the major characters and some of the minor characters. Each item pictures between 11 and 18 figures in tableau. The following plays are illustrated: Merchant of Venice (ART Box W951 no.22) ; As you like it (no.23) ; Love's labour's lost (no.24) ; Titus Andronicus (no.25) ; Taming of the shrew (no.26) ; Pericles (no.27) ; Measure for measure (no.28) ; Othello (no.29) ; Troilus and Cressida (no.30) ; Twelfth night (no.31 & 33, no.33 is labeled on verso as Winter's tale, backing label is correct) ; Tempest (no.32) ; All's well (no.34 and ART Vol. d98 no.11) ; King Richard II (no.35) ; and Much ado (ART Vol. d98 no.7)
Also known as
Extended title: [Illustrations to Shakespeare - group scenes (tableaux)] [John Wright]