As you like it


As you like it, Act V, scene IV

Ros. To you I give myself, for I am yours

Orla. If there is truth insight, you are my Rosalind

Colored engraving from the Shakspeare collection published by Boydell in 1791. The print is after a painting by William Hamilton, the engraving is by Peter Simon. The image is 59 x 44 cm, the sheet is 72 x 55 cm, the condition is good.

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The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery in London, England, was the first stage of a three-part project initiated in November 1786 by engraver and publisher John Boydell in an effort to foster a school of British history painting. In addition to the establishment of the gallery, Boydell planned to produce an illustrated edition of William Shakespeare’s plays and a folio of prints based upon a series of paintings by different contemporary painters. During the 1790s the London gallery that showed the original paintings emerged as the project’s most popular element. The works of William Shakespeare enjoyed a renewed popularity in 18th-century Britain. Several new editions of his works were published, his plays were revived in the theatre and numerous works of art were created illustrating the plays and specific productions of them. Capitalising on this interest, Boydell decided to publish a grand illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s plays that would showcase the talents of British painters and engravers. He chose the noted scholar and Shakespeare editor George Steevens to oversee the edition, which was released between 1791 and 1803. The press reported weekly on the building of Boydell’s gallery, designed by George Dance the Younger, on a site in Pall Mall. Boydell commissioned works from famous painters of the day, such as Joshua Reynolds, and the folio of engravings proved the enterprise’s most lasting legacy. However, the long delay in publishing the prints and the illustrated edition prompted criticism. Because they were hurried, and many illustrations had to be done by lesser artists, the final products of Boydell’s venture were judged to be disappointing. The project caused the Boydell firm to become insolvent, and they were forced to sell the gallery at a lottery.


William Hamilton RA (1751–1801) was an English painter and illustrator. Hamilton was born in Chelsea, London, but travelled and worked in Italy with Antonio Zucchi for several years. He trained first as an architectural draftsman, but soon moved to theatrical portraits and scenes from plays. Hamilton became an associate member of the Royal Academy from 1784, and was made a full member in 1789. Hamilton became very well known for his paintings depicting episodes from the plays of Shakespeare and for his illustrations of poems. He was commissioned to create works for John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, Thomas Macklin’s Bible and Robert Bowyer’s English History. These were widely reproduced in popular prints. Francesco Bartolozzi engraved a number of Hamilton’s best-known works. He also painted modern events, such as the execution of Marie Antoinette, in the manner of epic historical drama. Several battle scenes were also exhibited including The destruction of the Spanish battery ships before Gibraltar in the night of the 13th of Sept. last (1783) and Defence of the Breach at Jean d’Acre by Sir Sidney Smith (1800). Hamilton’s style shows the influence of the cult of sentiment typical of the period, resembling the work of Angelica Kauffman. He also sometimes adopts aspects of Fuseli’s dramatic distortions in composition and figure drawing.


Peter Simon (British, London ca. 1764–1813 Paris)


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