Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ophelia (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7)

Artist:
After Sir John Everett Millais (British, Southampton 1829–1896 London)
Engraver:
James Stephenson (British, Manchester 1808–1886 London)
Publisher:
Henry Graves & Company (London)
Subject:
William Shakespeare (British, Stratford-upon-Avon 1564–1616 Stratford-upon-Avon)
Date:
March 1, 1866
Medium:
Mezzotint, etching and stipple on chine collé; proof
Dimensions:
Image: 20 11/16 in. × 34 in. (52.5 × 86.3 cm) Plate: 25 7/16 × 37 1/16 in. (64.6 × 94.2 cm) Sheet: 27 3/8 x 39 3/16 in. (69.5 x 99.5 cm) Chine collé: 24 5/16 × 35 13/16 in. (61.7 × 90.9 cm)
Classification:
Prints
Credit Line:
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949
Accession Number:
49.40.282
Not on view
Here, Hamlet’s rejected lover, her mind unhinged, has fallen into a brook while picking wildflowers. Inspired by an evocative description of Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (act 4, scene 7), Millais painted the subject for a London Royal Academy exhibition in 1852; this masterful print reproduces that composition. As a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Millais challenged artistic convention and spent months outdoors painting the lush setting, and then posed a model in a bathtub in his studio to complete the composition. The painting’s hyperrealistic detail and collapsed space initially unsettled viewers, but this later print encouraged admiration for the groundbreaking conception. Stephenson combined mezzotint, etching, and stipple to evoke the rich silverwork adorning Ophelia’s gown and describe the range of plants and flowers embellishing her watery grave.
Signature: in graphite lower left: "John Everett Millais"; lower right: "John Stephenson"

Inscription: above image in plate: "London, Published March 1, 1866 by Henry Graves & Co....Pall Mall"

Marking: Stamp of Printsellers Association lower left, with "KNE" at center.
Vendor: John Britnell & Son
Oklahoma City Museum of Art. "Artist as Narrator: Nineteenth Century Narrative Art in England and France," September 8, 2005–November 27, 2005.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 29, 2014–July 14, 2014.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 12–July 18, 2016.

Rodney K. Engen Pre-Raphaelite Prints: The Graphic Art of Millais, Holman Hunt, Rossetti and their Followers. Lund Humphries, 1995, fig. no. 36, pp. 60-62, ill.

Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel Die Shakespeare-Illustration (1594–2000). 3 vols., Wiesbaden and Mainz, 2003, vol. I, p. 83, fig. 138 (related painting); vol. III, pp. 919, 1200, no. 2449 (related drawing), ill.

Peter Whitfield Illustrating Shakespeare. British Library, London, 2013, discusses Millais's painting of 1851, pp. 107-109.



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