Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Weird Sisters (Shakespeare, MacBeth, Act 1, Scene 3)

Engraver:
John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster)
Artist:
After Henry Fuseli (Swiss, Zürich 1741–1825 London)
Publisher:
John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster)
Subject:
William Shakespeare (British, Stratford-upon-Avon 1564–1616 Stratford-upon-Avon)
Published in:
London
Date:
March 10, 1785
Medium:
Mezzotint
Dimensions:
sheet: 18 1/16 x 21 7/8 in. (45.8 x 55.5 cm)
Classification:
Prints
Credit Line:
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959
Accession Number:
59.570.361
Not on view
Smith’s mezzotint reproduces Fuseli’s striking conception of the witches as first encountered by Macbeth and Banquo in Shakespeare’s play (act 1, scene 3), prompting Banquo to ask:
"What are these
So wither’d and wild in their attire, That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth,
And yet are on’t?.../ You seem to understand me, By each at once her chappy finger laying /
Upon her skinny lips . . ."
After a seven-year sojourn in Rome, Fuseli settled in London in 1779 and became known for painting imaginative and disturbing subjects. The overlapping, profile presentation of the witches echoes classical reliefs, but their features, gestures, and flying skull-headed companion demonstrate an equal familiarity with macabre precedents in the work of Italian painters such as Domenico Veneziano and Salvator Rosa.
Signature: in plate: "Painted by H. Fuseli" ; "Engraved by J. R. Smith Mezzotinto Engraver to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales"

Inscription: in plate below image: "each at once her choppy finger laying upon her skinny lips"; lower center: "London Published March 10th 1785 by J. R.Smith No. 83 Oxford Street"
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 12–July 18, 2016.

Frankau 371; Weinglass 73; D'Oench 256
John Raphael Smith A Catalogue of Prints Published by J. R. Smith, (No. 31) King Street, Covent Garden. London, ca. 1798, cat. no. 79.

Julia Frankau John Raphael Smith: His Life and Works. London, 1902, cat. no. 371, p. 240.

Gert Schiff Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741-1825. Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Oeuvrekataloge Schweizer Künstler, 2 vols., Zurich and Munich, 1973, cat. nos. 733-736: related paintings (1783, Kunsthaus, Zurich; Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Straford-upon-Avon; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh): I, p. 492; II, p. 176, ill.

Gert Schiff Henry Fuseli, 1741-1825 Ex. cat., Tate Gallery. 1975, cat. no. 59.

David H. Weinglass Prints and Engraved Illustrations by and after Henry Fuseli; A Catalogue Raisonné. Aldershot, Hampshire and Brookfield, Vermont, 1994, cat. no. 73, p. 77.

Tim Clayton The English Print 1688-1802. Yale, 1997, pl. 254, p. 238.

David H. Weinglass, Fred Licht, Simona Tosini Pizzetti Füssli pittore di Shakespeare : pittura e teatro, 1775-1825 Ex. cat., Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Mamiano di Traversetolo, Parma. Milan, 1997, cat. no. 54.

Ellen D'Oench "Copper into Gold": Prints by John Raphael Smith, 1751–1812. New Haven and London, 1999, with publication date March 10, 1785, cat. no. 256, pp. 82, 85, 222.

Jane Martineau, Jonathan Bate, David Alexander, Christopher Baugh, John Warrack, Brian Allen, Maria Grazia Messina, Robin Hamlyn, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, John Christian Shakespeare in Art. Published on the occasion of the exhibition, Dulwich Picture Gallery. London and New York, 2003, cat. no. 12, pp. 78-9 (Fuseli, oil on canvas, ca. 1783, Royal Shakespeare Company Collection, Stratford-upon-Avon), ill.

Peter Whitfield Illustrating Shakespeare. British Library, London, 2013, p. 44.



Related Objects

George Wallis, The Late Celebrated Antiquary and Gunsmith of Hull

Artist: Engraved by John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster) after a painting by John Harrison Date: June 20, 1804 Medium: Mezzotint on white wove paper Accession: 2011.90 On view in:Not on view

Emma

Artist: John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster) Date: April 2, 1802 Medium: Stipple engraving; second state Accession: 17.3.887-52 On view in:Not on view

Affection

Artist: John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster) Date: April 2, 1802 Medium: Stipple engraving; second state of two Accession: 17.3.887-65 On view in:Not on view

Study

Artist: John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster) Date: April 2, 1802 Medium: Stipple engraving; second state of two Accession: 17.3.887-53 On view in:Not on view

Thoughts on a Single Life

Artist: John Raphael Smith (British, baptized Derby 1751–1812 Doncaster) Date: December 21, 1787 Medium: Stipple engraving, printed in color; second state of two Accession: 42.119.440 On view in:Not on view