Shakespeare – Sacrificed; or, The Offering to Avarice

James Gillray British
Publisher James Aitken British
Subject William Shakespeare British

Not on view

Between 1789 and 1805, the publisher John Boydell ran the Shakespeare Gallery, a popular London exhibition space financed by print subscriptions. When Boydell failed to hire Gillray to make prints for the project, the satirist reciprocated with this scathing parody of the scheme. Boydell appears as a high priest sacrificing the Bard’s writings to Avarice—a grinning figure with moneybags near a fool who fans the flames. Smoke obscures a famous memorial and then rises to support characters derived from paintings shown in the gallery. Bottom points to his magical ass’s head, and King Lear is given a crassly modern brick throne. Fearing reprisal, Gillray used a pseudonym in this rare early state. He substituted his real name when the print proved a success, coveted even by the artists it mocks.

Shakespeare – Sacrificed; or, The Offering to Avarice, James Gillray (British, London 1756–1815 London), Etching and aquatint; undescribed state

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