Shylock's House–Shylock, Jessica and Launcelot (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 5)
Not on view
Smirke's image, centered on the scene in The Merchant of Venice, was conceived for John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, launched in 1786 as a publishing-cum-exhibition scheme that included a new illustrated edition of the plays, sets of large and small engravings, and a gallery on London's Pall Mall. The latter opened in 1789 with thirty-four paintings and contained about one hundred and seventy works the time Boydell went bankrupt and auctioned the contents in 1805–his print sales plummeted when Napoleon blocaded European ports. This impression belongs to an American reissue of 1852 spearheaded by Shearjashub Spooner, a New York dental surgeon, writer and art scholar who acquired Boydell's heavily worn plates and had them reworked. Printed on thick cream colored paper, the New York edition added small numbers in the lower left margin, this being number 24.
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