The Enchanted Island Before the Cell of Prospero - Prospero, Miranda, Caliban and Ariel (Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2)
Not on view
Fascinated by themes of magic and erotic desire, Fuseli was a life-long devotee of Shakespeare, first reading the plays as a youth in Zurich. After settling in London, he contributed paintings to John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, launched in 1786 as an exhibition cum print-publishing scheme funded by subscribers. Simpson's print reproduces Fuseli's conception of a scene near the beginning of "The Tempest," where Prospero punishes Caliban for attempting to rape Miranda. Hovering overhead, the spirit Ariel prepares to do the magician's bidding, with a seaside grotto used to indicate the island setting. Emblematic creatures are placed strategically near each character–a moth above Miranda, sprites and a cat by Prospero, and shell-fish and evil-looking monkey next to Caliban.
This impression comes from an 1852 American reissue spearheaded by Shearjashub Spooner, a New York dental surgeon, writer and art scholar who acquired Boydell's heavily worn plates and had them reworked. His New York edition was printed on thick cream paper with small numbers added in the lower left margin, this being number 6.