Falstaff at Herne's Oak (Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5)

Various artists/makers

Not on view

Bunbury's "Shakespeare" consisted of twenty-prints published between 1792 and 1797, issued periodically in sets of four. The publisher Thomas Macklin was inspired by the success of Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery to open a rival Poets Gallery in 1787. He then commissioned a set of large watercolors from Bunbury of comic Shakesperean subjects with related prints issued by subscription. The artist was the younger son in an old gentry family who had amused fellow students with comic drawings at Westminster School in London, then at Cambridge University. He became a friend of Thomas Rowlandson, who etched many Bunbury designs. Most of Bunbury's income came, however, from army positions and the patronage of the Duke of York, whom he served as equerry. The Shakespeare series of watercolors rank among the artist's most ambitious and soon belonged to the Duchess of York. Michele Bennediti, a follower of Francesco Bartolozzi, produced this stipple engraving of a famous scene near the end of "The Merry Wives of Windsor." The housewives Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page have arranged to meet Falstaff in Windsor Forest at night. He hopes to seduce them, and is unaware of their elaborate scheme to fend off his repeated and unwelcome attentions.

Falstaff at Herne's Oak (Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5), Michele Beneditti (British, 1745–1810 Vienna), Stipple engraving and etching

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