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The Drury Lane Theatrical Fund

David Garrick’s legacy to the theater continues to be felt through The Drury Lane Theatrical Fund, a charity providing financial aid to performers in the company who fall on hard times. Garrick and James Lacy (1696-1774), joint managers of Drury Lane, first brought up the idea of such a fund in 1753, and by 1766 were actively gathering donations. In the mean time, Covent Garden had established a similar fund. An Act of Parliament in 1776 firmly established the fund. In gratitude, “The Incorporated Actors belonging to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane” presented this enamel plaque to Garrick, “in testimony of their gratitude for his having raised and supported by his excellent performance on the stage, and finally established by an Act of Parliament obtained by his interest, and at his sole expence, the Theatrical Fund… March 25, 1777.” This inscription, on the back of the piece, carries an addendum that begins “Purchased at Mr. Garrick’s sale in 1823 and presented by the committee of the Covent Garden Theatrical Fund to their treasurer, John Fawcett, Esq.” and goes on to credit Garrick with founding the fund. Although technically not true—Garrick founded the Drury Lane Fund, not the Covent Garden Fund—Garrick’s professionalization of the theater made such funds possible.

Enamel artist John Howes (fl. 1772–1793) created this unique piece from a design by Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727–1785), an Italian artist whose theater paintings included scenery for Garrick at Drury Lane.

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John Howes after Cipriani. David Garrick unveiling a herm of Shakespeare and the Ephesian Diana. Enamel, 1777.

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