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New Acquisitions

Romeo and Juliet by James Northcote (1746-1831)


James Northcote. Romeo and Juliet, act V, scene III. Oil on canvas, ca. 1790

Don’t be deceived by the small reproduction here. The Folger’s newly-acquired painting of Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Scene 3, is big in every way. Measuring nine by eleven feet, it was commissioned by Alderman John Boydell for his Shakespeare Gallery, and fills a major gap in the Folger collection. Up until now, the Folger only had small-format scenes from the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. Northcote’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the famous large-format scenes engraved as “elephant folio” plates. It brings our total number of Boydell paintings to eleven, reuniting the Northcote with its brethren for the first time since the Gallery’s 167 paintings were sold by lottery in 1805.

As the first public art gallery in Britain, and the first to sell high-quality engravings of its works, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery’s influence on perceptions of Shakespeare was huge. In addition to the paintings, the Folger’s unparalleled collection of Boydell Shakespeare Gallery material includes Boydell’s own copies of the bound volumes containing prints of the paintings, manuscripts relating to the Gallery, and early gallery catalogues.

The Folger successfully bid on the painting at Sotheby’s Early British Paintings Sale this past October. It is now on view in the Old Reading Room.

  Learn More

Hamnet catalog entry

Related Items

Folger Exhibition:
Marketing Shakespeare,
The Boydell Gallery (1789-1805) and Beyond


Slide show: ARTEX staff hanging Romeo and Juliet in the Old Reading Room

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