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The Collation

Drawing for photographic reproduction

This month’s crocodile mystery asked what’s going on with the odd-looking painting technique in an original work of art, shown in a detail. Here’s a view of the whole thing:

  1. Here’s a link to the full drawing: Anyone recognize the scene, or who the artist might be? The dealer who sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Folger in 1920 said it was a Shakespeare scene by Henry Fuseli, but no evidence has been found to support either assertion.
  2. To be fair, though, what we see in these pictures today isn’t how they would have looked originally. Over the decades, the paper will often have yellowed, and the ink can start to show through the white overpaint.


Obviously just a wild guess, but with a certain stretch of the imagination, the mystery scene might be Coriolanus, Act II Scene I (Coriolanus’ return to Rome after his great victory). It’s a scene set in a public place, featuring Coriolanus’ wife and mother, as well as quite a lot of other people, including soldiers, captains, and tribunes (which might explain the beardy helmetless men standing around in the background). There’s nothing in the text to suggest that Coriolanus’ wife faints at any point, but it’s a way in which a production might have accounted for the fact that she basically has no lines in a scene in which you’d expect her to get emotional.

Elisabeth Chaghafi — April 4, 2018