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About our collections /

Works of Art

The Folger art collection includes paintings and sculptures, works on paper, illustrated books, craft items, and more. Only part of the art collection relates directly to Shakespeare and his works, but even so, it is the world’s largest collection of Shakespearean art.


The Folger has about 200 paintings. A few date to Shakespeare’s day, like the Plimpton “Sieve” portrait of Elizabeth I by George Gower, dated 1579. Most are from the 18th and 19th centuries, including paintings by Henry Fuseli, Benjamin West, George Romney, and Thomas Nast. Among its most important paintings held by the Folger is Fuseli’s Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head, from 1793. More than half of the Folger paintings depict scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.

Folger paintings

Works on Paper

The Folger collection of works on paper includes drawings, sketches, watercolors, photographs, and prints. Notable artists represented in the collection include Wenceslaus Hollar, Hans Vredeman de Vries, the van de Passe family, Abraham Bosse, George Cruikshank, Francis Hayman, and John Massey Wright. The Folger collection of drawings by George Romney is the second largest in North America and the third largest in the world.

Art Books and Sculpture

The Folger’s collection of art books includes fine-press books, comic books, extra-illustrated volumes, and artists’ books. Extra-illustration, which was popular in the 19th century, means adding other items, like portraits and letters, to an existing book, sometimes in such quantities that the book was rebound in multiple volumes. Artists’ books, often produced in only one copy, are works of modern art, sometimes resembling sculpture more than traditional book structure. The most important sculpture in the collection is Louis François Roubiliac’s terracotta figure of Shakespeare, dated 1757. It is the scale model for the life-size marble statue now at the British Library.

Charlotte and Susan Cushman as Romeo and Juliet. Staffordshire porcelain, created by Thomas Parr, ca. 1852.


The Folger collection of “realia” (non-book objects in a library collection), is anchored by the Babette Craven Collection of Theatrical Memorabilia, one of the strongest postwar collections of early English ceramics. The Craven collection includes numerous rare English ceramic figures from potteries such as Derby, Bow, Wedgwood, and Minton, as well as plaques, tiles, boxes, and more. All of them celebrate figures of the 18th- and 19th-century English stage. There are almost countless Shakespeare-themed objects in the Folger collection, including snuffboxes, teapots, and spoons. Many of the wooden examples are said to be carved from the wood of a mulberry tree that once grew at New Place, Shakespeare’s last house at Stratford-upon-Avon.