Early nineteenth century oil-painted copy of Fuseli’s lost 1789 painting which depicts the ghost of Hamlet's father beckoning away his son to hear the terrible story of his death.
Oil on wooden panel, 44.5x57.5cm, label to verso from its appearance at the 1969 Zurich Fuseli exhibition, wood repair to verso reinforcing a vertical split in the wood which rises 12cm from the base of the image, just visible in the painting itself. The panel is mounted in a heavy period frame with modern retainers holding the work in place. ($10,500)
With its combination of supernatural and Shakespearean subject matter this has become one of Fuseli’s best known images through Robert Thew’s stipple engraving which was published in 1796 by the Boydells - the original painting was for the Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery. This copy in oils conforms broadly with Thew’s image though differing in matters of detail such as the angle of Hamlet’s head, the length of Horatio’s hair etc. Fuseli’s original (and larger) painting disappeared from view after it was sold from William Earle’s Liverpool collection at auction in 1839. One other reduced copy is known through Gert Schiff’s Catalogue of Fuseli’s works. A striking work of art that illustrates a thrilling moment in Shakespeare’s play as the ghost of Hamlet’s father beckons his son away to tell the story of his murder at the hands of his uncle Claudius - even as Hamlet’s friend Horatio attempts to restrain the anguished young Prince. The current location of Fuseli’s original is unknown.
An original and eccentric artists of the 18th century, the Swiss-born Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) spent most of his career in London, where he courted notoriety with his most famous painting The Nightmare and other sensational images inspired by literature and his own imagination. His depiction of women is the subject of a new exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London which will in due course move on to the Kunsthaus Zurich.