Art in the Board Room

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This article provides a list of the paintings that can be found in the Board Room at the Folger. For more information about paintings at the Folger Shakespeare Library, please consult the article List of paintings at the Folger in the Pressly Catalogue, which details each painting in the collection.

Folger Board Room paintings

Artist Title Date Medium Description Size Image
Richard Westall (1766–1836) Volumnia Pleading with Coriolanus ca. 1800 Oil on canvas Based on John Philip Kemble’s production of Coriolanus, this idealized painting shows Coriolanus seated as his mother begs him to make peace with Rome (not standing, as he is in Shakespeare’s original text). 76.5 x 64.3 cm
After Paul van Somer (ca. 1577–1622) Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton after 1620 Oil on canvas Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Elizabeth Vernon had been a maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth I, but fell from favor when her pregnancy and subsequent secret marriage to Henry Wriothesley was discovered. This is the only known version of the countess’s portrait which was designed to be hung as a pair with her husband’s portrait, now located directly opposite her. In other portraits of the countess, she is seated in a green chair, but in order to match this portrait of the earl, she is standing, with a red chair beside her. 114.4 x 91.5 cm
Thomas Sully (1783–1872) Portia and Shylock 1835 Oil on canvas Sully painted this scene from The Merchant of Venice for Edward L. Carey, Philadelphia publisher and later president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 96.5 x 73.6 cm
Francesco Zuccarelli (1702–1788) Macbeth Meeting the Witches 1760 Oil on panel Evidence recently come to light reveals that this painting was commissioned by Sir William Hamilton, who was forced to sell it and the rest of his first collection soon afterwards, to pay off his debts. Zuccarelli shows a lush, stormy landscape reminiscent of 17th-century Italianate paintings, not the barren heath in Shakespeare’s text. Despite the un-Scottish setting, this is the first known painting to show the characters in actual Highland costume. 81.7 x 142.5 cm
Benjamin West (1738–1820) King Lear and Cordelia 1793 Oil on canvas West exhibited this Lear and Cordelia at the Royal Academy in 1794, paired with The Grecian Daughter, another small, energetic theater-scene of a daughter coming to her father’s aid. 48.1 x 59.9 cm
After Daniel Mytens (ca. 1590–1647) Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton after 1620 Oil on canvas Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Shakespeare dedicated his poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece to Henry Wriothesley. On 7 February 1601, Wriothesly had Shakespeare’s company perform Richard II, signalling Essex’s rebellion the next day. 114.3 x 91.5 cm

The following images display some of these paintings in context in the Board Room.