William Smith, Elizabeth Hopkins
Oil on canvas
Hamlet : Hamlet
Gertrude : Hamlet
height (frame): 135cm
width (frame): 108cm
Thomas Harris; Harris sale, Robins 12 July 1819 (56) ("A scene in Hamlet, with Hamlet, the Queen and the Ghost, painted in the costume of the day"); Charles Mathews
Mathews 126 (Barry as Hamlet, Mrs Barry as the Queen. Artist unknown)
RW 439 (Barry as Hamlet, Mrs Elmy as the Queen)
CKA 439 (Spranger Barry as Hamlet and his wife as the Queen)
1833 London, Queen's Bazaar, Oxford Street, "Mr Mathews's Gallery of Theatrical Portraits" (126)
1947 London, Arts Council, National Book League, "A History of Shakespeare Production" (31)
1951 London, Tate Gallery, "Pictures from the Garrick Club" (34)
Fitzgerald p. 165 (as by Zoffany)
Gertrude stands on the left. On her pile of powdered hair is a gold cap with loops of pearls, and a white drapery with horizontal gold bands, innumerable white plumes, and a single black plume - perhaps a reminder of Hamlet's father, her dead first husband. She wears gold slippers and a very elaborate full-panniered dress with a blue skirt with horizontal bands of gold fringe. The blue velvet overskirt is edged in ermine with a blue and gold fringe. The narrow bodice has a blue and gold band round the waist, and a blue and gold band from the left shoulder supports a gauze bag. The white sleeves are heavily embroidered in gold and have blue bands and lace cuffs. Hamlet, gesturing dramatically to the invisible ghost, is dressed in his mourning black, with his left stocking undone at the knee.
One of the two carved and gilt chairs, upholstered in red with a floral design, is overturned, showing that Betterton's stage business was still being followed in the late 1770s. (The overturned chair is shown in the illustration to the closet scene in the Rowe edition of Shakespeare of 1709, in which Betterton is depicted as Hamlet.) The miniatures of Hamlet's father and Claudius, called for earlier in the text, are on the floor. To the right hang red curtains with a red and gold fringe.
William Smith played Hamlet in London for the first time at Covent Garden on 2 January 1769, with Mrs Ward as Gertrude. When Smith moved to Drury Lane in 1774-75 he acted Hamlet on 4 October 1774, with Mrs Hopkins as Gertrude. At Drury Lane Hamlet was usually Garrick's role until his last performance of the play on 30 May 1776, but Smith again played the part with Mrs Hopkins as Gertrude on 3 October 1775. After Garrick's retirement, Smith acted Hamlet on 23 October and 30 December 1776 and 1 January 1777, each time with Mrs Hopkins as Gertrude. On 3 February 1777 he was replaced by John Henderson as the Drury Lane Hamlet.
The picture has been called Spranger Barry and Mrs Barry (or Mrs Elmy) in “Hamlet”, but Barry did not play Hamlet in the late 1770s, nor did his wife play Gertrude. Stylistically Roberts's picture is similar in date to his portrait of Jane Pope as Mrs Page (G0685), which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1778.