Oil sketch of a scene from Hamlet
Thought to have belonged to one of Benjamin West's sons. Bought by William Chubb in 2008 from whom purchased by the Works of Art Committee in 2018.
This oil sketch takes place in the Palace at Elsinore, and depicts Act IV, Scene V, from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Ophelia is before King Claudius and Queen Gertrude, who realise from Ophelia’s ravings, that she has gone mad from the death of her father (Polonius). Ophelia holds in her right hand, what appears to be a small posy of flowers, which suggests that Ophelia has just said her flower speech which begins with the lines: There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts. Laertes arm and gaze is raised upwards as he exclaims: Do you see this, O God?
John Boydell( 1720-1804) was a publisher who wanted to foster a school of British history painting. He contrived of a scheme to ask British painters both established and new to paint a scene from Shakespeare. He displayed them in a suite of galleries in Pall Mall which members of the public paid to view, and once inside could purchase the prints of the paintings, either in a portfolio, or within a luxurious edition of the plays. The venture was a commercial failure due to long production times and poor quality reproductions. The paintings were sold off in 1805. The finished picture of this is a sketch is now in the Cincinnati Art Museum.