- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 527 x 921 mm
- Purchased 1953
The picture illustrates a scene from Shakespeare's comedy, As You Like It (1599) in Act I, Sc.vi. It depicts the moment when Orlando throws Charles, the Duke's wrestler, to the ground, watched by Duke Frederick, Rosalind and Celia.
The painting is based on a drawing made by Hayman for a six-volume quarto edition of Shakespeare's works published in 1743-4 by Sir Thomas Hanmer (1677-1746). Hayman's drawing closely resembles the present picture, although the latter's format is horizontal rather than vertical. In making his drawing, Hayman was given the following instruction by Hanmer: 'The Wrestling before the Duke, Lords, Attendants, Celia and Rosalind. Orlando a handsome young man well proportioned for strength throws Charles, the Duke's champion. The attendants give a shout of applause, but the two ladies show greater joy than all the rest. Their figures must be set off to all possible advantage as young beautifull [sic] and of the highest rank' (Allen, p.153). The Frenchman, Hubert Gravelot (1699-1773), who also influenced the bright palette and light rococo style of the present picture, engraved Hayman's drawing for Hanmer's edition.
The horizontal format of the picture is similar to that of the large narrative scenes that Hayman painted around this time to decorate the 'supper-boxes', or dining booths, at Vauxhall Gardens. This picture, which is too small to have served such a purpose may, however, have been produced as a demonstration piece, quite probably made for Jonathan Tyers (d. 1767), the proprietor of Vauxhall. At this time Hayman painted a number of other scenes from Shakespeare for Vauxhall, including four large pictures for the Prince of Wales's Pavilion in 1745, none of which have survived.
In the early 1740s there was no established tradition in England of painting scenes from the theatre, the genre being pioneered by Hayman and William Hogarth (1697-1764), whose Shakespearean pictures were inspired by actual stage performances rather than textual readings. Hayman, like Hogarth, had close ties with the London theatre, having worked in early life as a scene painter at the Goodman's Fields and Drury Lane theatres. He remained a keen student of the theatre and by the early 1740s was a close friend of the actor David Garrick (1717-79). Hayman may even have taken part in staged performances of Shakespeare, a 'Mr. Hayman' being recorded as playing the role of Silvius in a performance of As You Like It at Covent Garden on at least three separate occasions between 1744 and 1746 (Allen, p.114).
Brian Allen, Francis Hayman, New Haven and London, 1987, pp.16, 114, 151-5, no.37, plate VII (colour)
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth. British Painters born 1675-1709, Tate, 1988, p.43,plate (colour)
N06206 The Wrestling Scene from ‘As You Like It’ c. 1740–2
Oil on canvas 527×921 (20 3/4×36 1/4)
Purchased (Cleve Fund) 1953
PROVENANCE ...; possibly ‘Scene from As You Like It’ in sale of Jonathan Tyers Jnr, Christie's 28 April 1830 (28) bt Gilmore; ...;? anon.sale, Christie's 1911; ...; [Sir Alec Martin], sold Christie's 19 November 1948 (131 as de Troy) bt Jameson; ...; Dr Brian Rhodes of Yorkshire, sold Christie's 28 July 1950 (173 as de Troy) bt in; offered again at Christie's 18 December 1953 (77 as Hayman) bt Agnew for the Tate Gallery
EXHIBITED Francis Hayman RA, Kenwood and University Art Gallery, Nottingham 1960 (16);
Shakespeare in Art, AC, St James's Square 1964 (12); Francis Hayman, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, and Kenwood 1987 (37, col. pl.VII)
LITERATURE Gowing 1953, p.16, repr.; Waterhouse 1953, pp.146–7, pl.119, 1978, p.197, fig.156; H.A. Hammelmann, ‘The Art of Francis Hayman’, Country Life, 14 October 1954, pp.1258–9; East Anglian Daily Times, 24 June 1954, repr.; H.A. Hammelmann, ‘Shakespeare Illustration: The Earliest Known Originals’, Connoisseur, CXLI, 1958, pp.148–9, fig.14;M.Merchant, ‘Francis Hayman's Illustration of Shakespeare’, Shakespeare Quarterly, IX, no.2, 1958, pp.142–7; M.Merchant, Shakespeare and the Artist, 1959, p.47; Allen 1984, p.57, no.115a, pl.18; Allen 1987, pp.16, 114, pl.VII (col.)
The subject is taken from Shakespeare's As You Like It, Act I, Sc. vi, showing the moment when Charles, the Duke's wrestler, has been thrown to the ground by Orlando, while Rosalind and Celia, Duke Frederick and others look on. The composition is related to Hayman's frontispiece (fig.11) to vol.II of the six-volume Hanmer edition of Shakespeare published in 1743–4, which shows a very similar group in reverse, but fitted into an upright design (Hammelmann 1954, fig.4; pen and wash drawing, 216×146 (8 1/2×5 3/4) in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., repr. Allen 1987, fig.82a). It is known that Hayman worked on the Hanmer designs c.1740–1, and that Tyers, the manager of Vauxhall Gardens, admired his Shakespearean subjects enough to commission from him, sometime shortly before 1745, four scenes from Shakespeare to decorate the Prince of Wales's Pavilion at Vauxhall. As You Like It
was not among them, but the long, horizontal proportions of this small canvas reflect the format of Hayman's other Vauxhall decorations (e.g. ‘The See-Saw’, T00524) and could represent a sample design by Hayman to show Tyers what he could do in this line.
Although the provenance is not certain, Jonathan Tyers Jnr's sale in 1830 included, as lot 28, ‘A Scene from the Tempest and one from As You Like It’, and their combined low price of £2 17s suggests that both pictures were small. Hayman may have had a special affection for the play, for it has been suggested that the ‘Mr. Hayman’ who played Silvius in As You Like It at Covent Garden on three occasions between 1744 and 1746 was none other than the painter himself (on 2 November 1744, 24 September 1745, and 19 December 1746; see A.H. Scouten, The London Stage 1660–1800. Part 3: 1729–1747, 1961, pp.1127, 1182, 1273). By all accounts an outgoing and sociable personality, Hayman had close ties with the London theatre world, dating back to his early career as a scene painter at Drury Lane. On 5 February 1742 he was elected a member of the exclusive Covent Garden-based Beef Steak Club, whose members were mostly either professionally connected with the theatre, or keen amateur actors from distinguished walks of life (see W. Arnold, The Life and Death of the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks, 1871).
Barring Hogarth, the canvas is one of the earliest painted illustrations of Shakespeare. It is also - as its earlier mis-attribution to Jean-François de Troy (1679–1752) testifies - one of the most graceful English interpretations of the French Rococo style which Hayman readily absorbed from the French master-illustrator Hubert Gravelot (1669–1773, in England 1732/3–45), with whom he collaborated extensively.
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988
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