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“A Witch Sailing to Aleppo”. Mezzotint in blackish-brown after John James Halls. 60.8 x 45.7 cm. (1807). Whitman 748. Watermark: dovecot and countermark.
This enigmatic print illustrates the third scene of the first act of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Its author, the English reproductive engraver Charles Turner, was trained at the Royal Academy in London and was an extremely prolific artist. His oeuvre consists for the most part of portraits after designs by famous contemporary artists such as Lawrence, Reynolds and Hoppner. Turner was familiar with a wide range of different techniques, such as mezzotint, stipple engraving and aquatint, and was a consummate technical craftsman.
The present scene from Macbeth goes back to a painting by the history and portrait painter, John James Halls, who from 1791 onwards successfully displayed his historical scenes devoted to Shakespeare, Homer, Sophocles and other ancient authors at the Royal Academy exhibitions. The painting must have attracted considerable attention at the time and Turner’s reproductive engraving takes due account of this. The artist has depicted the episode from Macbeth in a striking and vivid manner with great economy of means. The glowering witch looks at the viewer with a piercing gaze. The wind and the waves appear unable to damage the cockleshell in which she sits. The formal stylisation and ghostly expressiveness point to the formative example of Johann Heinrich Füßli. A superb, velvety trial proof with margins, before letters and the title. Inscribed by the artist in pencil. Minor soiling and slight foxing in the margins, minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. Rare.