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Robert Edge Pine (1730 - 1788)

Death mask of David Garrick

1779, published

Mezzotint, ink on laid paper

Museum number: P160

Curatorial note

The early inventories (1837) of the Museum described this as a print showing 'David Garrick, in the character of Cardinal Wolsey (head only), 1779'. It is in fact a striking image of the celebrated actor's death mask against a black background and, as the entry for this print on the V&A website notes, 'vividly 'brought to life' by the rendering of the actor's famously expressive eyes'. The V&A catalogue provides a masterly description of this print as 'one of the most enigmatic and startling of all eighteenth-century prints, remarkable both technically and for its highly 'modern' feeling of engagement'. It is the feeling of 'character' that must have led to the misinterpretation, at least in Soane's mind, of this as a depiction of Garrick actually performing on stage. Garrick (1717-79) was celebrated for his comparatively naturalistic performances in Shakespearean roles.

Garrick died while Soane was on his Grand tour in Italy. After three days of public mourning at his house in the Adelphi (there are drawings for the house by Robert Adam in Soane's collection) for which 1800 admission tickets were issued and which was attended by the King and Queen, his funeral in January 1779 was one of the largest held in London before that of Nelson in 1805. (see article by Dr Anjna Chouhan, Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust http://findingshakespeare.co.uk/upon-anniversary-david-garricks-death-20th-january-1779).

This very rare print is thought to be by Robert Edge Pine (1730-1788), who worked mainly in Bath, and to be based on his own drawing of Garrick's death-mask. The death mask survives in the collection of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. There is also at least one surviving life-mask of the actor, at Smallhythe House, Kent (National Trust).

Soane was a great admirer of Garrick acquiring several items for his collection that had belonged to him, most notably, the four great paintings of Hogarth's An Election that came from the sale of the effects of Garrick's widow, Eva Maria Veigel (1724-1822).


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk