Sir John Falstaff Examining The Recruits
Provided For Him By Justice Shallow
By Ball Hughes, 1859
Courtesy of Frederick R. Brown III
"Sir John Falstaff Examining The Recruits
Provided For Him By Justice Shallow"--
Painted by John Gilbert. --From the Exhibition of the British Institution
Signed: John Gilbert, 1858
As it appeared in the Illustrated London News, February 12, 1859, p. 153
Courtesy of John Weedy
Compare Ball Hughes poker sketch to John Gilbert's woodblock engraving of his painting above. Also compare to Gilbert's oil painting at Shakespeare Illustrated by Emory University.
"This Sketch (of Sir John Falstaff examining the Recruits provided for him by Justice Shallow' from a Picture by John Gilbert) was Burnt with a Poker.
Boston. Sept 1859.
Ball Hughes. Fecit."
The parenthesis may have been added later for clarity. Click on any image to view the original in more detail.
Closeup of additional text
The text above appears to say:
"? ? Exprefsly [expressly] to the order of B F Brown Esq.
With the honest ability of the Artist
B.H. Sept. 1. 1859"
Benjamin Franklin Brown, mentioned in the verso above, married Ball Hughes younger daughter, Augusta, in 1852 and was a successful Boston merchant.
Ball Hughes wife, Eliza, writes about Ball Hughes new-found art form, "Pokerisms" as she called them in the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes, pp. 35-37:
William Dana Orcutt records in Good Old Dorchester Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, UP, 1893, pp. 382-383:
This poker sketch has been in the Brown family for 150 years.
Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897) was a British artist who was known for the illustrations and woodcuts (woodblock engravings) that he produced for the Illustrated London News. He also produced illustrations for books, including Shakespeare's plays. Sir John Falstaff is a fictional comic character that appears in three plays by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The oil painting by Gilbert illustrates a scene in Henry IV, Part 2.
Ball Hughes probably copied a woodblock engraving of Gilbert's painting that appeared on page 153 of the Illustrated London News, Feb 12, 1859 (the same year as Ball Hughes poker sketch). The full page engraving was titled "Sir John Falstaff Examining the Recruits provided for him by Justice Shallow," the same title that Ball Hughes referenced. The Illustrated London News was the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper and no doubt was available in Boston. The history of the ILN and back issues are available on John Weedy's Illustrated London News website at http://www.iln.org.uk/.
The title of Gilbert's original oil painting, from the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, is actually "Sir John Falstaff Reviews His Ragged Regiment (1859)." An earlier oil painting from 1728 by William Hogarth (1697-1764) was titled "Falstaff Examining His Recruits." This was a popular scene for many illustrators and painters and Hogarth's title for it may have remained the popular title.
Many subjects of Ball Hughes poker sketches were literary characters. See also the Introduction to Shakespeare Illustrated, by Emory University, for information about the relationship between painters and poets.
last update 9/9/2012