Henry Tresham artist, dealer in art and antiquities and well-known connoisseur studied art at the Dublin Society of Artists, winning a prize in 1773. He moved briefly to London where he met John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor, an early English patron, and in 1775 traveled to Rome with him where he settled for the next fourteen years. In Rome he was involved with the artists of the classical revival movement, including Fuseli, painted large classical history pictures and issued a folio of aquatints. John Boydell commissioned him to paint a picture for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, a project to encourage British history painting by commissioning the best British artists to paint illustrations to Shakespeare. The project was to include an exhibition hall in Pall Mall where the paintings and prints could be viewed. A large nine-volume illustrated edition of the works of Shakespeare was also to be available for subscription, along with a separate two-volume set of 100 imperial folio prints. Tresham returned to London in 1789 and his reputation was so great that he exhibited at the Royal Academy that same year and was appointed as an Associate in 1791, later becoming a full member and professor of painting. By the time the Shakespeare project was completed, Tresham had three paintings from Anthony and Cleopatra in the Gallery. The painting illustrating Act IV, scene iv was engraved for the two-volume Collection of Prints...Illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare the first part of which was published in 1791 and the last in 1805.

E.B.Bentley has pointed out that "Tresham seems to have arranged his figures deliberately so that the bodies of Anthony and Cleopatra form the sides of the letter 'A', while Cleopatra's arm serves as the cross-bar of the 'A'. The curve started by Charmian's upraised arms joins with the curve formed by Cleopatra's body and finished with Eros' left arm marking a letter 'C'."

Item No. 52
Henry Tresham

Anthony and Cleopatra

Painting of William Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra
illustrating Act IV, scene iv.