This is one of two objects in the collection which relate to the portrait of William Shakespeare that Brown was commissioned to paint by the Dickinson Brothers in 1849. The finished painting is now in Manchester Art Gallery. In November he records in his diary: 'began the Portrait of Shakespear for the Dickinsons. Painted a scetch of it, made a drawing of the head, and a study from Mr Barker for it. Drew a cartoon of it, had the Dress made up' (Virginia Surtees, ed., 'The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p. 69). As he later explained the portrait was 'carefully collated from different known portraits, and more than any other from the bust at Stratford. This picture is an attempt to supply the want of credible likeness of our national poet, as a historian recasts some tale, told long since by chroniclers in many fragments' (The Exhibition of Work and other Paintings by Ford Madox Brown, 1865, p. 6)By Spring 1850 Brown had finished the work and was asked to design this invitation card to view the portrait at the Dickinsons' gallery on New Bond Street, London. Brown resentfully noted in his diary: 'I was paid 60s guineas [for the painting] ... afterwards I designed a card for Dickinson exhibition of Shakespear on which I worked several days for no remuneration' ('The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p.72).Although the composition of the portrait and the invitation card are similar, in the invitation Shakespeare's right hand rests on a table next to the masks of Comedy and Tragedy, rather a writing desk with books, and is enclosed in a gothic border. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford holds a sketch for the invitation which includes both the border and the gothic writing found on the final card. LM

  • Purchased and presented by subscribers, 1906.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist Ford Madox Brown -


Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
ADMIT / TO VIEW / the Picture, / By / FORD MADOX BROWN, ESQ. / On view at the / Gallerries of Art, / Messers Dickinson & Co / 114, / New Bond Street
Inscription - Engraved 1850


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
The Diary of Ford Madox Brown
Virginia Surtees 1985 Yale University Press, New Haven and London, on behalf of the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art p. 72
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Laura MacCulloch, Tessa Sidey 2008 D. Giles Limited, London p. 69

Associated people

Name Type
William Shakespeare Associated with

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