John Cawse Interior Painting - Falstaff and Prince Hal
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John Cawse
Falstaff and Prince Hal

1819-1820

About

John Cawse’s striking painting from 1819 or 1820 presents an episode from William Shakespeare’s most nationalistic work, the history play Henry IV, Part I (Act II, Scene iv). This scene shows one of the numerous interactions between Prince Hal (who later became Henry V from 1413 to 1422), son of Henry IV (king of England from 1399 to 1413), and his disreputable associate Sir John Falstaff. The relationship between Prince Hal and Falstaff is curious and complex. It certainly causes the king considerable distress because he feels that the bawdy and manipulative Falstaff is a bad influence on his son. Although Prince Hal is a brave young man (as Henry V his victory over France at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 made England the strongest kingdom in Europe), he also has a fondness for drink, gaiety and high spirits. In this scene Falstaff, who frequently is engaged in some sort of roguish activity, has organized a band of hooligans to rob a band of travellers at Gadshill. Prince Hal and his companion Poins get wind of this. They disguise themselves and lead the robbers on a merry chase. That evening when Falstaff recounts the story at the Boar’s Head Tavern, he exaggerates, insisting he was pursued - not by two - but by a hundred men. When Prince Hal declares that it was Poins and himself in pursuit, it is typical of Falstaff’s undauntable character that he is amused rather than embarrassed by this public revelation of his own exaggeration. Cawse captures the atmosphere of merriment of Falstaff, Prince Hal, Poins and their friends at the Boar’s Head. The comical Falstaff, a good-natured rogue who always is ready for a riotous good time, is seated in a large chair. He is brandishing his sword and shield while he relates the story of his battle with “a hundred” thieves to Poins and Prince Hal who stands by the window. Falstaff’s partners in crime stand behind him, listening in amazement as their leader shamelessly embellishes his tale.. The rogue closest to Falstaff even thumbs his nose in contempt. “The shallow space and light source from the left are standard element’s in Cawse’s depictions of Falstaff, and suggest the tradition of Hogarth, whose published engravings of Falstaff examining recruits is similarly constructed. The central figures of Prince Hal and Poins are consistent with the tradition of eighteenth-century book illustration derived from the style of French rococo... Their elegant costumes resemble the traditional ‘masque’ type used in the theatre during this period.” The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. has two of Cawse’s scenes of Falstaff in its collection. There is a third in the Yale Center of British Art in New Haven. One of the Folger Shakespeare Library scenes is a second version of “Falstaff and Prince Hal.” In this painting, however, the composition is reversed with the Prince and Poins at the right. The other two paintings picture Falstaff enlisting his recruits in Act III, Scene ii of Henry IV, Part II. Cawse repeats several of the stock comic figures and bits of still life - such as armour - in these versions.

Details

  • Artist
    John Cawse (1779 - 1862, English)
  • Creation Year
    1819-1820
  • Medium
  • Dimensions
    H 27 in. x W 32.5 in.H 68.58 cm x W 82.55 cm
  • Gallery Location
    New Orleans, LA
  • Reference Number
    LU56711985313
  • More Editions & Sizes
    Framed size 36" x 41.5"Price: $45,000
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