After residing in private hands for more than 230 years, "The Three Witches" by the notoriously eccentric Anglo-Swiss painter Henry Fuseli has been acquired by the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The unusual work, a stark depiction of the spooky trio that predict Macbeth's fate in Act 1, Scene 3, of Shakespeare's tragedy, will go on view to the public for the first time Saturday.
The Huntington is known for its collection of 18th century British paintings, but it did not yet have any from Fuseli, who achieved substantial fame during his lifetime.
Two other versions of "The Three Witches" are housed at the Kunsthaus Zurich, an art museum in Switzerland, and at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. The Huntington's painting appears to be a study made before those full-size, final versions.
The Huntington is particularly excited about the acquisition because it dovetails with the museum's collections of work by the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds and the poet Willam Blake, both of whom were close to, and influenced by, Fuseli.
The Huntington also has one of the world's finest collections of Shakespeare folios and quartos, so the subject matter of "The Three Witches" is an added bit of synchronicity.
A quote, most likely provided by Fuseli himself, is written on the reverse side of the painting and on its gilded frame. From Aeschylus' tragedy "The Eumenides," the quote reads: "These are women but I call the Gorgons."
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