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Painting - David Garrick as Don John in <i>The Chances</i> by John Fletcher, adapted by George Villiers
  • David Garrick as Don John in The Chances by John Fletcher, adapted by George Villiers
    Loutherbourg, Philip James de, born 1740 - died 1812
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David Garrick as Don John in The Chances by John Fletcher, adapted by George Villiers

  • Object:


  • Date:

    1774 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Loutherbourg, Philip James de, born 1740 - died 1812 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage


1774 (made)


Loutherbourg, Philip James de, born 1740 - died 1812 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on panel


Height: 46 cm estimate, Width: 68.6 cm estimate, Height: 78 cm frame, Width: 56 cm frame, Depth: 3.5 cm frame

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 1869
The Reverend Alexander Dyce :
South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Dyce and Forster Collections. With Engravings and Facsimiles. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly, London. 1880. Chapter I. Biographical Sketch of Mr. Dyce. pp.1-12, including 'Portrait of Mr. Dyce' illustrated opposite p.1.

Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, South Kensington Museum.A Catalogue of the Paintings, Miniatures, Drawings... Bequeathed by The Reverend Alexander Dyce. London, 1874. A 'Note' on page v comments, 'This catalogue refers to the Art portion of the Collection bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum by the Reverend Alexander Dyce, the well-known Shakespearian scholar, who died May 15, 1869'. The Catalogue. Paintings, Miniatures, &c. by Samuel Redgrave notes of the 'Oil Paintings', 'The strength of Mr. Dyce's valuable bequest to Department of Science and Art does not lie in [this] portion ... which is in its nature of a very miscellaneous character. The collection was made apparently as objects offered themselves, and without any special design.' Dyce's main interest was in literary subjects, and this is reflected in many of the paintings he bequeathed to the V&A.

Historical significance: Philippe Jacques De Loutherbourg (1740-1812) landscape painter and theatrical scene designer, was born in Strasbourg, Alsace. He was the son of a miniaturist and engraver to the court of Darmstadt. He studied at the University of Strasbourg with a view to becoming an engineer, but his interest in drawing led to him undertaking formal artistic training with Carle Van Loo. He also studied engraving and exhibited his first paintings at the Paris Salon in 1763; he was noted by Diderot for his ability to depict space and atmosphere. He was a great success in Paris, but personal unhappiness probably spurred him to leave to go on the grand tour in 1768, visiting southern France, and on to the Rhineland rather than the usual Italian cities, (he is supposed to have visited Switzerland at this time, but see catalogue entry for 1028-1886),. He then travelled on to London in 1771, with a letter of introduction from Jean Monnet, the former manager of the Opéra Comique, and friend of the famous actor David Garrick; Garrick in turn was patron to a number of London painters. At first he stayed with a colleague of Garrick's, and soon after his arrival, de Loutherbourg suggested to Garrick major changes to the scenery arrangements at Drury Lane Theatre. Garrick was impressed and employed de Loutherbourg to take on all such arrangements. Thereafter de Loutherbourg's career was significantly devoted to often pioneering theatrical design, including lighting effects. At the same time he continued to work as an easel painter, and in 1781 he was elected a member of the Royal Academy. Following his election he concentrated to a greater extent on his easel painting, taking tours of the British countryside. During the 1790s, recognising the currency of Britain's naval prowess, he painted a number of paintings which celebrated this aspect of national life. At the turn of the century collections of engravings after his paintings of British scenery were published; The Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain (1801) and The Romantic and Picturesque Scenery of England and Wales (1805). Along with other notable artists he also contributed to Thomas Macklin's Bible (1800) and to Robert Bowyer's History of England (1812), published the year he died.

N. B. related watercolour in the V&A, Garrick as Don Juan (museum number P.46-1935).

Descriptive line

Painting entitiled "David Garrick as Don John in 'The Chances' by John Fletcher, adapted by George Villiers.", by Philip James de Loutherbourg, 1774.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ashton, Geoffrey. Catalogue of Paintings at the Theatre Museum, London. ed. James Fowler, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992. 224p. ill. ISBN 1851771026
Cogeval, Guy & Avanzi, Beatrice (Eds.), De la Scene au Tableau, Paris : Flammarion, 2009
no. 1004
Royal Academy of Arts Bicentenary Exhibition, 1768-1968, London : Royal Academy of Arts, 1968
Mackintosh, Iain et al., The Georgian Playhouse : actors, artists, audiences and architecture, 1730-1830, London : Arts Council of Great Britain, 1975

Labels and date

From 'Painting the Theatre: Garrick in Action', exhibition at The Bowes Museum, 8 April — 9 July 2017.1
Exhibition catalogue edited by Véronique Gerard Powell

In 1771, Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, a successful Parisian artist, left the French capital for London. He was fleeing from his wife and the scandals their dissolute life had caused. With the help of the pyrotechnician Giovanni Battista Torré, he managed to impress Garrick with some scenery projects. Garrick had discovered the French methods of lighting and scenery painting during his trip to Paris in 1863-4 and was keen to adopt these practices in Drury Lane. Loutherbourg, with no previous experience of scenography, anxious to hide his past and to secure a long term job, deployed all his talents to successfully create the most ‘enchanting’ sets and effects for Garrick’s Christmas Tale in 1773. Hired as chief scene designer at Drury Lane Theatre with an annual salary of £500, he developed a broader use of successive background painted scenes as well as sound and
light effects.
Despite not yet being fully part of the staff, Loutherbourg certainly worked on the scenery of Garrick’s 1773 production –‘with great Alterations by Mr G.’ of John Fletcher’s The Chances. A successful play by the Jacobean playwriter John Fletcher (1579-1625) this situation comedy revolves around two Spanish gentlemen, John and Frederick, embroiled in an Italian family feud concerning a feminine beauty and a mysterious baby. Always keen to stage famous old plays, Garrick had first produced The Chances in 1754, playing the part of Don Juan. One of the many alterations that he made in 1773 was to set up the action not in Bologna but in Naples. Rather than depicting an action, Loutherbourg illustrates here Juan’s monologue on the consequences of his curiosity: ‘What I have got by this now? What’s the purchase? /A piece of evening arras-work, a child/ Indeed an infidel! this comes out of peeping!’. With his short and stout stature, Garrick is easily recognisable.
The first aim of this picture is to celebrate the scenery, as reflected in its title for the 1774 Exhibition at the Royal Academy : Mr. Garrick in the character of Don John, with a view of Naples by moon-light. Garrick, who had visited Naples in 1764, is indeed playing in front of the famous bay, with the Castell del’Ovo and typical felucas in the background. This scenery, completed on the left by another drop scene with a palazzo, goes further than a topographical setting by incorporating descriptive elements given by the playwright: ‘It is not so far night as I thought; for, see, /A fair house yet stands open [...]’. Garrick, holding the baby wrapped in a red blanket, stands out in the warm light of the door lantern that gives him a long shadow. His costume is in harmony with the colours of the moonlit twilight. This painting is a precious testimony of how Loutherbourg used a pictorial approach to reinforce theatrical illusion. []


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting


Paintings; Portraits


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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