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to the Ball Hughes Salon No. 23

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Portrait of Falstaff
By Ball Hughes, Boston, 1866

Poker work on wood panel,
approx. 10 in. wide by 12 in. tall (unframed)
Probably after an engraving (see inscription verso following)

Portrait of Falstaff, detail of the signature, verso
By Ball Hughes, Boston, 1866

Inscription on the back reads:
This Picture of Falstaff was
burnt with a red hot Poker from
an exceedinly [sic] rare, and fine
old Etching.

Ball Hughes. Fecit.
Boston. 1866.

N.B. The Latin word Fecit following the artist's name
means made it and was a convention of that time.
It was used then the way today he might have written
made by Ball Hughes

The above poker art is a portrait interpretation of the Shakespearean character Falstaff. This work by Robert Ball Hughes, the famous 19th century sculptor, engraver, and pyrographer, was done only two years before his death, and is only one of three known works thus far that we have seen with this 1866 date. Although we know from his widow Eliza's journal that he was working up until the day of his death (in March of 1868), these are the latest ones of his life we have found. The link on Falstaff's name here is to a most interesting analysis of the Falstaff character. The model used for this portrait of the fictional character is unknown.

Ball Hughes is how the artist usually signed his name on most of his poker works, i.e., without his first name Robert, just as he did for this work on the verso. Likewise typical of the artist, and also true for this work, is that he signed the panel with his initials B. H. on the recto, in this case, lower left.

Unlike the 1859 panel "Falstaff Examining His Recruits" owned by David Brown (which had been known from previous documentation), the existence of this panel was unknown to the E-Museum before its appearance in 2012 thanks to the owner, artist and antiques dealer Jody Black of The Heirloom Hunter.

The artist Robert Ball Hughes was born January 19, 1804, in London, England, U.K., and died March 5, 1868, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

If you have any questions or any additional information to offer about this panel portrait of Falstaff, or other pyrographic works by Ball Hughes, please e-mail Jody Black and the E-Museum Curator.

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© 2012 Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.
22 March 2012. Last updated 25 March 2012.