Each of the actors portrayed on these caddies was a member of the Drury Lane acting company and theatre, and worked with David Garrick (1717-1779). Garrick was a renowned actor during his lifetime, promoting realistic acting over the bombastic style that had become entrenched in Georgian theatre. Through managing the theatre, he also brought a consistency to set design, costume and special effects. Garrick was also a producer and playwright, adapting plays from the Restoration era.
The theatrical scenes are taken from Richard Sawyer and John Smith's, Dramatic Characters of Different Portraits from the English Stage, which was published in London in 1770. An enlarged edition was published three years later. The cooper-plate engravings which illustrate the text were executed by Louis Fesch (1738-1777). The engravings themselves are after theatrical portraits thought to have been in the collection of the Duchess of Northumberland.
The present pair of caddies is an addition to the very small group of similar caddies. One pair is in the Thyssen Bornemisza collection and illustrated in H. Müller, The Thyssen Bornemisza Collection, European Silver, London, 1986, no. 14, pp. 68-73. The pair share three scenes with the present lot. Another caddy is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Museum no. S.185-1981), which was sold Sotheby's, London, 23 April 1981, lot 156. A further caddy was sold Christie's, London, 27 November 1985, lot 152. The collection of the Folger Museum, Washington, U.S.A. also includes an example. A related set of three caddies in their similarly decorated shagreen box is in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, illustrated in H. Müller, op. cit., p. 73, figs 8 and 9.
The First Tea Caddy:
'Mr Garrick and Mrs Cibber in Romeo'
Mrs Susanna Cibber (1714-1766) was a celebrated actress of her time, especially in the more tragic Shakespearean roles. Upon her death, Garrick proclaimed, 'tragedy is dead on one side,'
'Mrs Bellamy in Belinda'
George Ann Bellamy (1731?-1788) starred in a number of plays at Drury Lane and wrote a memoir entitled, 'An Apology for the Life of George Ann Bellamy', detailing her life and exploits.
'Mr and Mrs Barry in Venice Preserv'd'
'Venice Preserved', written by Thomas Otway, was a significant tragedy of the 1680s, revived by Garrick's company. Spranger Barry (bap. 1717-1777) was considered to be 'silver-tongued.' He married Anne, also an actress.
'Mr Foot in The Devil on Two Sticks'
'The Devil on Two Sticks' was adapted by Samuel Foote (bap. 1721-1777), who was considered one of the great satirists and mimics of his time, even taking on the much respected Garrick.
The second caddy:
'Mr Dibden in Mungo'
Charles Dibden (bap. 1745-1814) wrote the opera 'The Padlock'. He starred as the play's main character Mungo, and had to wear blackface. The play premiered at Drury Lane Theatre in 1768.
'Mr Moody as Cymon in Harn Invn [Harlequin's Invasion]'
'Harlequin's Invasion' was written by David Garrick in 1759 and was the only play in which he ventured into pantomime. Contrary to pantomime tradition, the characters in Garrick's play have spoken dialogue.
'Mr Garrick in the Dagger Scene Macbeth'
David Garrick (1717-1779) was best known for his Shakespearean roles. He was aware that his role as Macbeth would call upon all of his acting powers, especially in the dagger scene.
'Mr Garrick in Macbeth'
David Garrick (1717-1779) first acted as Macbeth in 1744, vowing to revive the play as it had originally been written by Shakespeare, replacing a different version of the play, written by William Davenant.