- Museum number
- Object: The Garrick casket
Casket; mulberry wood (carved out of Shakespeare's mulberry tree); subjects in low relief on the sides; in front a naked figure seated on the shield of Stratford-upon-Avon holding the bust of Shakespeare towards the Three Graces; at one end a representation of Comedy, at the other Tragedy; on the back Garrick in the character of Lear in the storm scene; on top are the trophies of various kinds and a silver handle; the feet rest on silver dragons. Presented to the actor David Garrick with the Freedom of Stratford in 1769.
- Production date
Height: 14 centimetres
Length: 21.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- See also 1864,0816.1-8
For full discussion of the casket, see Helen R. Smith, 'David Garrick 1717-1779', exhibition catalogue, London British Library, 1979, pp. 24-30. See also H. Tait, 'Garrick, Shakespeare, and Wilkes', The British Museum Quarterly, vol. 24, No. 3/4 (Dec 1961), pp. 100-107.
Garrrick first visited Stratford in 1742 when he had seen the famous mulberry tree in the garden of Shakespeare's home, New Place. But by 1756, the constant stream of visitors admiring the tree proved so irrtiating to the owner of Shakespeare's home that he had the tree felled at dead of night. The logs were bought by an astute tradesman, Thomas Sharp, who had a series of relics made from the wood; the manufacture of these souvenirs lasted until Sharp's death in 1799. In 1759 New Place's owner, the Rev Francis Gastrell, pulled Shakespeare's old home down altogether. In 1768, the town council at Straford-uopn-Avon wished to rebuild its decayed town hall and wrote to Garrick asking if he would supply a painting of statue of Shakespeare for the new hall. To tempt him they offered the Freedom of the Borough contained in this mulberry casket, carved by Thomas Davies of Birmigham, who took four months to complete it. The presentation to Garrick took place in May 1769, and Garrick subsequently organised the three-day Jubilee event at Statford, to commemorate the death of Shakespeare, although the latter had died in 1616.
Thomas Davies advertised in the Birmingham Gazette of 4 September 1769 as the firm of 'Davis and Griffin, carvers in stone and wood, at their Shops in Warwick and Brimingham.' The advertisement includes a testimonial from Davies that he carved the mulberry wood box: 'On a recent occasion, Mr. Nott, of Stratford came to Birmingham, in order to enquire about the box I was then carving for the Corporation to be presented to Mr. Garrick'. (quoted in full in Tait 1961, above).
- On display (G46/dc22)
- Exhibition history
2003 Sep 16-Dec 07, Bath, Holburne Museum, Every Look Speaks: Portraits of David Garrick
- Many small areas of the carving now missing.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number