H&W Brochure - page 16-17

Robert Farren; [Aristophanes]. The Birds of
Aristophanes. A Series of Etchings to Illustrate
the “Birds” of Aristophanes, as Represented at
Cambridge by Members of the University, Nov.
27 to Dec. 1, 1883.
Cambridge: Macmillan and
Bowes, 1884. Oblong portfolio, original wrappers.
Twelve full-page etched plates, including pictorial
title page. Wrappers lightly soiled and worn. With:
six original pencil sketches by Farren. $1800.
First edition of this portfolio of etchings by
Robert Farren documenting the 1883 Cambridge
Greek Play,
The Birds ofAristophanes
, accompanied
by six preliminary pencil sketches for the plates.
Acted in the original Greek,
The Birds
was billed
as the first Greek comedy to be produced in its
entirety since antiquity. The cast of university
students featured a young M.R. James, who
would later achieve literary fame with
Stories of anAntiquary
, in the lead role of
Peithetairus, who convinces the birds to form
the ideal commonwealth of Cloudcuckooland.
Robert Farren began his career as a Cambridge
photographer, but is best remembered for his
paintings and etchings. He published a series of
portfolios in small editions, many of them visual
records of the Cambridge Greek Plays. His
etchings for
The Birds
document one of the most
spectacular of those university performances:
“The most arresting aspect of the production
was the birds’ beautifully executed costumes:
canvas wings, painted with the actual markings
and attached to the chiton, could be extended
at will; and elaborate headdresses with beaks
protruding from foreheads were fashioned
from bird-plumage” (Hall andWrigley). The
six preliminary pencil sketches show Farren
working out compositional elements in five
of the final plates. A compelling firsthand
document of a lively moment in Greek and
English theater history.
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