Purcell, Richard (known as Charles Corbutt; active from c.1746; d.1766; Irish), after Reynolds, Joshua (1723-92; English)
David Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy (1760-61)
Mezzotint, c. 35.3 x 40.6 cm (plate size)
Presented by J.L.Grundy, by 1868
National Gallery of Victoria (p.178.11-1)

Reynolds’s witty portrait of the noted 18th-century actor and playwright (1717-79) is in the Waddesdon Manor collection.

The text below this print reads as follows: “Strive not Tragedy nor Comedy to Engross a Garrick, who to your Noblest Characters does Equal Honour.”

The image plays on the classical theme of Hercules at the Crossroads (also known as the Choice of Hercules, or Hercules between Virtue and Vice), frequently represented by Renaissance and Baroque artists (notably, Annibale Carracci, in a 1596 canvas now in the Capodimonte, Naples), and given musical treatment in a short oratorio by Handel, first performed in London in 1751, only a few years before this engraving was made.


NGV 1894, p.107 (V.Buvelot Gallery, 2nd bay, no.27); NGV 1905, p.120 (V.Buvelot Gallery, 2nd bay, no.15: Purcell after Reynolds) 

The NGV catalogue lists this print (with reproduction) as by “Unknown/ S.W.Reynolds & Cousins [after].” For another impression (National Portrait Gallery, London), see http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw149749/; and for Reynolds’s painting, see http://collection.waddesdon.org.uk/search.do?view=detail&page=1&id=41528&db=object

For Purcell/Corbutt, see Bénézit 11, p.472 (giving his dates as c.1736-66) and http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp11068/richard-purcell-charles-or-philip-corbutt

For the Hercules theme, see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules_at_the_crossroads (with links and references). Erwin Panofsky explored the iconography in a famous study of 1930: Hercules am Scheidewege (Studien de Bibliothek Warburg 18)