John Wootton. Macbeth and Banquo Meeting the Weird Sisters, 1750.

Oil on canvas, 60 x 57.5 inches. Private collection, Durham County, England.

The scene illustrates Act I, scene iii of Macbeth when Macbeth and Banquo meet the three witches and hear the three prophecies. Like most painters of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including Constable and Turner, the human subjects are set against a grand landscape that predominates the canvas. Behind the tartan-clad figures are their horses, and behind them in the middle distance is the army of Macbeth arrayed in battle rank. "Wootton's representation of this Shakespearean subject," Michael Bellamy says, "employs the so-called Poussin size of figures and this format remained popular throughout the period 1750-1830" (46). In the later nineteenth century the focus in paintings on Shakespearean subjects shifted to emphasize character, expression and the meaning of the text. Wootton's work is only superficially interested in his subject and the main effect is achieved by the landscape and the lowering sky.