Atelier stamp "Bida" at lower left (Lugt 5632).
In 1880, the publishing house Hachette decided to produce a third edition of its popular illustrated "Works of William Shakespeare." Bida was commissioned to design the illustrations, having successfully illuminated the Bible and the works of Moliére. The five chalk drawings in the Morgan's collection were preliminary studies that served as the basis for a set of watercolors. Forty watercolors related to the project were sold with Bida's estate in 1896 and are now in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.
In this episode from "Timon of Athens" (IV, 3), Bida depicts Timon, a wealthy Athenian lord who has renounced society and fled to the wilderness, encountering Alcibiades, the captain of a military brigade and an old friend of Timon, as well as two prostitutes, Phrynia and Timandra. Though Alcibiades claims to recognize Timon despite his unkempt appearance and ragged clothing, Timon insists that his name is Misanthropos. Bida depicts Timon distributing gold, which he discovered while digging for roots, to Phrynia and Timandra. In exchange for the gold, he asks that the two women spread venereal disease among the men of Athens. Timon also gives gold to Alcibiades, who plans to sack Athens. He urges Alcibiades to kill everyone in the city, including women, children, and priests.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Timon of Athens.