The star-crossed young lovers lie embraced in the crypt, where they have been discovered by a man holding a flaming torch. The horizontal lines of their bodies are in juxtaposition with the vertical columns and their light-coloured clothes contrast with the shadowy surroundings.
Romeo and Juliet by the English playwright William Shakespeare is one of the best known works of world literature – in which the young lovers from feuding Italian families marry in secret. Juliet drinks a sleeping draught in order to feign death and avoid having to marry another suitor, but Romeo, who has fled Verona following a fatal duel, believes that Juliet is dead and kills himself in the crypt where she has been laid to rest. When Juliet awakes and discovers her dead husband beside her, she follows him into death.
The tragedy, which in the nineteenth century was performed with its original tragic ending, is still today an inexhaustible source of inspiration and evidently also fascinated Janez Šubic. It is one of a dozen studies of various biblical, ancient and modern themes by the artist which he never transferred to larger canvases. This sketch may be placed alongside two of Šubic’s other sketches on the theme of love: Farewell (NG S 422) and Romance (NG S 437).
Both Janez Šubic and his brother Jurij were gifted painters who patiently built their reputation abroad and “lent” their talent to other artists, only to die tragically young, less than a year and a half apart. The work came to the National Gallery from the National Museum in 1933.