Not currently on display at the V&A

Zoraïda, Discovered by her Father, Agimorato, in the Arms of Rui Perez de Viedma (Cervantes, 'Don Quixote', Part I, Chapter 14)

Oil Painting
late 18th century-early 19th century (painted)

Oil painting, 'Zoraïda, Discovered by her Father, Agimorato, in the Arms of Rui Perez Viedma (Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter 14)', Thomas Stothard

Object details

Object type
TitleZoraïda, Discovered by her Father, Agimorato, in the Arms of Rui Perez de Viedma (Cervantes, 'Don Quixote', Part I, Chapter 14)
Materials and techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief description
Oil painting, 'Zoraïda, Discovered by her Father, Agimorato, in the Arms of Rui Perez Viedma (Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter 14)', Thomas Stothard
  • Estimate height: 11.5in
  • Estimate width: 10.5in
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Marks and inscriptions
'Stothard' (Inscribed indistintly on the back of the stretcher.)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Henry Spencer Ashbee
Object history
Bequeathed by Henry Spencer Ashbee, 1900
Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, "Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860", (Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990), p. xx.

Henry Spencer Ashbee (1834-1900) was the founder and senior partner of the merchants Charles Lavy and Company of London, who specialised in silks. He was elected Fellow of the Society of Arts 1877, and travelled around the world 1881. He was the author of numerous articles, particularly on bibliographical subjects. He collected the finest library concerning the life and work of the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes outside Spain, and his bequest to the V&A of watercolours and over 40 oil paintings includes many illustrating Don Quixote. Ashbee's library also included humorous books, and most notoriously a vast collection of erotica, which he catalogued under the title The Index of Forbidden Books. His library was left to the British Museum.

Historical significance: Thomas Stothard (1755-1834) was a highly prolific painter, book illustrator and designer. After his father's death in 1770 he began his working life apprenticed to a Huguenot silk weaver. At the completion of his apprenticeship in 1777 he entered the Royal Academy Schools, and there struck up life-long friendships with the sculptor John Flaxman and with William Blake. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1778 until his death in 1834, and from 1778 also began to produce illustrations for various publishers and magazines such as the Ladies' Magazine. He sometimes exhibited the original designs for such illustrations at the Royal Academy exhibitions. In his day he was highly respected as a history painter in oil, but the V&A collections of drawings and watercolours reflect his reputation during the 19th century predominantly as an illustrator, as well as a designer of a multitude of objects such as silver salvers to funerary monuments. As the Dictionary of National Biography notes, Stothard took 'advantage of the opportunities afforded by publishing and the industrial arts, while maintaining a reputation in the more respectable reaches of high art'. For example Stothard exhibited works on a grander scale than was his norm for Bowyer's 'Historic Gallery' (1790-1806). But many of the oils now in the V&A are on a modest scale and are perhaps designs for printed illustrations, rather than 'finished' history paintings. Stothard played a respected part in the art world of his day, and from 1812 until his death at the age of seventy-nine he held the post of librarian of the Royal Academy.

The subject is from Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part i, Book iv, chapter 14 (Jarvis's Translation, ed.1840). It shows Zoraida who, discovered by her father, Agimorato, in the arms of Rui Perez de Viedma, pretends to swoon. The quote from Jarvis's 1840 translation reads, "Her father, returning from driving away the Turks, saw us... and we were sensible that he discovered us. But Zoraida had the discretion and presence of mind not to take her arm from my neck but ... leaning her head against my breast, and bending her knees a little, she gave plain signs of fainting away. I also made as if I held her up only to keep her from falling. Her father c ame running to us, and ... said : 'Without doubt these dogs have terrified her into a swoon'.

Perhaps surprisingly Miguel de Cervantes novel Don Quixote was hugely popular throughout the 19th century. Many oil paintings in the V&A collection depict scenes from the play, by artists such as William Powell Frith R.A., Sir John Gilbert R.A., P.R.W.S., Sir Edwin Landseer R.A., Charles Robert Leslie R.A. and John Massey Wright. Written between 1605-15, it was the story of an adventurous Spanish knight and his squire. This painting by Stothard, along with museum number 1840-1900, shows that the taste for images of Cervantes pre-dates the Victorian era when it was at its height.

Thomas Stothard did not travel outside Britain, and his depiction of the building in the background is not from first-hand observation. It is indistinct, lacking specific detail and Stothard probably intended it merely to be suggestive of the area, a generically 'Oriental' building. Similarly the costume is merely suggestive of 17th century European and "oriental" costume respectively.
Accession number

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Record createdFebruary 6, 2007
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