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Oil painting - Ariel: 'Where the Bee Sucks...'
  • Ariel: 'Where the Bee Sucks...'
    Severn, Joseph, born 1793 - died 1879
  • Enlarge image

Ariel: 'Where the Bee Sucks...'

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain, Uk (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1826-1836 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Severn, Joseph, born 1793 - died 1879 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on millboard

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, room 82, case WEST WALL

Severn took the image from Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, where the mischievous sprite Ariel sings:

Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

He exhibited several paintings of Ariel at the Royal Academy. There is another in the V&A collection (see 1410-1869).

Physical description

Oil painting

Place of Origin

Great Britain, Uk (probably, painted)


ca. 1826-1836 (painted)


Severn, Joseph, born 1793 - died 1879 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

oil on millboard


Height: 26.1 cm estimate, Width: 38.1 cm estimate, Height: 41 cm frame, Width: 56 cm frame, Weight: 3.5 kg with frame, Height: 41.3 cm Frame, Width: 53.1 cm Frame, Depth: 6.0 cm Frame

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Ariel - "Where the Bee Sucks . . ."', Joseph Severn, ca. 1826-1836

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, p. 262
The following is the full text of the catalogue entry:

"SEVERN, Joseph (1793-1879)
Born Hoxton, London, 7 December 1793, son of a musician. Apprenticed to engraver William Bond; at early age 'began to find some solace in the study of literature' (Sharp, p7). Studied at RA Schools, won gold medal for historical painting (first awarded for 12 years) 1818. Exhibited 53 works at the RA between 1819 and 1857, and nine at the Br 1825-43: portraits, Italian genre, literary and biblical subjects. Most famous for his friendship with the poet John Keats, whom he accompanied to Italy 1820 and nursed until his death 1821. Lived mostly in Rome, appointed British Consul 1860-72. Died Rome 3 August 1879, eventually buried next to Keats. His children Arthur and Waiter Severn, and Ann Mary Newton, were also artists.

LIT: W Sharp The Life and Letters of Joseph Severn 1892; S Birkenhead Against Oblivion: The Life of Joseph Severn 1943; S Birkenhead Illustrious Friends: the story of Joseph Severn and his son Arthur 1965

Ariel- 'Where the Bee Sucks…'
1416-1869 Neg GA590
Millboard, 26.1 x 38.1 cm (10¼ X 15 ins)
Townshend Bequest 1869

Included in the 1907 V&A catalogue with the title 'Nymph Gathering Honeysuckle', amended to the above by 1935. There seems little reason to doubt that the image is inspired by Ariel's song in act 5 scene 1 of Shakespeare's The Tempest; for other versions of this subject by Severn, see ('Ariel', 1410-1869, p26l).
However, it is doubtful whether the present work can be identified with the painting exhibited at the RA in 1838; that picture was titled 'Ariel', with the quotation appended in the catalogue:

Where the bee sucks, there lurk I;
In a cowslip's bell I lie:
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly,
After summer merrily.

The present work seems to show Ariel as described in the subsequent, unquoted couplet: 'Merrily, merrily shall I live now,/Under the blossom that hangs on the bough'. It might have been the work exhibited at the RA in 1836, simply titled 'Ariel'.
Severn has taken the pose of Ariel directly from Michelangelo's figure of Eve tempted, on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but in reverse; Sharp records Severn making copies there (pp166-7).

EXH: ?RA 1836 (228); Bicentenary exhibition 1768-1968 RA 1968 (235)

Ronald Parkinson"


Oil paint; Millboard


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Butterfly; Fairy; Ariel



Collection code


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