Ira Aldridge as Othello in 'Othello' by William Shakespeare

Painting
ca. 1848 (painted)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Theatre & Performance, Room 106
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This painting depicts Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), born Frederick William Aldridge in New York, in his most famous role as Othello.

Aldridge made his first London appearance as Othello at the Royalty Theatre in London's East End on 11th May 1825 when he was seventeen years old, billed as 'Mr. Keene, a Gentleman of Colour, from the New York Theatre'. He played the part many times on tour in the provinces before playing it again in London for two performances at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1833 when the tragedian Edmund Kean was too ill to perform. Some reviewers protested about a black actor being permitted to appear at Covent Garden, and the tone of their reviews the next day was somewhat sullen. Unable to criticise a good performance outright, The Morning Post grudgingly conceded: 'it was doubtless sufficiently good to be considered very curious'. This was balanced by the many other publications which declared Aldridge: 'a singularly gifted actor'(The Standard), who: 'evinced a great deal of feeling and nature in his performance' (The Spectator), with: 'beauties throughout his performance' (The Globe).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Portrait entitled Ira Aldridge as Othello in 'Othello' by William Shakespeare, unknown artist, ca. 1848
Physical Description
Ira Aldridge appearing onstage as Othello, wearing a black, light blue and gold costume with African influences. He is holding a curved sword in one hand and is pointing with the other, and wears an unusual headress. There is an indistinct figure sitting in the background.
Dimensions
  • Height: 42.8cm
  • Width: 34.4cm
Gallery Label
7 Ira Aldridge as Othello About 1848 Pictured here in the role that made him famous, Aldridge (1807–61) was an African American who came to Britain aged 17. He made his London debut as a ‘Gentleman of Colour’, a title reflecting the rarity of black actors in Britain at that time. He took over Othello from the mortally ill Edmund Kean in 1833 and went on to find fame in mainland Europe. Play by William Shakespeare, 1604 Theatre Royal Covent Garden, London Oil on canvas Artist unknown Given by Herbert Marshall Museum no. S.1129-1986(March 2009)
Credit line
Given by Professor Herbert Marshall
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceOthello
Summary
This painting depicts Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), born Frederick William Aldridge in New York, in his most famous role as Othello.



Aldridge made his first London appearance as Othello at the Royalty Theatre in London's East End on 11th May 1825 when he was seventeen years old, billed as 'Mr. Keene, a Gentleman of Colour, from the New York Theatre'. He played the part many times on tour in the provinces before playing it again in London for two performances at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1833 when the tragedian Edmund Kean was too ill to perform. Some reviewers protested about a black actor being permitted to appear at Covent Garden, and the tone of their reviews the next day was somewhat sullen. Unable to criticise a good performance outright, The Morning Post grudgingly conceded: 'it was doubtless sufficiently good to be considered very curious'. This was balanced by the many other publications which declared Aldridge: 'a singularly gifted actor'(The Standard), who: 'evinced a great deal of feeling and nature in his performance' (The Spectator), with: 'beauties throughout his performance' (The Globe).
Bibliographic Reference
Ashton, Geoffrey. Catalogue of Paintings at the Theatre Museum, London. ed. James Fowler, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992. 224p. ill. ISBN 1851771026
Collection
Accession Number
S.1129-1986

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record createdOctober 31, 2003
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