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Painting - Ira Aldridge as Othello in 'Othello' by William Shakespeare
  • Ira Aldridge as Othello in 'Othello' by William Shakespeare
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Ira Aldridge as Othello in 'Othello' by William Shakespeare

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1848 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Professor Herbert Marshall

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 106, case 6A, shelf 8

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).

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.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


ca. 1848 (painted)


Unknown (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 42.8 cm, Width: 34.4 cm

Descriptive line

Portrait entitled Ira Aldridge as Othello in 'Othello' by William Shakespeare, unknown artist, ca. 1848

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

Ashton, Geoffrey. Catalogue of Paintings at the Theatre Museum, London. ed. James Fowler, London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992. 224p. ill. ISBN 1851771026

Labels and date

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]


Oil colour; Canvas


Painting (image-making)


Paintings; Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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