Not currently on display at the V&A

Ferdinand, Ariel, Prospero and Miranda

Oil Painting
ca. 1789 (painted)
Place Of Origin

An oil painting depicting Ferdinand's arrival on Prospero's island, Act I, Scene 2 of The Tempest.

object details
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on panel
Brief Description
Oil Painting, 'Ferdinand, Ariel, Prospero and Miranda', Thomas Stothard, ca. 1789
Physical Description
An oil painting depicting Ferdinand's arrival on Prospero's island, Act I, Scene 2 of The Tempest.
  • Estimate height: 8.5in
  • Estimate width: 5.5in
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Credit line
Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce
Object history
Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 1869.

Reference to Dyce : Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, South Kensington Museum.A Catalogue of the Paintings, Miniatures, Drawings... Bequeathed by The Reverend Alexander Dyce. London, 1874. A 'Note' on p.v. comments, 'This catalogue refers to the Art portion of the Collection bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum by the Reverend Alexander Dyce, the well-known Shakespearian scholar, who died May 15, 1869'. The Catalogue. Paintings, Miniatures, &c. by Samuel Redgrave notes of the 'Oil Paintings', 'The strength of Mr. Dyce's valuable bequest to Department of Science and Art does not lie in [this] portion ... which is in its nature of a very miscellaneous character. The collection was made apparently as objects offered themselves, and without any special design.'

Dyce owned 3 oils by Stothard (Dyce. 27, 28, 29), which reflected his interest in Shakespeare and other literary subjects. A further oil painting (Dyce.49) has now been attributed to Stothard, while a sketch on paper in oil (Dyce.884) was originally catalogued as a 'drawing', along with other sketches and designs by Stothard (Dyce. 825 to 910).

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.

In 18th century Britain William Shakespeare's plays underwent something of a renaissance in popularity. A number of significant new editions of his work were published and the theatrical revival from the mid 18th century relied heavily on productions of his plays. Shakespeare had become associated with a rising British nationalism, which led also to a growing interest in British history. This tendency was exploited by John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery; Boydell was an engraver and publisher who commissioned oil paintings for exhibition, with the intention of generating interest in printed versions. He began the project in 1786, which led to an illustrated edition of Shakespeare's plays, and a folio of prints. It is not clear whether Stothard exhibited finished oil paintings in Boydell's gallery, but he contributed designs to both the Folio and the Illustrated edition; unfortunately the subject matter of the V&A's paintings of Shakespeare by Stothard do not match any of these works.

It remains unclear as to whether this small oil painting is a sketch for a printed illustration or is a finished oil intended primarily for display and sale. On the one hand it has not been possible to match this image to a finished print or illustration, and modesty of scale is no indication of function as large scale oils were rare in Stothard's oeuvre. On the other, Stothard was so prolific as an illustrator and designer that it may yet prove to be a design for an illustration. The subject is taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act i, sc.2; and shows the characters of Ferdinand, Ariel, Prospero and Miranda.

Ferdinand 'Most sure, the goddess / On whom these airs attend!'.
Literary Reference<i>The Tempest</i>
Accession Number

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record createdJune 1, 2006
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