Sotheby's, New York, February 20, 1992, lot 60;
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Shakespeare's heroines were popularized as personifications of feminine virtue. Figures such as the intelligent and noble Portia, the innocent and pitiable Ophelia, and the chaste Miranda all served as inspiration to many artists, including John Everett Millais (Ophelia, 1851-52, Tate Gallery, London), William Holman Hunt (Claudio and Isabela, 1850-53, Tate Gallery, London), Edward Robert Hughes (The Shrew, Katherina, 1896. Private Collection) and, as in the present lot, Thomas Francis Dicksee's Miranda, first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1881. Dicksee would become particularly well-known for his depictions of Shakespearean heroines and exhibited a total of seven at the Royal Academy (Ross Anderson, A Brush with Shakespeare, The Bard in Painting, 1780–1910, exh. cat., Montgomery, Alabama, 1986, p. 51).
In these imaginings, Dicksee was always careful to provide just enough context to guide a reading of his scene. Here, we are reminded that Miranda has spent twelve years of her life isolated on an island, and it is therefore not surprising that she is mostly unadorned, in a windswept Grecian gown, without any trace of civilization in sight. She wears a delicate necklace of nautilus shells which connect her to the beach under her bare feet. Her face bears an innocent smile, and awestruck eyes, as if she has just uttered her famously optimistic stanza:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't! (Act 5, Scene 1)
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