Sunday, January 27, 2013

Painting of the Day: Queen Katherine and Patience, 1842

Queen Katherine and Patience
Robert Charles Leslie
The popularity of historically-themed paintings began to wane during the Nineteenth Century and was soon replaced by an increase in commissions for oil paintings based on scenes from popular literature. Very often, history and literature overlapped. Here’s one such instance.

Charles Robert Leslie was one of the most prolific painters of the Victorian era and was a favorite of Queen Victoria herself. In this canvas from 1842, Leslie depicts Act III, Scene 1 from Henry VIII by William Shakespeare which was obviously based on the portly regent’s life. The painting shows Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon (Shakespeare's “Queen Katharine”), as she bemoans Henry’s growing estrangement. When the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1842, Leslie included a quotation from the play.

Leslie’s representation of Queen Katherine was not strictly archaeological. In fact, as he did with most of his paintings, he combined the visual aspects and costumes of several periods. The depiction of Queen Katherine owes more to 1842’s fashions than it does the style of her own time, but her sense of distress is not hampered by her anachronistic costume. 

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