Artwork - King Lear Disinheriting Cordelia

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  • Title: King Lear Disinheriting Cordelia
  • Artist: John Rogers Herbert
  • Date: 1850--
  • Medium: Fresco painting
  • Categories: British history
  • Catalogue number: WOA 2884
  • Description:

    Illustrating a scene from Shakespeare\'s \'King Lear\', Act I, Scene I: King Lear Disinheriting Cordelia.

    In this scene from the opening of William Shakespeare\'s play King Lear, the ageing King of Britain has summoned his three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, and their prospective husbands, to divide his kingdom between them as dowries for each. He asks each daughter in turn to say who loves him most. Cordelia refuses to reflect the exaggerated terms in which her two elder sisters have expressed their devotion, rejecting \'that glib and oily art, To speak and purpose not.\' In disappointed rage, Lear disinherits her and divides the portion intended for her between the other two sisters. The Dukes of Albany and Cornwall kneel to receive a crown from the King. Behind Cordelia stands the Earl of Kent, whose objections to Lear\'s actions will shortly lead to his banishment.

    Originally named the Poets Hall the Upper Waiting Hall was a hotbed of activity between 1848 and 1854 as six artists competed with each other to paint scenes from some of Britain\'s greatest literature. The Hall was a space in which artists without previous experience in the technique could develop and learn the medium of fresco whilst observed by the Fine Arts Commission. The artists were selected having displayed work in the Westminster Hall exhibitions. As a result of a number of technical problems, the paintings were subject to damage and decay to such an extent that in 1894 they were hidden from view behind wooden panelling. Conservation has since taken place saving the paintings and allowing them to once again be viewed and appreciated.

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