Monday, August 23, 2010

Thomas Stothard - Sylvia and the Outlaws: a Scene from Shakespeare's 'Two Gentlemen of Verona'

Price Realized £10,755

with indistinct signature (lower left)
oil on canvas
27½ x 20 5/8 in. (69.9 x 52.4 cm.)

The scene is taken from the climax of Shakepeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona which was probably written circa 1592-3 although it is not known to have been performed before the Restoration.

The two Gentlemen of Verona are the friends Valentine and Proteus. Proteus leaves Verona, and his original love Julia, for Milan, where he falls in love with the Duke of Milan's daughter Sylvia. Proteus, who has meanwhile exchanged a vow of constancy with Julia, also goes to Milan where he too falls in love with Sylvia. Betraying both his friend and his former love, Proteus informs Sylvia's father of Valentine's plan to elope with her and as a result Valentine is banished and joins the outlaws which allows Proteus to continue to court Sylvia. Julia meanwhile, pining for Proteus, comes to Milan, dressed as a boy, and becomes Proteus's page without him realising. while Sylvia, to escape an arranged marriage, leaves Milan to rejoin Valentine but is captured by the outlaws from whom she is rescued by Proteus. This composition shows this late moment in the play, soon after Valentine has arrived on the scene; Proteus, to the left of the composition, is struck by remorse and his contrition is such that Valentine is impelled to surrender Sylvia to him. However, the evident dismay of Proteus's page [Julia] at this turn of events leads to Julia's recognition by Proteus whose love for her is rekindled by her constancy.

Thomas Stothard, who lived in London, was the most prolific book illustrator of his day and a contributor to Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery and the Poetic and the Historic Galleries of Bowyer and Macklin. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1794 and was very active in its service. In its handling, this picture is characteristic of Stothard's smaller oil studies.

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