Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Titania and Bottom by Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A. 1848-51. Oil on canvas. 82.0 × 133.0 cm. Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Felton Bequest, 1932; accession Number 4658-3. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Fairy painting was in vogue at this time, and Landseer, with his special skill for depicting animals, brought a light touch to this famous scene. In the Magazine of Art, F. G. Stephens described this as "one of Landseer’s charming pictures," and considered it as "in some respects among the most beautiful and modern of Shakespearean illustrations, fanciful and graceful exceedingly." He went on to comment on all the different elements of the composition, from the self-satisfied Bottom himself ("The stupidity of Bottom is unexceptionable") to "the robust elves, Moth and Mustard Seed, the fluffy-furred hares as white as snow with rubies for eyes — nay, the fantastically fair Ariel." These , said Stephens, "are all we could desire; exquisite is the painting of Titania’s semi-diaphanous robe starred with gold; in her face, however, there is no passion Oberon need have troubled himself about" (178).

Stephens then explains that Landseer painted the work for Sir Isambard Brunel’s Shakespeare Gallery; and that it was sold toEarl Brownlow for the then grand sum of £2,940 in 1860, passing from him to the well-known art-dealer Mr. Agnew, and then to Mr. Quilter, about whose collection he is now commenting. Stephens is also pleased to report that, unlike some of Landseer's other works, it is still in fine condition. Now far from home, it can still be admired online!

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