Scene from "The Winter's Tale" (Act IV, Scene 4), by Augustus Leopold Egg, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1845. Oil on canvas, 86 x 117 cm. Collection: Guildhall Gallery, London. Reproduced by kind permission of the City of London Corporation.
Egg loved the theatre and, like so many Victorians, enjoyed performing in amateur theatricals. He has chosen to depict not the resolution of Shakespeare's play, but a colourful, lively, picturesque country scene towards the end, full of action and tension. It takes place in front of the shepherd's cottage where the heroine, Perdita, has been brought up as a shepherdess in ignorance of her royal birth. At the back is the pedlar Autolycus, vociferously offering his wares (calling out, "Lawn as white as driven snow," etc). Immediately in front of him, but bending across, and toying with a feather from Autolycus's tray, is Perdita, dressed in her finery for the sheep-shearing festival. Looking adoringly at her from outside the cottage doorway is the dashing Prince Florizel, who has fallen in love with her. On the right is another couple: Mopsa is asking the Clown to buy her a pair of gloves, but he has just realised that he has been robbed of the money he had been carrying for buying spices for the feast (Autolycus picked his pocket in the previous scene). He looks perplexed and chagrined. So much is going on here; Egg has brought the scene to life with panache. In an interesting touch, the ribbon Autolycus is holding up seems to link Florizel and Perdita, and foretell their successful union already. — Jacqueline Banerjee
Last modified 27 November 2016