Adelaide Neilson (1848-1880)

Thomas Benjamin Kennington (1856-1916)

Oil on canvas

A gift of 1905, signed by the artist

70.5 x 61 cm

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Royal Shakespeare Company Collection, STRPG:A: 1993.59

Image via Art UK, on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (CC BY-NC-ND). [Click on the image to enlarge it, and mouse over the text for links.]

This "beautiful and talented" young actress (Foulkes 162) had risen from poverty to become a star of the English stage, making her debut in America in 1872. She was especially known for her roles as a tragic heroine (as Juliet, for example, or Isabella in Measure for Measure). The public was shocked by her unexpected and sudden death in Paris. Her graceful and dignified demeanour is captured here, and her demure costume recalls her attendance at a Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School as a girl. — Jacqueline Banerjee