Henri Fradelle: Othello and Desdemona

See more paintings in Painting Shakespeare.

On view in the Painting Shakespeare exhibition
May 13, 2017 – Feb 11, 2018 

Curated by Erin Blake


Henri Jean-Baptiste Victoire Fradelle (French, 1778–1865). Othello and Desdemona, 1827. From Othello (act 3, scene 4). Oil on panel, 30.5 x 26 cm. Folger FPb21. Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Folger, 1926.

Henri Fradelle painted Othello and Desdemona as a working tool for Charles Pye, the engraver who transformed it into a print. By using shades of gray, Fradelle saved Pye the step of converting colors into different line densities. The technique is known as grisaille, from the French word "gris," meaning "gray."

Fradelle highlights Othello's anger towards his wife by crowning him with storm clouds, and his exoticness by framing him in a three-lobed pointed arch, a shape associated with Islamic architecture. Desdemona looks up in bafflement, not realizing that he thinks she is having an affair.

See more paintings in Painting Shakespeare.