As a young man walks through a forest, speaking his private thoughts aloud, three further characters hide and listen.
Shakespeare's play ‘Love's Labour's Lost’ focuses on the themes of pride and humility. The main characters are a group of courtly lovers, including the King of Navarre and the princess of France. While the King falls in love with the princess, his gentlemen-in-waiting - Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine - each fall for the princess's three waiting-women. The scene depicted here, act IV scene III, is an eavesdropping incident, during which the four men (Berowne, the King, Longaville and Dumaine) discover that each has succumbed to love. The men arrive one by one at the same spot, bemoaning their love. Each in turn hides as he hears the next approaching and listens to the new arrival revealing his secret passions.
Thomas Stothard painted numerous Shakespearian works, including scenes from ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Henry IV’. He also produced 26 illustrations for William Pickering’s edition of ‘The Plays of Shakespeare’ (published 1823-25). A Stothard painting titled ‘Love’s Labour Lost’ (possibly this work) was lent to the British Institution by a collector named William Smith in 1850.
Book illustrator and painter Thomas Stothard was born in London. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1777 and was elected a Royal Academician in 1794. He also became librarian to the Academy in 1812 and was active in Academy affairs. Although a respected history painter, Stothard was better financially rewarded for his illustrations and designs, which included banknotes, jasperware reliefs and silverwork. Stothard’s later life was marred by tragedy. In 1801, his eldest son was killed in a shooting accident. In 1821, another son died and in the following year a third suffered a stroke. His wife and his close friend, John Flaxman, both died in 1824. Finally, he died at the age of 79, after being hit by a carriage and left incapacitated.
Sold through Christie's, London, date unknown; sold through Christie's, London, on 16 March 1962 (Lot 131); from which sale purchased by J. S. Maas & Co. Ltd., London; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in May 1962
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