Waterhouse’s Miranda

Miranda from Shakespeare's the Tempest, by John William Waterhouse
Whatever the actual reception of the movie itself, I think it’s always good when a new popularly released move brings renewed attention to the works of Shakespeare, which had much more in common with the characteristics of contemporary popular entertainment than your high school English class might have led you to believe.

The latest adaptation from the Bard’s cupboard of timeless tales, the 2010 version of The Tempest, features Helen Mirren as a female version of Prospero, and Felicity Jones as her sheltered daughter, Miranda.

Victorian painter John William Waterhouse, who, like his friends in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, often took scenes from Shakespeare for his subjects, apparently painted three different interpretations of Miranda.

One was painted in 1875, early in his career (images above, top). It shows a contemplative Miranda gazing out over a calm sea.

The other two, smaller and larger versions of essentially the same image, were both painted by Waterhouse in in 1916, the year before his death. They show Miranda as witness to the storm and shipwreck which which the play’s actions begin. The later and larger of these (image above, top) is probably the most familiar.

More Tempest trivia: one of the most interesting, if loose, adaptations from The Tempest was the spectacular (for its time) 1956 science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet (more here). The film, aside from the connection to The Tempest, was notable for a number of reasons: the “monster from the id” and the subterranean alien power station were rendered and animated by veteran Disney artist Joshua Meador; the action was filmed largely on a soundstage backed with an enormous painted cyclorama of the alien landscape; and the movie and its production design were credited by Gene Roddenberry as a primary influence on the creation of his television show Star Trek; it also featured Leslie Neilson as the dramatic lead and introduced Robbie the Robot, one of the most iconic and influential designs for a cinematic robot; but I digress… back to Waterhouse’s 19th Century interpretation of Shakespeare’s 17th Century play.

Scenes from The Tempest were also interpreted by other artists, notably Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, William Maw Egley, William Hamilton, earlier by Swiss-born Henry Fuseli, and even earlier by Angelica Kauffmann and George Romney.

(See my posts on John Everett Millais, Henry Fuseli and John William Waterhouse.)

 
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