Sir John Everett Millais British

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In Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, the resourceful heroine Portia disguises herself in lawyer’s robes. Her intention is to outwit the moneylender Shylock in court and prevent him from extracting the cruel and unreasonable loan penalty of a “pound of flesh.” Millais depicted model Kate Dolan in the costume worn by famed actress Ellen Terry in her incarnation of the role. X-rays and traces of earlier brushwork indicate that underneath the composition is a study of the same figure in ancient Greek dress. Millais painted this picture forty years into a career that saw him develop from an artistic firebrand into one of Britain’s most eminent painters.

Portia, Sir John Everett Millais (British, Southampton 1829–1896 London), Oil on canvas

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