Desdemona (The Song of the Willow)

Théodore Chassériau French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 801

This painting is based on a print, part of a suite of etchings by Chassériau illustrating Shakespeare’s Othello, which was published in Paris in 1844. It depicts act 4, scene 3 of the play, a final moment of calm preceding Desdemona’s murder by her husband, Othello. Desdemona’s maid, Emilia, who was complicit in orchestrating the crime, shrinks away, cringing at the knowledge of what is about to occur. The lyre Desdemona holds was not described by Shakespeare; Chassériau observed it in an 1836 production in which the role was performed by the celebrated singer Maria Malibran Garcia (1808–1836), called La Malibran.

Desdemona (The Song of the Willow), Théodore Chassériau (French, Le Limon, Saint-Domingue, West Indies 1819–1856 Paris), Oil on wood

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