Print

ca.1892 (drawn)

unknown

Height: 37.2 cm, Width: 27.4 cm

1228-2014 T&P

Full length portrait showing the actor/manager Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905) as Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII by William Shakespeare. The print is taken from an original photography by W & D. Downey, 1892

Full length portrait showing the actor/manager Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905) as Cardinal Wolsey in <i>Henry VIII</i> by William Shakespeare. The print is taken from an original photography by W & D. Downey, 1892. It shows Irving seated in a chair, he is dressed in full cardinal robes, he clasps a scroll in his right hand. His gaze is directed outwards, his head resting on his left hand.

Full length portrait showing the actor/manager Sir Henry Irving (1838-1905) as Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII by William Shakespeare. The print is taken from an original photography by W & D. Downey, 1892. Irving became a professional actor in 1856, and learned his trade in regional theatres until 1866, when he came to London. He joined the Lyceum Theatre company under the management of H. L. Bateman in 1871, winning great acclaim that year for his psychologically developed characterisation of the guilt-ridden inn-keeper Mathias in Leopold Lewis’s melodrama The Bells. He took on the responsibilities of ‘actor-manager’ in 1878 when he assumed the management of the Lyceum, and remained there until 1902, enjoying star status with his leading lady Ellen Terry (1847-1928). Irving produced a diverse range of old and new plays at the Lyceum, including Shakespeare, historical drama, and literary adaptations. His tireless work to elevate the status of the theatrical profession was rewarded in 1895 when he became the first actor ever to receive a knighthood for services to the Theatre. In keeping with leading actors before him, Irving chose the role of the Cardinal for its complex and arresting character, heightened visually by his costume of a vivid pink colour. Irving’s Wolsey was a mixture of asceticism and malignity, a religious man who rose from humble beginnings to attain a position of great influence as the King’s Lord Chancellor. It was this, coupled with Wolsey’s eventual loss of power and status, that attracted Irving to the part. To ensure historical accuracy, Irving employed John Seymour Lucas (1849-1923), a Royal Academician and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, to oversee the design of the costumes.

Gabrielle Enthoven Collection

Location: In Storage

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