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William Young Ottley, 1771–1836, British
formerly attributed to John Brown, 1749–1787, British

Prospero Summoning Ariel

Additional Title(s):

Prospero, Ariel and Miranda

Prospero, The Magician

Part Of:

Collective Title: The Tempest

ca. 1800
Watercolor, graphite, gouache, white chalk, and pen and black ink on medium, slightly textured, white wove paper
Sheet: 12 7/16 x 8 1/8 inches (31.6 x 20.7 cm)

Signed in graphite lower right in monogram: "WB"; not dated

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
cape | cave | magic | magician | man | plays by William Shakespeare | robe | staff | The Tempest, play by William Shakespeare | woman
Associated People:
Prospero (character in The Tempest)
Miranda (character in The Tempest)
Ariel (character in The Tempest)
Shakespeare, William (1564–1616), playwright and poet
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A student of John Brown (cat. 58) and a friend of John Flaxman (cats.. 34-5), Ottley was a connoisseur, collector, writer on art, and an amateur draftsman of distinction. He studied with Brown at the Royal Academy shortly before Brown's death in 1787, at which time he acquired the contents of the artists studio, including 219 drawings that formed the basis for Ottley's distinguished collection of Old Master Drawings. During an extended period of study in Italy from 1791 to 1799, he added groups of drawings by Parmigianino, Raphael, and Michelangelo to his collection. This drawing of a scene from the first act of Shakespeare's The Tempest, with its figure of Prospero clearly recalling Michelangelo's figure of Christ in the Sistine Chapel Last Judgment, probably dates from shortly after Ottley's return to London. It is almost certainly one of the group of drawings illustrating The Tempest included in the sale of Ottley's works in 1838. Other Tempest drawings by Ottley are in the British Museum and the Stanford University Museum of Art. That most of these drawings have traditionally been attributed to either John Brown (as is the case with Prospero Summoning Ariel) or John Flaxman is indicative of Both Ottley's stylistic indebtedness to his mentor and his friend but also of the assured quality of his draftsmanship.

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