Edmund Blair Leighton, Olivia (1888)

Colored lithograph, size approximately 8.5 x 11 inches, Graphic, a weekly London newspaper.

"Have you any commission from your lord to negotiate with my face? You are now out of your text: but we will draw the curtain and show you the picture" (Twelfth Night Act I, Scene v).

The weekly newspaper the Graphic commissioned twenty-one studies of Shakespeare's heroines that were exhibited in London in 1888. Before this project the Graphic frequently published pictures of beautiful women--under the inspirational guise of "ideal beauty"--and had previously commissioned illustrations where each artist was asked "to portray his idea of female beauty." The review of Shakespeare's Heroines in the Art Journal of 1889 suggests that it was the success of this earlier venture into feminine beauty that "prompted them to elicit once more the opinions of our artists upon the subject; this time, however, narrowing the selection to the HEROINES OF SHAKESPEARE" (vol. 51, p. 95).

The pictures were published in the Graphic and then offered for sale to the public in various formats and sizes. For example, the complete set of paintings by twenty-one different artists was published in 1890 as a special supplement to the Christmas issue of the Graphic. The pictures remained popular and in 1896 the publisher offered a collection of reasonably priced colored lithographs unframed or framed and ready for the parlor wall.

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