Othello (Act 5, scene 2)
Théodore Chassériau trained with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), but his individual style assimilated the emotion and exoticism of Eugène Delacrox (1798-1863). This print is number eleven in a series 15 etched illustrations for Shakespeare’s Othello, It depicts Othello at the bed of Desdemona as he struggles with the idea of committing murder. The young, deceptive woman lies innocently in bed, bathed in light, as Othello, a powerful repoussoir, hovers over her. Light from the distant oil lamp illuminates the exotic interior. It is the Romantic print at its finest: the exotic other, complicated passions, and man’s inhumanity to man. That he does so using the traditional media of etching and drypoint speaks to his desire to insert himself into the longstanding visual canon. Chassériau’s highly stylized prints mark a high point in his production. They situate him firmly in the Romantic sensibility, with their communication of complex emotions at the sacrifice of narrative action.