Edwin Austin Abbey
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Lady Anne
Oil on canvas
Yale University Art Gallery
From the Gallery:
The sensation of the 1896 Royal Academy exhibition in London, this scene from Shakespeare’s Richard III, shows the villainous, humpbacked Richard proposing to Lady Anne, Henry VI’s widowed daughter-in-law, as she walks in the late king’s funeral procession. Swathed in a sheer black veil and wearing a gown stiff with heraldic embroidery, she is accompanied by Richard’s two young nephews and black-cloaked, halberd-bearing honor guards, their halberds reversed as a sign of mourning. Shortly before the moment depicted, Anne has heaped curses on Richard for having brutally stabbed to death both her father-in-law and her husband, Edward, Prince of Wales. Undaunted, the fawning Richard praises her extravagantly, asserting that he killed them in order to get near her, and offers to let her kill him, or to kill himself with the unsheathed sword that he holds up. But instead of plunging it into his breast, as she asks, he offers her a wedding ring. She will later succumb to his flattery and declarations of remorse, and accept his proposal. In doing so, she will give way to intrigues that will ultimately result in her death.