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The Midsummer Night's Fairies exhibited 1847 by Robert Huskisson ?1820-1861

This is an oil painting on mahogany – entitled ‘The Midsummer Night’s Fairies’ – in the Tate Gallery, London, made by Robert Huskisson (1820?–1861) before 1847. “In the 1830s and 1840s, increasing numbers of fairy pictures appeared on the walls of the Royal Academy, and by the middle of the century the taste for fairy painting was well established. Many of the subjects were taken from Shakespeare’s play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, as was this example which ‘attracted very great attention’ when shown at the Academy in 1847. Titania, Queen of the Fairies, has been lulled to sleep by her attendants, who are just disappearing from view in the shadowy distance to the left. Huskisson includes a painted frame resembling a proscenicum arch, thus increasing the theatrical effect.”


In the central foreground a naturalistically painted snail is visible. The dextral shell has a Helix-like shape, but the colour pattern does not match any of the British species known to me.

The snail is in an interesting scene and, compared to the humans before him, of gigantic proportions. As such it is a reference to earlier illustrations of disproportional large snails, and in a sense, also a variation to the ‘knight v. snail’ theme in medieval manuscripts. It is obvious here that the snail wins!

[1] TGL, inv. T01901. http://bit.ly/1piIKkE.



[1] TGL, inv. NG2582. .