Miranda was auctioned by Bonhams auction house in November 2006 ('19th Century Paintings', New Bond Street, London, 14 November 2006). The location of Miranda had been unknown for many years, and was listed as 'lost'; however, in 2006, it was discovered to be in a private collection in Scotland.
Many thanks to the previous owner of Miranda for providing the photographs of Miranda and of the labels on the rear of the frame (see below).
(Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches)
Miranda illustrates a scene from William Shakespeare's play The Tempest:
If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them:
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O! I have suffer’d
With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel
Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her,
Dash’d all to pieces. O! the cry did knock
Against my very heart.
Up until 2006, Miranda had been known to us only via a small, grainy black/white photograph in Anthony Hobson's 1980 monograph about Waterhouse. This photo has turned out to be inaccurate because it is now apparent that it reproduced Miranda in reverse. The original source of this black/white photograph is unknown — perhaps it was taken from a 1875 contemporary publication such as Academy Notes.
The reproduction of Miranda, 1875 taken from Hobson's 1980 monograph:
Waterhouse's signature appears in red paint at the lower right of the painting, see the enlargement below (the red rectangle indicates its location):
Writing on the rear of the frame gives Waterhouse's address of '70 Holland Road, Kensington, London'. This address is also listed in Royal Academy exhibitors, 1905-1970: a dictionary of artists and their work in the Summer Exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts, 1982, and was the home of Waterhouse's father. Waterhouse was aged 26 and unmarried at the time of Miranda's exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1875.
An attached quote, perhaps in Waterhouse's handwriting, confirms the subject of the picture:
Its transcription reads as follows:
Tempest Act I Scene II
Miranda "Oh, I have suffered
"With those that I saw Suffer! a brave vessel
"Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her
"Dash'd all to pieces. Oh, the cry did knock
"Against my very heart. Poor souls they perished.
The rediscovery of Miranda is of particular importance to Waterhouse scholars in a number of respects:
- it is an early example of plein-air painting, today a style most associated with the Impressionists.
- it is an early indication of the romantic streak that would become more apparent in Waterhouse's later works.
- it illustrates Waterhouse's penchant of returning and revisiting themes throughout his career (other examples are Ophelia and The Lady of Shalott). Waterhouse painted two additional pictures of Shakespeare's Miranda just before his death in 1917.