Painting of Ira Aldridge as Othello


This painting, A Moor by James Northcote (1826), shows the 19-year-old Ira Aldridge in the role of Othello. He was the first black actor to play a Shakespearean role in Britain.

The American Ira Aldridge (1807–1867) had been 17 when he made his debut as Othello at the Royalty Theatre in London’s East End in May 1825. The Public Ledger praised the young actor’s death scene as ‘one of the finest physical representations of bodily anguish we ever witnessed’, but by 1826 Aldridge was destitute and on the verge of returning to America. The painting was judged the ‘best executed’ work in the first exhibition of the Royal Manchester Institution, though Aldridge was only identified as its subject in 1983.

Full title:
Half length frontal portrait of Ira Aldridge, celebrated nineteenth century black actor, in the role of Othello
Painting / Image
James Northcote
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© Bridgeman Art Library / Manchester Art Gallery

Held by
Manchester Art Gallery

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