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image P212

Henry Howard (1769 - 1847)

Lear and Cordelia


Oil on canvas

Height: 63.5cm
Width: 66cm

Inscription: None

Museum number: P212

Curatorial note

Lear lamenting Cordelia from Shakespeare's King Lear, Act V, Scene 10: "Howl, howl, howl, howl! O you are men of Stones, / Had I your tongues, and eyes, I'd use them so, / That Heav'ns vault should crack, O she is gone forever!" Performances of King Lear were forbidden in 1788 in deference to the insanity of the reigning monarch, King George III. He died in January 1820, in the same year that Soane acquired this painting for his collection. The play must have had personal connotations for Soane, evoking the tragedy of his own life, an old man almost destroyed by the ungrateful acts of his children.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Purchased by Soane in 1820, the year it was exhibited at the RA; correspondence with the artist indicates that it may have been commissioned by Soane as Howard refers to modifications made to 'your picture' and Soane pays him for it in April, prior to the RA exhibition opening date. Howard's son, Frank, in his 'Memoir' refers to it as 'a small picture from Lear ... for Sir John Soane'. The reference in the DNB to this work having been owned by the Earl of Egremont is incorrect.


Britton, Union, 1827, p.40 and 56
Soane, Description, 1830 pp. 21 and 41
1835, p. 56
Howard, F. (ed.) A course of lectures on painting ...by Henry Howard, Edited with a memoir of the author by Frank Howard', London 1848, p.lxxii
Thornton and Dorey, Miscellany, 1992, p.124
Darley, G., John Soane: An Accidental Romantic, 1999, p. xx
New Description, 2007, p. 74
Dictionary of National Biography, entry for Henry Howard

Exhibition history

Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1820

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk