Ira Aldridge as Othello, the Moor of Venice

James Northcote, 1746 - 1831

Ira Aldridge as Othello, the Moor of Venice

James Northcote 1746 - 1831


Half length frontal portrait of Ira Aldridge, celebrated nineteenth century black actor, in the role of Othello. He is dressed in a white wrapper-like garment of which the striped coral-and-white sash is just visible at the bottom of the picture. He has a white lace neckerchief. His eyes look to the left. The plain dark grey background is paler behind his head than it is in the corners of the painting. His close-cropped, parted hair is therefore silhouetted.

Display Label

Ira Aldridge as Othello, the Moor of Venice 1826 James Northcote 1736-1831 Oil on canvas Liz, Curator: I’m really interested to know what you make of this painting. In the time I’ve known it (nearly 30 years) it’s always been introduced as the first artwork acquired by the Royal Manchester Institution, as evidence of their progressive attitude in a time when slavery had not yet been abolished. That feels like a heavy load for one artwork to carry down the centuries. Nikita, Curatorial Trainee: You’re right, the painting may carry a great load. Yes it is the first painting in the collection - but what does that mean for people now, the ones living, learning and growing up with this painting at the heart of a collection of objects that belong to the people of Manchester today? What did it mean for James Northcote to choose to paint this black man, performing as a black man, a character written by Shakespeare? Transferred from the RMI. 1882.2

Object Name

Ira Aldridge as Othello, the Moor of Venice

Creators Name

James Northcote

Date Created



Canvas: 76.2cm x 63.5cm
frame: 89.4cm x 76.5cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[G3] Manchester Art Gallery - Gallery 3
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Transferred from the Royal Manchester Institution.


© Manchester Art Gallery

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