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Ellen Terry as Desdemona in 'Othello'

11 of 194 portraits of Ellen Terry

Ellen Terry as Desdemona in 'Othello', by Southwell Brothers, 1863 - NPG x16990 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Ellen Terry as Desdemona in 'Othello'

by Southwell Brothers
albumen carte-de-visite, 1863
3 1/2 in. x 2 1/4 in. (88 mm x 56 mm) image size
acquired Clive Holland, 1959
Photographs Collection
NPG x16990

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  • Southwell Brothers (active 1862-1876), Photographers. Artist associated with 197 portraits.

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Ellen Terry is shown in costume and against a backdrop for her role in 'Othello' at the Princess's Theatre, where she also made her first stage appearance aged nine. The Times described her performance as Desdemona as 'youthfully innocent, graceful, natural, and so intense in feeling', qualities that marked some of her most effective roles. Terry returned as Desdemona in 1881 at the Lyceum Theatre opposite Sir Henry Irving under whose management she played many leading roles. Terry's career spanned sixty-nine years and she is regarded as the greatest English actress of the period.

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Current affairs

The opening of the world's first underground railway, with the Metropolitan Railway running trains between Bishop's Street, Padington and Farringdon. Work had begun in 1860, using the 'cut-and-cover' method of construction. The Metropolitan line inspired the construction of other underground railways - the Parisian 'Metro' took its name from the line. The Football Association is founded.

Art and science

Julia Margaret Cameron takes up photography, taking portraits of some of the most celebrated figures of the day, with her romantic style capturing the sense of nostalgia and longing that characterised the age. Kingsley's Water Babies; A Fairy Tale for Children is published, the hugely popular tale of drowned chimney sweep Tom's moral education in the river world of the water babies. It inspired the 1978 film starring James Mason.


At an international conference, the Geneva Public Welfare Society calls on the sixteen nations present to form voluntary units to help the wartime wounded. The society, comprised of five Swiss citizens and led by Henri Dunant, who had been deeply affected by the casualties he had witnessed at the Battle of Solferino, became the National Red Cross Societies, adopting the emblem of a red cross on white background.

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