Portrait of Charles Kean as King Lear by William Etty

Theatre Collection

Kean as Lear

There is a mystery surrounding this painting. It is thought to depict Charles Kean in the title role of King Lear, as is indicated by the gallery label on the reverse of the painting. However the actor did not appear as Lear until his famous performance at the Princess’s Theatre, London in 1858; Etty had died nine years previously. Charles’ father Edmund Kean gave an acclaimed performance as Lear at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1820. Father’s and son’s careers did overlap and they shared a physical resemblance, so possibly the portrait is, in fact, of Edmund Kean and has been mistakenly labelled as his son. It was the first item purchased by the University for the Theatre Collection in 1957, for £110.

  • Item reference: TCP/C/000111
  • Copyright: University of Bristol
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