Scene from Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" (Katharina and Petruchio)

Washington Allston, American, 1779 - 1843

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

27 3/4 x 30 7/8 inches (70.5 x 78.4 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Edith H. Bell Fund and the J. Stogdell Stokes Fund, 1987

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The figures in this meticulously executed scene respond with a variety of emotions to a plan by Petruchio to subdue his argumentative new wife. Proclaiming that her new dress is not good enough, he threatens the tailor. Katharina's atypical composure suggests Petruchio's success in "taming" her temper. Best known for biblical history pictures, romantic portraits, and landscapes, Allston was also a poet and novelist. His interest in Shakespeare undoubtedly was stimulated by his close friendship with Shakespearean scholar Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Not long before this picture was painted, the two men had toured Italy, where Allston learned to emulate the lustrous glazes and jewel-like colors of Venetian painting.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Although best known for his romantic landscapes and monumental history paintings, Washington Allston also made small narrative paintings, including nine scenes from Shakespearean plays. This scene from The Taming of the Shrew, once owned by Philadelphian Edwin Forrest, one of the most renowned actors of the mid-nineteenth century, shows the predicament of Catherine, whose husband Petruchio is trying to "tame" her tempestuous spirit by denying her the luxuries she finds so appealing. Here he is about to destroy a gown that he has ordered for her with the excuse that it is not good enough, much to the tailor's consternation. Certainly the most animated of Allston's theatrical subjects, this work is also the best preserved. Allston painted by applying transparent layers of color, a technique that he developed by studying the work of Venetian artists of the Renaissance. In many of his paintings, these delicate layers have been removed or marred by harsh cleanings, leaving monochromatic, generalized underpainting. Fortunately here the varied, glowing colors and meticulous details have remained remarkably intact, evidence of the talent that brought Allston acclaim as the foremost American artist in the first half of the nineteenth century. Darrel Sewell, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 268.