This painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887. It was widely assumed to be a portrait of Queen Ayesha, from Rider Haggard’s story, She. The novel had been published the previous year, and quickly became one of the most popular in the late 19th century. Prinsep depicts Ayesha draped in colourful fabrics, holding a copper vessel, her arms adorned with heavy silver bracelets. He demonstrates both his technical skill and powers of imagination in this representation of a woman unrestrained by the conventions of Victorian society.
Gallery label, May 2019
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