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King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid

by 1906 or 1907 Albert Pinkham Ryder Born: New Bedford, Massachusetts 1847 Died: New York, New York 1917 oil on canvas mounted on fiberboard 24 1/2 x 18 in. (62.2 x 45.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of John Gellatly 1929.6.99 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing


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King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid may have been commissioned by the art collector John Gellatly, who was an enthusiastic supporter of contemporary American art around the turn of the twentieth century. Albert Pinkham Ryder worked on this painting for more than five years, and x-rays of the canvas show that it was painted over two other images. Ryder was inspired by the story of King Cophetua from an Elizabethan ballad that tells of love overcoming all odds. In the tale, a king of Africa falls in love with a beautiful young beggar maid and marries her, despite her lowly status. Ryder was a hopeless romantic and believed wholeheartedly in love at first sight. In this painting he chose the scene when the king first notices the young girl to show that people’s lives could change in just one moment. (Broun, Albert Pinkham Ryder, 1989)

Keywords

Animal - horse

Figure group

Landscape - water

Literature - Percy - Reliques of Ancient English Poetry

Occupation - other - aristocrat

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

fiberboard

About Albert Pinkham Ryder

Born: New Bedford, Massachusetts 1847 Died: New York, New York 1917

More works in the collection by
Albert Pinkham Ryder