I Saw Othello’s Visage in His Mind

Copied Fred Wilson, I Saw Othello's Visage in His Mind, 2013, Murano glass and wood, 64 in. × 51 12 in. × 7 in. (162.6 × 130.8 × 17.8 cm) irreg. , Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2019.8, © 2013, Fred Wilson

Artwork Details

Title
I Saw Othello’s Visage in His Mind
Artist
Date
2013
Location
Not on view
Dimensions
64 in. × 51 12 in. × 7 in. (162.6 × 130.8 × 17.8 cm) irreg. 
Copyright
© 2013, Fred Wilson
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
Mediums Description
Murano glass and wood
Classifications
Keywords
  • Literature — Shakespeare — Othello
Object Number
2019.8

Artwork Description

Fred Wilson explores history, race, and identity through installations, sculptures, and other art forms. I Saw Othello's Visage in His Mind is one of Wilson's many meditations on Shakespeare's Othello, a tragedy set in Renaissance Venice. To create the work, Wilson collaborated with a historic glass studio in Venice, Italy. Each of its five stacked mirrors are engraved with scallops, scrolls, and botanical sprays that recall the city's rich decorative arts tradition. The black glass makes our reflections appear phantomlike and racially ambiguous, inviting us to consider what Wilson calls "the fluidity, inconsistency, and fragility of the notion of race." Perception, illusion, and race are also critical themes in Shakespeare's play; Othello, a black military officer, is deceived into believing his wife, Desdemona, who is a white noblewoman, has betrayed him. The artwork's title is taken from Desdemona's line in Act I, as she explains how clearly she saw Othello's honorable character and chose to marry him despite the racial conventions of their time. Misapprehension imperils their true love, bringing them both to a tragic end in the play that Wilson calls, "monstrous, magnificent, and mournful."