The University of Birmingham has loaned an historic painting with a Shakespeare connection to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun led an embassy to London in 1600 to deepen trade and diplomatic links between Britain and Morocco, and may have influenced Shakespeare’s depiction of Othello.
A portrait of the Ambassador - which normally hangs in the Shakespeare Institute, in Stratford-upon Avon – will form a key part of the exhibition The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England, which opens on 10 October.
We, of course, will miss having Abd el-Ouahed in Stratford, but he will be acting as our ambassador - representing the university and our collections on a global stage where hundreds of thousands of people will get to see him and hear his story.”Clare Mullett - Head of Research and Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham
The painting is being shown at the New York museum before travelling to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio (21 Feb – 14 May 2023) and being displayed at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (26 Jun – 24 Sep 2023).
Clare Mullett, Head of Research and Cultural Collections at the University of Birmingham commented: “In loaning the portrait to the Met as part of the first exhibition on the Tudor monarchs in the US, the University of Birmingham joins other high profile British institutions involved in this major show, including the V&A, National Portrait Gallery and British Museum.
“We, of course, will miss having Abd el-Ouahed in Stratford, but he will be acting as our ambassador - representing the university and our collections on a global stage where hundreds of thousands of people will get to see him and hear his story.”
The University of Birmingham’s research connections span continents and have an impact on people’s lives. It offers many opportunities for cultural, educational and research collaboration in the US and beyond.
Through its Shakespeare Institute, the University is one of the major hubs for Shakespeare studies worldwide.
Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, commented: “Given the ongoing global popularity of Shakespeare’s work, the portrait adds a fascinating dimension to the exhibition, since Abdul el-Ouahed’s visit to London has many resonances with Shakespeare’s Othello.
“This portrait is one of the most vivid souvenirs of the London in which Shakespeare was living, around the time he began dramatising a little Italian short story about a well-travelled Moorish warrior whose allegiances between the Islamic and Christian worlds are called into question.”