L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mrs Yates as Mandane in "The Orphan of China", by Tilly Kettle, 1765

Mary Ann Yates (1728–1787), English tragic actress, and erstwhile theater manager. The daughter of William Graham, a ship's steward and his wife, she married Richard Yates, a well-known comedian of the time. Her career ambitions may have played no small role in her marriage, as her husband was a favored player of David Garrick, the celebrated actor and manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane where Mrs. Yates first performed in 1754. She was eventually to play all the important leading roles at Drury Lane and, later, at Covent Garden. Succeeding the celebrated Mrs. Cibber as the leading tragedienne of the English stage,Yates was in turn succeeded and eclipsed by the legendary Sarah Siddons. Strong-willed and self-assured, she was extremely demanding in her salary negotiations and, at her death, left a considerable estate.

"The Orphan of Zhao" was the first Chinese play to have been translated into any European language. Originally a five act play from the thirteenth-century with both dialogue and songs, the central theme of which was revenge, the first translation/adaptation appeared in French in 1731. Several versions followed, including one by Voltaire, L'Orphelin de la Chine, which was well-received when it débuted at the Comédie-Française in 1755. The next year, the Irish playwright Arthur Murphy wrote a translation - the closest to the original yet - which, when produced three years later, would be the first English language translation to be performed. It was highly successful for years to come, and was brought to the American colonies in 1767. More translations of the original work continued to appear in the next century and beyond; in 2012 James Fenton adapted "The Orphan of Zhao" for the Royal Shakespeare Company.


Tilly Kettle (1735 - circa 1786), portrait painter and the first English painter to work in India. He was born in London, the son of a coach painter, in a family that had been members of the Brewers' Company of freemen for five generations. He studied drawing with William Shipley in the Strand and began his career in portraiture in the 1750s.  He exhibited at the Society of Artists, but struggled to make much success at his profession, and in 1768 sailed to India with the British East India Company, landing at Madras. There he painted portraits and genre scenes. Kettle moved on to Calcutta in 1771, where he continued to work; he also took an Indian mistress and had two daughters by her. He left India in 1776 for London, where he married - apparently for financial concerns - and had three more children. He began to exhibit at he Royal Academy, but he had even fewer clients in England than he had before his departure, and he fell into debt.  In 1786 he set out for a return to India, attempting the journey overland through the Middle East. His last portrait was painted in Aleppo; he disappeared some time later, and is believed to have died in the Syrian Desert.


  1. Here we've got one of Tilly Kettle's slender output of portraits (they fetch rather a bundle at auctions) yet I find myself hopelessly distracted by the fretwork dado rail in the background.
    Oh deary me...

    1. I quite sympathize with your distraction. : )