The Nightingale
Nighingale by Mary Newill


The Nightingale
by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Mary J. Newill
(Napier, 1896) 

First published in Copenhagen in 1843 in New Fairy Tales, The Nightingale had made its way to England by the 1870s, where it became popular with readers, publishers, and artists alike. Andersen’s tales were always in demand, and the popularity of The Nightingale depended partly upon the Victorian fascination with the ‘otherness’ of China.

Mary J. Newill’s illustrations for The Nightingale build upon the tradition of ‘Chinoiserie’, a style derived from European interpretations of Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian art and design, which was vastly popular in Europe during the 18th century. Newill chooses to concentrate on Chinese landscapes, providing snapshots of natural scenery and Chinese architecture, supplemented with depictions of the story’s characters. Their dress is splendidly patterned, but their features are blank and androgynous. Such stereotyped portrayals were common in Western depictions of Asian men and women. Western Europeans were fascinated by Chinese objects, designs, and aesthetics. Chinese people might have been regarded by colonial-era Europeans as troublingly different, but Newill’s illustration emphasises the intricate beauty of Chinese design.

Caption by Ksenyia Shrimpton

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Timeline of Events Associated with The Nightingale


  • Mary J. Newill

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