About this artwork

Paton's painting is an imaginative interpretation of an incident in Shakespeare's play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, quarrel over the possession of a changeling (a human child, carried off to the fairy realm and replaced by a fairy child). The main figures are surrounded by a host of smaller fairy creatures, some grotesque, others beautiful, whose supernatural character excused their sensual appearance and behaviour. The painting was judged to be 'picture of the season' when exhibited in Edinburgh in 1850. Later it captivated Lewis Carroll (the author of 'Alice in Wonderland') who counted 165 fairies.

Sir Joseph Noel Paton

Sir Joseph Noel Paton

Paton was a highly successful artist who specialised in painting detailed compositions illustrating biblical episodes and imaginative stories based on romantic myths and legends. His interest in achieving convincing naturalistic detail was inspired by his friend John Everett Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, whom he met while both were students at the Royal Academy Schools in London. Paton born in Dunfermline, returned to Scotland and was appointed 'the Queen's Limner in Scotland' in 1866. His most famous paintings are of fairy subjects which enjoyed great popularity during Victoria's reign.