George Henry Harlow captures the moment she points at the hated Cardinal -'to YOU I speak'. Contemporaries commented on how Siddons seemed immediately to 'reassum[e] the fulness of majesty, glowing with scorn, contempt, anger and the terrific pride of innocence’.
This painting was 'Picture of the Year' at the Royal Academy in 1817. It became one of the most popular theatrical images of the nineteenth century, and a point of reference for future productions of Henry VIII.
It combines family portraiture with theatrical history: Sarah Siddons's Wolsey is played by her brother, John Philip Kemble. Stephen and Charles Kemble are, respectively, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.
Listen to the Trial of Queen Katherine performed by the RSC below.