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Mariana

Painting, 1851, 59.7×49.5 cm

Description of the artwork «Mariana»

English Dr. William Ecton, in his book Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs, stated that women, by their nature, cannot experience sexual attraction. Her natural needs are to take care of the children and the house, and if the husband had not shown a desire for intimacy, she would not have sought her. Sexual relationships for women - a necessary necessity, which allows you to make a man happy. Dr. Acton was considered a free-thinker and a liberal because he, in principle, spoke of sexuality, prostitution and gender issues. And his opinion in Victorian England was shared by many.

Pre-Raphaelite artists began to write women in such a way that Dr. Acton’s statement no longer seemed so obvious. In the most unexpected states and situations, behind their fatigue, thoughtfulness, fear, sadness, even behind the deathbed sigh lies the passion and unwitting seductiveness of gestures. For the present, the victims and martyrs of their own desires, the women of the Pre-Raphaelites receive permission to feel them.

When in 1851 at the exhibition of the Academy of Arts, John Everett Millet presented the painting “Mariana”, a plate with a quatrain from Alfred Tennyson’s poem of the same name was attached to it:
How life is empty! - she said. -
He will not come in the future.
I'm tired, so tired
It is better to die!

Mariana is the heroine of Shakespeare's play “Measure for Measure,” rejected by her fiance after the girl lost her dowry, and with it her beloved brother. She settled alone in a farmhouse surrounded by a moat. Her days are similar to each other: mice rustle and chirp sparrows, night replaces day, everything is overgrown with moss and slowly sinking into desolation. But the betrayal of the groom and the inability to be near him only added strength to Mariana’s feelings: “His unfair cruelty, instead of quenching his passion, made her, as an obstacle in the stream, even more violent and unbridled”. Millet writes a deceived girl here, in solitude, in silence, in anticipation, in a plea for death instead of such a life. She pulled away from embroidery to stretch her back, but this simple gesture is filled with passion. But only the blind would not see in him every second, exhausting, intense, unspent desire.

Millet, like his pre-Raphaelite friends, chose literary stories to talk about modernity. These three pretty shook the Victorian society, tightened, as in a hard corset, in a set of rules and propriety. In a literal sense, by the way, corsets also began to crack at the seams: women appear at all in the pictures of pre-Raphaelites without this detail of their wardrobe and with their hair loose - a dress code that is allowed only in the married bedroom, but certainly not in the halls of the Royal Academy.

His Mariana peers into the landscape outside the window - and there could easily be a dull English autumn field. An empty, deserted, indifferent world - the permanent, devoid of time will take the scenery to the women's suffering. Mariana suffers not only from external cruelty, but rather from the inner need to be loved, from the heat, which is inflamed the stronger, the more hopeless her position becomes.

Pre-Raphaelites returned to the woman the ability to feel, to have sexual desires, to be the main participant in her own life and the main manager of her own body. This is not the woman Dr. Acton wrote about. This woman craves love and intimacy and is ready to pursue her own. John Everett Millet is getting married to one of these women soon. And who knows, would have decidedEffie Ruskin to a scandalous divorce from the first husband for the love of Millet, if he were not the same artist who writes women without corsets and with flowing hair.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
from 1450 rub
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Literary scene

Style of art: The Pre-Raphaelites

Technique: Oil

Materials: Mahogany

Date of creation: 1851

Size: 59.7×49.5 cm

Artwork in selections: 17 selections

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