Friday, 17 December 2010

Bite 16: John Everett Millais - Mariana, 1851

Mariana, 1851, oil on wood, 60 x 50 cm
Mariana leads a dreary and solitary life, accompanied here by only a mouse, yet Millais has painted this scene with striking luminosity, taking great care in painting the detail of the stained glass, garden and tapestry. This beautiful painting presents foremost a dark interior world, a psychological state, while representing a Victorian taste for Gothic decorative craftsmanship. Millais marries these two aims in a masterfully ambiguous and paradoxical work.

Robed in a remarkably deep blue gown Mariana rises languorously to stretch. The embroidery and fallen leaves suggest time brutally marching on, life passing her by. The lamp is dim just as her face is tired; she leans back wearily, filled with the deep melancholy of having lost all she ever cared for, faced with a future alone and with little apparent hope. The beauty of the world around her is no longer enough to sustain her.

Based on words from Tenneyson, it was originally exhibited along with lines from his poem of the same name: "I am aweary, aweary - I would that I were dead!"