Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sundays Art: Pre-Raphaelites The Order of Release 1853

Painted by Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896), one of the only paintings in history that actually needed its own personal body guards to shield it from the adoring fans.

I am profoundly moved by this painting it has struck something so deep inside me that I can feel the emotion represented. One would think that after receiving the order for release from prison a family reunion would be a happy moment. The symbolism is distressing to me because I am a mother but before I was a mother I was a wife. I love my husband so deeply with every fiber of my being that the emotion portrayed in her expression tears at a part of my soul.

"The picture tells of a Scottish Highlander's release from prison during one of the many wars waged between the Highlanders and the English army. The determined, resigned facial expression of his wife suggests that his order of release was obtained at the expense of her honor; the husband humiliated, defeated stance suggest he knows the sacrifice she made. The model for the soldier's wife was Scottish Effie Ruskin; later to become Effie Millais. It was during the painting of this picture that she and Millais fell in love and she confided to him the travesty of her marriage to Ruskin".
Essential Pre-Raphaelites

"The subject is simply that of a wife, with child in her arms, coming with an order of release for her husband, who has been taken in the Civil Wars. The husband, overcome with emotions, and weak from a recent wound (his arm is in a sling), can but fall upon her neck and weep; moan, "firm of purpose," sheds no tear; she has none to shed; but her eye is red and heavy with weeping and waking; and she looks at the stern and unconcerned gaoler with a proud look, expressing that she has won the reward for all her trouble past. The colouring, the textural execution, are marvellous (for these degenerate days)".
Illustrated London News

17 comments:

Christine Trent said...

I don't know if I agree with the reviewer's comment that it suggests the woman has given up her honor and the prisoner knows it. I think his stance suggests that he is humiliated by defeat, by separation from his family, even by being injured -- which will probably prevent him from earning income. But every painting has more than one interpretation!

What strikes me in the painting is that the soldier/guard seems reluctant to step into the family reunion. He stays clutching the door, and takes the release paper with his head down. I get the sense that he has respect for his enemy, who is in such broken circumstances.

It's a beautiful, moving painting. Thanks for sharing.

Katy said...

What is wrong with me? Everything makes me cry lately, this painting included. Thanks for sharing it.

Marie Burton said...

A wonderful spotlight post, Lizzy!
I have also recently looked at the PreRaphealite paintungs, the brotherhood, etc.. everything is so pretty! And this one, heartwrenching!
Thanks!

Leslie Carroll said...

Lizzy, I agree that the painting is profoundly moving, though, I'm with Christine: the assumption that the wife has forfeited her honor to secure her husband's release might be reading too much into it, especially since there's no indication, from their expressions, that she forfeited it to the redcoat depicted in the painting. I think the contrast with the emotions of the humans in the painting (humiliated, stoic, reticent) to the dog's reaction is incredibly powerful as well. The dog is just thrilled to see his master once again -- his wagging tail, and jumping up for affection is so pure and untainted with whatever backstory (or uncertain future) the humans are dealing with, that it makes a lump in your throat.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

All that remains is the genius in the simplicity of the composition and the sophistication of the artist intent. Oh, and our understanding, for all is lost if we looking at it and don't get what the artist meant to express.
I love this.
Thanks for sharing and have a great week.

lizzy J said...

I would have to also agree with Christine on this. I also think that he is more humiliated than anything else. I do think that there is something more going on with the wife. The look on her face is hard to decipher.

It could any range of emotion but to me it seems there is more, the hard look off into nowhere I can not explain. In my research I found the one theory of her compromised honor and another of humiliation. I am still unsure but I could not find more on it but I will add the full review on the second theory.

The Illustrated London News reviewed the painting as follows:

It is time now that we speak of Millais – Millais the Pre-Raffaelite; the "pretender" Millais that was; the "usurper" Millais that is; the "legitimate" Millais that perhaps (much virtue in that little word) may be; and who has certainly a larger crowd of admirers in his little corner in the Middle Room than all the Academicians put together command; . . .
Truth to say, Mr. Millais, in this "Order of Release" (265), has achieved for himself an "order of merit" worth more than any academic honor, and has earned a fame which a whole corporate academy might be proud to portion amongst its constituent members. Whilst we admit – nay assert this – we would by no means wish to be understood as enrolling ourselves incontinently of this young artist’s "party" (for there is partisanship in everything, even in art); but simply as asserting that Pre-Raphaelites (or rather the artists who have been foolishly styled Pre-Raphaelites) is a "great fact," and perhaps may lead to the regeneration of art in this country;. . .
The subject is simply that of a wife, with child in her arms, coming with an order of release for her husband, who has been taken in the Civil Wars. The husband, overcome with emotions, and weak from a recent wound (his arm is in a sling), can but fall upon her neck and weep; moan, "firm of purpose," sheds no tear; she has none to shed; but her eye is red and heavy with weeping and waking; and she looks at the stern and unconcerned gaoler with a proud look, expressing that she has won the reward for all her trouble past. The coloring, the textural execution, are marvelous (for these degenerate days).

Rosemary said...

In college, I took a class on the Romantics and though I'm far from an art buff, I looooved when our prof would show slides of these gorgeous images. This one looks familiar!

lizzy J said...

I wish I had taken a class like that in college! That would be so much fun I probably would annoy the teacher with all my questions.

Stay tuned Rosemary I have many, many more that I am going to feature.

Leslie Carroll said...

No one's mentioned the Madonna and child image implicit in the tableau. The wife is also wearing the red and blue drapery that Byzantine artists and Renaissance painters used to depict the Virgin Mary. So maybe the element of sacrificing herself for her husband is in there somewhere. Or is a spin on an Annunciation painting with the roles somewhat reversed.

We could go on pulling meanings out of this painting for months!

Arleigh said...

What about the flowers that the child dropped? I'd love to hear your theory on that. I despised art history in college, but I think now, 12 years later, I would enjoy it.

Ms. Lucy said...

I guess Arleigh and I are too often on the same wave length...because I too was going to ask the same question..the flowers dropped??

lizzy J said...

I did notice the red and blue theme going, which did have a slight impact on my read of her face. In her expression I get distance, that the stance in the husband, full and needing is being repelled but supported at the same time.

The flowers I had not noticed but now that you pointed it out to me. I am undecided because of the color and the type of flower. Yellow could mean hope and that the flowers being yellow on the ground dying could mean hope had died but the child has the last flower of hope. They flowers them self show that the child is the key but the color could be assumed to be anything.

What do you think?

lizzy J said...

Great minds think a like you know and I had missed them completely until my previous comment I had not really processed them. I am determined to find out maybe Leslie has an idea on that one.

Jenny Girl said...

I am blown away from the use of color and the skill with which this was made. And learning a lot form all of your comments and posting. Thaank you.

lizzy J said...

I agree sometimes it gives me a complex about my own art. Really how do they do it, make it so real. My art is much more cartoonish, I wish I could put my brush to work like this.

I have figured that since I love it o much why not share it and find out the logic behind the art. It is beautiful and unforgettable.

Susie Tudor Daughter said...

I just simply love this picture!!! I have never seen it before. What I see is a proud Scottish woman coming to get her man with her child and the dog. The British jailer is embarrased about the prisoners treatment and the prisoner is just plain overcome to that he is out of jail (odds were probably pretty slim that he would be)and to see his family. I don't think he was humiliated, most Scots took pride in being jailed for a cause. It really speaks of the great love between the two. It's beautiful,

lizzy J said...

I just discovered it too and also immediately fell in love with it. I am glad you like is Susie.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...