|Clarice Honor Edwards (1905) William Robert Symonds|
William Symonds was a late Victorian and Edwardian painter of portraits and genre subjects, known for his pictures of sentimental subjects and children. His skilful portrait of six year old Clarice Edwards shows a little princess in her ringlets and fur. At first glance she seems perfect, sitting in her antique chair in her Sunday best, but I am intrigued by the dropped glove. As lovers of Victorian art, we all know a discarded glove is never a positive symbol...
|Detail of The Awakening Conscience (1853) William Holman Hunt|
Discarded glove alert!
A common meaning to a discarded glove is a girl who will be used and tossed aside but little Clarice is only six, so that seems a little harsh. So what can we find out about Clarice? She was the daughter of James Edwards, of the Edwards shipbuilders from Tyneside. Their household in 1901, in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire (very posh too), consisted of a butler, three housemaids, two nurses and a laundry maid. By the 1911, she was a pupil at Bentley Priory Girls Private School (la de dah), so we can guess she had a fairly comfortable life. Possibly the dropped glove refers to the riches she has; she doesn't need her lovely gloves as she has an even more lovely muff. Could the painter be suggesting the little girl is a tad spoiled?
|The Princess and the Frog (1894) William Robert Symonds|
The Princess and the Frog shows a regal little girl, again with the ermine motif, considering the frog. She lets the cloak hang onto the floor carelessly, about to lift the curse from the slimy prince. Her carelessness might refer to a lack of desire for riches, a generosity rather than avarice and maybe that is what Symonds sees in little Clarice, and possibly not in her parents. Little Clarice is careless with her belongings as she has not learnt the value of and desire for money. Her casting of a glove in order to put her hand in the muff may be a sign that she doesn't want more than she needs; she doesn't need both gloves and a muff, so she takes off her gloves. As details in a painting goes, that solitary glove does give me pause for thought.
Anyway, today's pressie is hot off the press!
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite collections and they have just launched a splendid new guide! Available from the museum shop (an ideal excuse to sneak in and see E R Hughes while you are there) or give them a call on 0121 348 8072 to get one by post. It cost £5 which has to be a smashing bargain and so I'll be giving them a call and reviewing it here after Christmas!
See you tomorrow (and may the Force be with you)....