Triggers, Paratexts and Interpretations

Lynne Pearce in Woman Image Text: Readings in Pre-Raphaelite Art and Literature suggests that the figure depicted in John Everett Millais's Mariana is caught in a distinctive moment: "Mariana is presenting her body for inspection, while she gazes desirously into the eyes of the Archangel Gabriel represented in the stained glass." Curious to observe if the gaze is returned, one turns to plate three to inspect the reproduction. Inconclusive. Indeed it is difficult to confirm that the figure of Mariana is indeed looking at the angel. However, one notices that plate three (Mariana) is situated on the right page and plate two (Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti) on the left page of the open book and that the figures of Mariana and Beatrix by their positions as reproduced in the book might be seen to converge on the stained glass angel. He may be looking at her but is she looking at him? Reproductions in Pearce's sources are marshalled to make the claim. The article "Subliminal Dreams" by George MacBeth in Narrative Art edited by John Ashbury and Thomas B. Hess provides a black and white detail of the upper left quadrant followed by a colour reproduction. The layout induces a subtle repetition: left page the b&w detail, right page the first page of the article, [turn the page] left page the colour reproduction of the full painting. The manner of the disposition of the illustrations supports the critical story that is being offered. Interestingly Pearce in introducing a quotation from an Andrew Leng article that quotes Macbeth's article fails to mention that Leng remarks upon the tone of Macbeth's "post-Freudian enthusiasm" in whose prose "[t]he erotic implications of the painting which Ruskin ignored are made abundantly if facetiously clear [...]". Leng's article is now available on the Victorian Web. In "Millais's "Mariana": Literary Painting, the Pre-Raphelite Gothic, and the Iconology of the Marian Artist", Leng draws upon how knowledge of Tennyson's poem affects the reading of the painting. In the online verision of the article there is to be found a thumbnail reproduction of the painting that is hot linked to a larger image.

Paratexts push if not produce the interpretations of the painting: that gaze is certainly askance.

And so for day 1960