Friday, June 08, 2007

A Life Well Spent

I love this painting, "A Life Well Spent" by Charles West Cope (1862).
Artistically, it's tightly unified with the black and pink details echoing from mother to daughter to bassinet.

It's also a little slice of Victorian life and fashions. The mother is presented as industrious and productive--she's not just knitting socks, but she has four little ones under the age of, say, ten. They're all clean, placid, and content.

The interior space is crammed with Victorianisms without being cluttered--there's the obligatory Jesus picture, the elaborately carved sideboard, the velvet chair with fringe and brass tacks, the embroidered tablecloth, the workbaskets, the children's slate, and more.

The mother is wearing a typical mid-century dress, probably a black striped silk with black glass buttons and silk trim. Crisp collar and cuffs set off the gathered bodice with coat sleeves. Her hair is smoothly confined into a decorative net. She's knitting fashionable striped stockings, probably for her daughter.

The daughter, not yet a young woman, still has her hair down and her skirt short, but she's modestly attired in a sheer white dress with black belt and embellishments, a simple black ribbon holding back her hair. Her blond hair, demure appearance, and her hand on the bassinet indicate that she will grow up to be just like her mother.

The title of the painting tells us how we're supposed to read this painting. There is neither window nor door. This mother's whole life revolves around her children and the domestic interior. And it Cope's view, at least, the reward is this content, peaceful home.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Thanks for displaying this painting by an artist I've never heard of; your commentary was a treat!