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Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

By Kirsty Stonell Walker @boccabaciata

 I can't sleep so this post is being started in the middle of the night.  To be honest, I have an awful lot of stuff to achieve in the next 24 hours and so it's probably not a bad thing to be cracking on with this before I have to walk the dog, start preparing and baking various things to eat and clean the house from top to bottom.  Blossom doesn't seem to care very much about any of these concerns and is currently next to me, asleep...

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

Yes, yes, a fat lot of help you're going to be, don't let me disturb you.  I'll just get on with today's image...

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

Uncertainty (1878) Arthur Hughes

Arthur Hughes did a good dog.  I actually have three of his hounds today, but this picture was the least familiar, so I thought I'd start with it. Reading the notes from its sale at Sotheby's, it states that this is a painting of a girl waiting while her suitor asks her father if he can marry her. Contemporary accounts go on about how the girl is all modesty and maidenhood, awaiting the outcome of the meeting, however I have some questions, chiefly why is it called Uncertainty? If our young lady is such a passive pawn of her own future, awaiting the menfolk to tell her what's happening next, why is she having any thoughts, let alone negative ones, about her role in all this? Also, what's that in the chair?

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

Are they her gloves or his? They match the color of our girl's dress and so I'd be tempted to think they are hers, especially as the chap talking to her father seems to have things in his hands, like a hat and a whip. Why then are the gloves just left on the chair? They remind me of the discarded glove in this picture...

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

The Awakening Conscience (1853) William Holman Hunt

To be fair, whenever I see an abandoned glove, I always go straight to The Awakening Conscience.  I wonder if our lass in the hallway is also having an awakening moment as she doesn't look at all certain about stuff.  The dog is looking up at her in solidarity, and is widely supposed to represent loyalty as in this much more famous Hughes painting...

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

The Long Engagement (1854-9) Arthur Hughes

That is the shiny spaniel of loyalty and faithfulness, expressing the emotion that even though your engagement is unfeasibly long, you'll hang in there because you are such good people. That really isn't the vibe I'm getting off the hound in Uncertainty. I don't think that dog is hers, I think it belongs to the man asking to marry her.  I also think that in his hand, the man is carrying a dog whip. The look that is passing between the dog and the girl is 'Run!' because I don't think she will have a very good time of it. It's not that I'm not an old romantic, far from it, but if she married him, she'll end up like those gloves, excluded and discarded. You are right to be uncertain, Modest Maiden, I'd take the dog and leg it.

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

Friends (c.1900) Arthur Hughes

The pose in Uncertainty is linked to the pose in Friends and I like to think this is a picture of our lass after she made a run for it with the dog and now they live happily together in a little house with a lovely garden and no-one owns a dog whip. Well, that's a jolly way to end but I have one more picture from Mr Hughes which deserves a special mention for being just too gorgeous...

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

A Passing Cloud (1908) Arthur Hughes

Again, we have a young lady in a salmon dress who seems to be having a moment, but look at that red setter! That is one of the most gorgeous dogs in art, but I might be biased as I grew up in the 1970s and 80s when they were extremely fashionable. Even Sindy had one...

Thursday 23rd December - Uncertainty

Well, not my Sindy as mine had inherited my brother's Action Man boxer guard dog, which looked incredibly threatening rather than effortlessly stylish. Also, when she walked him in the park, she didn't take a pram, she borrowed Action Man's 1972 Scorpion Tank. It was a devil to park but the green brought out her eyes. I digress.

What A Passing Cloud and Uncertainty have in common for me is that they both offer the girl a form of escape.  The dog in Uncertainty is a hound, built for running.  This is no lap dog, but a creature who can exit at speed.  Similarly, in A Passing Cloud, the window is open.  Whatever is ailing the poor lass by the really gorgeous fireplace, she could be out that window in no time and away. I'm not saying running away with a dog is the best answer, but given the options for a Victorian woman, it's not a bad one.

I'll see you tomorrow for our final post of this Blogvent...


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