Ophelia

Henrietta Rae, 1890

WAG 3081

About this object

The heroine Ophelia was popular with 19th century artists. Rae shows the moment in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' (Act 4, Scene 5) when Ophelia, mad with grief, symbolically recites the names of and scatters rue (a bitter herb), rosemary, pansies, fennel, columbine, daisies and violets.

'There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.'

'There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you; and here's some for me: we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end.'

This romantic, theatrical image was, according to Normand, painted under the influence of the couple's neighbour, the artist Frederic Leighton (1830 - 1896).

It is interesting to note the composition of this painting, split almost perfectly in half, between light and dark. This perhaps symbolises the rent in Ophelia's mind caused by her grief.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Henrietta Emma Rae (British: English, born:30 December 1859, died:26 March 1928)
  • Date
    1890
  • Materials
    Oil; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 171.5 cm x 230.5 cm
  • Physical description
    A female figure (Ophelia) is highlighted on the right. She is wearing a white dress and holding a sprig of herbs which is taken from pile collected in a pouch formed within her dress. She is looking at two seated figures wearing red in the shadows on the left. More figures can be seen through an arched doorway in the background.
  • Related people
    Henrietta Emma Rae (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 3081
  • Credit line
    Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery from the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1890
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections

Inscriptions

Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: H. Rae 1890 (bottom left)
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location:
Object view = Fine Art
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