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    "Will he, won't he? Will she, won't she?" Fortune-telling and female subjectivity in John Everett Millais's The Bridesmaid

    Bown, Nicola (2002) "Will he, won't he? Will she, won't she?" Fortune-telling and female subjectivity in John Everett Millais's The Bridesmaid. Women: A Cultural Review 13 (1), pp. 73-83. ISSN 0957-4042.

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    Abstract

    John Everett Millais's painting The Bridesmaid (1851) depicts a young woman, on the evening of a wedding, attempting to conjure up a vision of her own future husband. This work has been linked to a number of others by Millais dealing with marriage, and has been seen as an articulation of 'matrimonial ideology'. Brown sets the picture in the context of the widespread, though clandestine, practice of fortune-telling, through which women in particular attempted to foreknow, and thus control, the central event of their lives. One of the most frequent questions asked of fortune-tellers was 'whom shall I marry?', the question the girl in the painting has herself asked. However, drawing on recent critical work on 'proposal composition' pictures, Bown argues that men, too, faced great uncertainty on the brink of marriage, and that artists repeatedly explored this uncertainty through attempts to represent a complex female subjectivity in their works. In The Bridesmaid Millais (who was thinking about marriage in the early 1850s) depicts a woman telling her fortune, but he also seeks to represent her as full of thoughts and feelings. The artist, and the viewer of the painting, then, engages in an act of divination in which he tries to discover the mysterious secrets of female subjectivity.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Bridesmaid, Fortunetelling, John Everett Millais, Marriage, Subjectivity
    School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Research Centre: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2014 11:23
    Last Modified: 06 Dec 2016 10:17
    URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/10092

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