Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Peasant Girl With a Scarf

I can't get this girl off my mind; she looks familiar. I tell myself that at my age, everyone is starting to look familiar. Still, whenever I glimpse her, my memory rummages through a flurry of faces.

Who could she have been? A classmate from college? A waitress at an old hangout? A girl on a bus that I looked at, but didn't summon the courage to talk to?

She's a big boned lass with a thick neck and strong wrist. She's dressed for outdoor toil and the sun has left its imprint on her cheek. She works hard, but this is a moment of respite. The faraway glance in her eyes, the chin resting, and the parted lips, all betray her sweet girlish longing, and this evokes in me nostalgia for a time when romantic possibilities seemed infinite.

From beneath her head scarf, rich locks frame her face. She has two scarves! Which is the eponymous one? The red, certainly, because it's the scarf she doesn't really need. Courbet may have seen that dash of color adorning this working girl's neck and admired it, as I do, and perhaps even wondered whom she reminded him of.

Peasant Girl With a Scarf, oil on canvas, Gustave Courbet, c. 1849.


Paula Slade said...

Lovely painting, I was not familiar with it. Perhaps it is her thoughtful gaze that reminds you of someone's mannerisms?

DUTA said...

Beautiful description of the girl in the painting!! But..

There are many paintings of peasant girls. The peasant in this painting appears to be one that works as a servant, not out on the fields. She's also plump for an outdoor girl. Despite the red patch on her face, her skin does not have the shades of sun and wind, her clothes are not coarse but made of fine woven cotton. That's why she looks familiar to an urban person.

Paula Slade said...

Au contraire, Duta, the sun has kissed her cheeks in just the right place for someone who spends time outdoors, and her robust figure also sheds hints of a woman who can handle the physical aspects of working outdoors - lifting, carrying - robust. Her nails/cuticles also look as if they have been defined by working with the soil (IMHO)I think it is her her gaze, which has a bit of longing that has captured a fleeting remembrance.