Marianne Stokes – The Queen and the Page

22 Dec

“…the woman is seen as unattainable, the more the desire she has aroused grows, and her Beauty is transfigured.”

Marianne Stokes, The Queen and the Page, 1896, oil on canvas, 101 x 96 cm

Marianne Stokes’ painting “The Queen and the Page” has been haunting me for weeks now. As soon as I read the painting’s title I was, in my imagination, transported to some enchanted, far-away, Medieval fairy tale land, to some white castle with many many narrow towers and spiraling staircases; a castle with knights, troubadours and damsels. The painting has a distinctly Medieval mood which shows Marianne Stokes’ interest in the Pre-Raphaelites. The composition and the colour palette both contribute to the gentle beauty and the bittersweet mood of the painting. The focus is solely on the two figures of the Queen and her Page who are seen walking through a forest. The space around them is painted in soft, tender shades of blue, grey and green, and it looks very dreamy and remote from the stifling life at the court. The woodland, with the tall elegant tree trunks and the mushrooms springing from the ground, is a beautiful setting for the scene.

The figures of the Queen and the Page are elegant and gently elongated, beautifully clad in sumptuous fabric, both are wearing a similar pair of pointy shoes, and their paleness and some sort of frail elegance brings to mind the elegant figures from the fourteenth century illuminations by the Limbourg Brothers. The Page is carrying her train; it’s a sacred duty to him, a privilege to touch the silk train of her dress when the fate is so cruel that he may not touch her lips of soft blonde hair. Without a word being spoken we can feel the mood between the young and beautiful Queen and the blonde Page; there’s a quiet yearning and tenderness in the air. Their faces are especially interesting in conveying the feelings; her downward gaze seems wistful and passively surrendered to her faith, the Page’s eyes glisten with yearning and his cheeks, rosy as rosebuds, speaks of sweetness that mount in his soul while he is breathing the same air as his beloved. But, alas, bittersweet is the tale of their romance!

The inscription written in German in the upper part of the canvas speaks of the story of an old grey-haired King who was married to a young, beautiful Queen, and there was also a Page who had blonde hair and who carried the Queen’s silk train. The Queen and the Page loved each other too much and they both had to die. This vision of love, exceedingly idealised and romantic, tinged with melancholy, tender and – tragical – is typical for the late Medieval age of romance, damsels and troubadours that Marianne Stokes is clearly trying to evoke: “That new romantic code so sweetly celebrated in ‘Le Roman de la Rose’ and the ideal of “courty love” sung by the troubadours governed the relations between the sexes. The lover was expected to show delicate attentions and pay respectful hommage to the lady of his heart. This new culture, worldly no doubt but full of smiling grace, did much to shape the course of the 13th century life.” (Gothic painting, Jacques Dupont)

And here is something very interesting that Umberto Eco says on the same topic in his book “On Beauty”:

…the development of an idea of female Beauty, and of courtly love, in which desire is amplified by prohibition: the Lady fosters in the knight a permanent state of suffering, which he joyfully accepts. This leads to fantasies about a possession forever deferred, in which the more the woman is seen as unattainable, the more the desire she has aroused grows, and her Beauty is transfigured. (…) …all these stories of passion contain the idea that love, apart from the ravishment of the senses, brings unhappiness and remorse in its train. Consequently, as far as regards the interpretation of courtly love in the centuries that followed, the moments of moral weakness (and of erotic success) undoubtedly took second place to the idea of an infinitely protracted round of frustration and desire, in which the dominion the woman acquires over the lover reveals certain masochistic aspects and, the more passion is humiliated, the more it grows.

Marianne Stokes, Aucassin and Nicolette, date unknown

Marianne Stokes (born Preindlsberger) was an Austrian painter who married the British landscape painter Adrian Scott Stokes. They had no children and they were both devoted to their art and travelled Europe extensively. These travels fueled their inspiration and Marianne’s oeuvre, very thematically diverse, reflects this. Painting “The Queen and the Page” is a very beautiful example of Stokes being inspired by the art of the Pre-Raphaelites. Another beautiful and romantic example of this is the painting “Aucassin and Nicolette”.

8 Responses to “Marianne Stokes – The Queen and the Page”

  1. Michael Hill 23rd Dec 2020 at 5:53 am #

    Love the Queen and her Page.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael Hill 23rd Dec 2020 at 6:06 am #

    p.s. Its strange I was only listening to Cadence and Cascade the other day and it made me play 20th-century schizoid man by King Crimson from “The Court of King Crimson” album, hadn’t heard them for years, and it really took me back, the “Queen and the Page” seems to fit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 24th Dec 2020 at 3:33 pm #

      Now that you say it, I’m starting to think about Donovan’s song Guinevere.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Hill 24th Dec 2020 at 4:09 pm #

        It is a lovely painting, almost Klimpt like with the materials.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Upside-down Land 23rd Dec 2020 at 1:37 pm #

    Thanks again for exposing me to artists and art I had not previously encountered, and also for your descriptive words and Umberto Eco’s insightful comments.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. smilla72 24th Dec 2020 at 10:45 am #

    This gorgeous painting reminds me Debussy’s opera « Pelléas et Mélisande «  (after Maeterlinck) where the pure-hearted Mélisande, married to the king Golaud, is in secret love with Gokaud’s half-brother Pelléas. They meet secretly. Let me quote from the libretto (M:Mélisande ; P:Pelléas): M: There is someone behind us. / P: I can’t see anybody. / M: I heard a noise. / P: I can only hear your heart in the darkness. / M: I heard the dead leaves rustle. / P: The wind has suddenly dropped. It dropped while we were kissing. / M: How big our shadows are this evening ! / P: They are intertwined right down till the end of the garden. See how they are kissing far off! / M: Oh! He’s behind a tree! / P: Who? / M: Golaud. There. At the end of our shadows. He has his sword. / P: I didn’t bring mine. / M: He saw us kissing. / P: He doesn’t know we have seen him. Don’t turn your head. He would rush out at once. He’s watching us. Go off this way at once! I’ll wait for him. I’ll stop him. / M: No! No! / P: Go! He’s seen us! He’ll kill us! / M: All the better! / P: He’s coming! Give me your lips!!! / M: Yes. Oh yes! / (They embrace passionately) P: All the stars are raining down! Again! Give me your lips your lips!!! / M: All of me! All of me! (Golaud falls upon them, sword in hand, and strikes down Pelléas who falls at the edge of the well. Mélisande flies in terror.)

    Liked by 1 person

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