Tag Archives: sad veiled bride

Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev – The Unequal Marriage

27 Dec

“Sad veiled bride, please be happy
Handsome groom, give her room
Loud, loutish lover, treat her kindly
(Though she needs you
More than she loves you)…”

(The Smiths, I know it’s over)

Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev, The Unequal Marriage, 1862, oil on canvas, 173 x 136,5 cm

Pukirev, the son of a peasant who had originally been trained to be an icon painter swept the art scene when he presented his very large canvas “The Unequal Marriage” in 1863. Pukirev had just finished studying at the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow and this painting was an ambitious and successful attempt to portray a scene from an everyday life (well, a wedding may not be an everyday thing, but it’s not a theme from history or religion) in a serious, not sentimental manner. The scene looks like a very dramatic moment in a play; the light in the church is falling on the three main figures in the painting; the bride, illuminating her beautiful and sad figure of the bride, the wrinkled and dull looking old groom, and the hunched priest. The bride and the groom are both holding a lighted candle. The bride; beautiful, shy, and melancholy, is the picture of innocence. Her lovely pale oval face is framed with silky curls that touch her collar bones and her necklace. Jewels glimmers on her skin, blossoms on her wreath are blooming, but her heart is a poor withered flower, sad and cold. The crinoline is heavy on her slender frame, and her downward gaze reveals more than it hides. We cannot see the look in her eyes, but we can feel what she is feeling, we can imagine the soft tears blurring her visions, we can imagine the dryness in her throat when the moment to say “I do” comes.

The idea for the painting came from this one particular real life story; Pukirev’s friend Serge Mikhailovich Varentsov, a young merchant, was hopelessly in love with a twenty-four year old girl Sofya Nikolaevna Rybnikova, but her parents decided it would be better for her to marry a man who was richer and more succesful, a thirty-seven year old Andre Aleksandrovish Karzinkin. The age different wasn’t as big as the painting presents it, but Pukirev wanted to emphasise the bride’s youth and beauty in contrast to the man’s old age and fading looks, so the artistic freedom is understandable and justifiable. Poor, lovelorn Sergei was nonetheless forced to attend the wedding and see his beloved marry someone else, due to family reasons; his brother Nikolai was married to Karzinkin’s younger sister. One man’s sadness was another man’s inspiration and when Sergei told this to his friend the artist, Pukirev instantly had the idea of a painting in mind. The man behind the bride is suppose to be portrait of Sergei but later Sergei was rather angry that Pukirev had painted him and so Pukirev added a beard to the face but the rest remained unchanged. Still, the artist’s friend S. I. Gribkov said for the bearded man that: “with crossed arms in the picture, it is V. V. Pukirev himself, as if alive”. The theme of the painting and the social problem it accentuates reminds me of something from Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”; the main character Raskolnikov’s intelligent and beautiful sister Dunya takes upon herself to better the family’s financial situation by marrying an old and wealthy, but not good-hearted lawyer Luzhkin. In the end, she doesn’t proceed and she ends up marrying Raskolnikov’s best friend Razumikhin who is intelligent and strong and, unlike Luzhkin, he loves her dearly.

First Zhuravlev, After the Wedding, 1880

Auguste Toulmouche, The Reluctant Bride, 1866

More sad brides!

Sad veiled bride, please be happy…

23 May

“Sad veiled bride, please be happy
Handsome groom, give her room
Loud, loutish lover, treat her kindly
(Though she needs you
More than she loves you)”

(The Smiths, I know it’s over)

George Theodore Berthon, Portrait of Mrs. William Henry Boulton (Harriette), 1846

I can remember how good I felt inside
When the preacher said “Son, you may kiss the bride”
But as I leaned over to touch her pretty lips
I felt it all slip away through my fingertips

(Bruce Springsteen – Stolen Car)

The wedding day can be the happiest day of your life – or the most tragical one. That depends on many factors; whether a girl is marrying a prince or an ogre (no offense Shrek), whether her husband to be has a mad wife in the attic or not, whether his marriage is just a devise to rob you of your family inheritance. Nontheless, the image of a bride, let’s imagine a Victorian era bride, is always a charming one; dressed in white and covered with a veil, she might as well be a ghostly creature from another realm. So ethereal and eerie is the figure in white. Walking down the isle, veil covering her blushing cheeks, dressed in a white gown and looking splendid in all her virginal glory, sweetness, hopes, anticipation, all fill her fast beating heart. In a step or two, her destiny will be decided, her life changed forever… is she walking towards the altar or being led to the dungeons where her execution is to be held.

Queen Victoria set the standard for white wedding gowns in 1840 when she married Prince Albert, but that is not to say that white wedding dresses were not worn before; they were, but from that point on they became the statement. Her wedding day was an intensely happy event and she loved being married to Albert, but not every woman in Victorian era felt quite the same way, despite the idealisations we nowadays may have of their time and their lives, doting wife and angel in the house was often a bored and lonely woman. Let’s take Toulmouche’s painting “The Reluctant Bride” (below) as an example; just look at her face expression, she is absolutely not thrilled about it. Or Sophie of Württemberg (1818-1877), the Queen of Netherlands, who was buried in her wedding dress because she said that her life ended the day she got married.

Let’s take a look at Jane Eyre’s state of soul in chapter 36 after the secret was revealed:

Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman–almost a bride, was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate. A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud:lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, today were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and flagrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway. I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing…

Jane Eyre’s wedding was so short and hasty that she must have been thinking, again quoting The Smiths:

I know it’s over
And it never really began
But in my heart it was so real

Apart from the obvious contrast between joy and disappointment that a bride inevitably faces, the figure of a bride in white, an innocent pure maiden, can serve as a visual contrast to something darker in the story, for example: Jane Eyre meets her husband to be Mr Rochester’s real mad violent wife in the attic, or the young naive bride of Bluebeard, when left alone in his castle, discovered his dark, bloody and blood-chilling secrets; also Elizabeth in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” who is strangled on her wedding night by the Monster that Doctor Frankenstein had created as a revenge to the Doctor who refused to make him a female companion.

And to end, here is perhaps the most eerie bride out of them all: Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s novel “Great Expectations”, a bride who is decaying and rotting under her silk and lace garments:

In an arm-chair, with an elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that hand, sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.

She was dressed in rich materials – satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on – the other was on the table near her hand – her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I should have cried out, if I could.

Auguste Toulmouche, The Reluctant Bride, 1866

Firs Zhuravlev, Before the wedding, 1874

Inspiration: Sad Veiled Brides

4 Feb

Sad veiled bride please be happy

Handsome groom, give her room

Loud, loutish lover treat her kindly

Though she needs you

More than she loves you…” (The Smiths – I Know It’s Over)

said-veiled-bride-22

She’d walk on broken glass for love
She thought burnt skin would please her lover
To keep love alive and lust beside
Kind people should never be treated like…

Empty arms and naked heart
The love she sought through faltering thought
Table for two, such a sweet delight
Whispers “I love you my darling” tonight…” (Manic Street Preachers – She Bathed Herself In A Bath of Bleach)

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Foto: SMK Foto Statens Museum for Kunst Sølvgade 48-50 1307 København K DANMARK e-mail: foto@smk.dk www.smk.dk

1840s-the-poetess-josephine-stieler-nee-von-miller-as-bride-portrait-by-her-husband-joseph-stieler-their-son-karl-stieler-became-a-famous-author

lemony-snickets-22lemony-snickets-21lemony-snickets-261844. march wedding dress and day dress

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1920s-wedding-dress-pretty1861. wedding dresses, godey's ladies bookhelena bonham carter miss havishancorpse bride 4

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4X5 original

4X5 original

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