The Artist’s Daughter – 1870 Marble
James Sherwood Westmacott - V&A Museum
Most people do not realize that some of the greatest artists in history worked under commission and rarely had any choice in the subject matter they portrayed. Historically, art has been extremely expensive and time consuming, forcing the artists to rely on patrons in order to earn a living while exercising their craft.
However, this piece strays from the norm. It is not a representation of a wealthy merchant or a powerful political figure. It is the personal rendition of the artist’s own daughter, something reasonably rare. One can tell that great paternal affection was poured into this work. The woman’s hair was gently posed as if to impart an ethereal, dreamlike aura to the subject. Her facial expression is placid, her eyes exude peace and her gentle smile reveals her emotional state, but for some reason I cannot pinpoint, there also seems to be a certain lingering sense of sadness in her demeanor. This is the mystery that captivated me. How can sadness and happiness coexist peacefully in the same facial expression, if not in the same spirit?