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“Shakespeare was a favourite source for 19th-century artists: and as a young man with a taste for romantic melancholy, John Everett Millais was – not surprisingly – drawn towards the death of Ophelia, described so beautifully in the 4th Act of Hamlet…”
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Considered one of the great masterpieces of the Pre-Raphaelite style, Millais painted an atypical Ophelia for the time. The painting shows Ophelia floating in the water, with great detail in her dress and in the flowers that surround her, each of them with a symbolic charge, such as the ring of violets around her neck, as a symbol of fidelity, but which may also refer to death.
Every tango, leaf, and flower is the product of a rigorous observation of nature. As we observe the figure sinking into the water, we experience the tinge of the melancholy characteristic of Victorian art. Millais is remarkable for his ability to combine Pre-Raphaelite ideals with Victorian sensibility.
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The Masterworks series is a treasure trove of art. Each ten-minute program focuses on an individual painting, with a rich visual survey accompanied by an authoritative voice-over commentary. The selection of works, from galleries on both sides of the Atlantic, covers a broad spectrum of art from the earliest European masterpieces to contemporary works, introducing the unfamiliar and rediscovering the well-loved.
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