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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Oil Paintings on Shakespearean Themes

Description of Painting - Oil on canvas 19" x 35"
by Hannah Tompkins


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After 15 years of dark despair, condemned to a self-made prison by his jealousy, Leontes has had plenty of time to search his conscience. He is shown kneeling as a humble penitent, without his crown, the emblem of his imperious authority.

The faithful Paulina, as the "Redeemer" looks down with compassion, ready to pull the cord that will unveil the 'statue' of Hermione as it miraculously comes to life.

Paulona's one foot rests on a dark square of the floor while the other is mounted in the light of the first step to the sanctuary.

Behind her is a jungle forest, illuminated by an eerie moon. A forest is sometimes associated with the Female Principle of the Great Mother and identified with the human unconsciousness. The terrors of the forest so prominent in children's stories often symbolize this unconsciousness and its tendency to devour or obscure reason.

The lion lurking in the foliage, represents the Male principle, which, in a wild state equates with the latent passions and fierce devouring, (particularly of 'time').

The colors of the forest are repeated in Leontes' garments, for like a jungle beast he too vented his passions in a savage way until he was rescued.

The window to the left opens on a bright sun, blue sky and newly budding tree. The triform circular windows at the top signify the past-present and future as well as spiritual unity.

The covered urn on the pedestal is an ancient symbol of "Oneness".

The young lovers, haloed in light, forebear regeneration. Polixines stands in amazement with staff in hand, indicating re- stored life and friendship

Since the play is like a fairy tale where reality is suspended, the characters are rendered ghostly and statue-like, each occupying a space on the life size chess board on which Leontes played out his royal game of manipulation, only to be routed by a checkmate.

The squares leading to the curtain are fading in the light of a new dawn, bringing new promise and new hope with Leontes as the greatest beneficiary. But Paulina says at the end:
"Go together,
You precious winners all".    (Act V.)

Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.


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