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In 1852 Millais painted Ophelia drown in the stream.

Ophelia, Hamlet's rejected lover, finds her death in the waters of the stream she fell to – either by mistake or in deciding to kill herself.

Millais had Ophelia surrounded by hints that symbolise the tragedy of her life and death: the pansy flowers symbolise unrequited love, the forget-me-nots – the memory, the bellis – her innocence, and the red poppies – death.

Ironically, the interesting story behind the creation of the painting was close to having a similar ending.

The model used for his painting was asked to lie down in a bathtub filled with shallow water. The water was getting colder and colder in the winter chill, but Millais, absorbed in his work, did not notice that, and the model nearly died of pneumonia. In other words, the end of her could have been like that of Ophelia's, whose life was dominated by the men in her life.

My work corresponds with Millais's Ophelia, but in contrast to his interpretation of Ophelia's bitter end, my Ophelia chooses to live and paddle lightheartedly in the water. The water, which brings death upon innocent Ophelia, is a source for joy and pleasure.

She is not naïve, she is aware of the possibilities/options, aware of the dangers the water holds and of the voyeuristic presence of the artist documenting her. However, she is not a victim to his whims; she is not dominated by anyone. The all but mystical reality in which she dwells, either indoors or out in the nature, protects her without restraining her; she can ignore the outside world and savour the moment, surrounded by herbs, sage, lavender, rosemary and geranium, she is perfumed by their scent.

The artists' enchantment poses no threat to her; he can be there if he wills, but he cannot break her calm – she is not there for him.


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