PART TWO of ROMANTIC FICTIONS AND CASUALTIES
Fragonard, The Fountain of Love 1785 Oil on canvas, Wallace Collection, London.
Image source: WGA. In this painting, the purveyor of insouciance and erotica for the ancien regime breaks into the psychological dreamworld of the Neoclassicists and Romantics in his own decoratively moody way.
“I fly with HORROR from such a passion.” Sally Siddons.
The Tragic Muse’s eldest daughter’s love for the artist had been tested already. She had kept faith in him even after he had abandoned her for her younger sister, a pretty, airheaded girl of sixteen he felt, on impulse, he must marry. During this gaping wound in time, two years of “mortification, grief, agony”, a new kindling took place inside her. Under layers of suffering, she heard more clearly the music of her calling.
Passion reverberated in her, enriching her voice with sweetness, and her melodies with mortal yearning: “I never should have sung as I do had I never seen you; I never should have composed at all. . . You then liv’d in my heart, in my head, in every idea…”
She had turned a fallible man into her muse, and given birth to her own art.
Sir Henry Raeburn, The Marchioness of Northampton playing the harp, c.1820.
Oil on canvas.
“I never should have sung as I do had I never seen you; I never should have composed at all. . . You then liv’d in my heart, in my head, in every idea…” (Sally Siddons)
A few weeks after his engagement to the younger daughter was made official, the shock of unaccustomed proximity to reality cleared the artist’s vision. He saw that he had mistaken his feelings. He confided in the Tragic Muse that it was not her younger daughter that he loved. It was the elder daughter. It always had been. His love was true; he had simply suited the wrong action to the word, an error that any artist or actor would forgive.