You know when people tell you to “cheer up, it could always be worse”? My usual response is “Yes, I could be on a sinking ship”, I was fairly happy with this response until recently, when a friend of mine came out with “You could be a conjoined twin”. My initial reaction was to laugh, a lot at this, as images of all the things you are very used to doing alone, suddenly had another pair of eyes and potentially hands associated to the activity. Knowing my luck, I would be the twin that no one wanted to know, and end up being the third wheel on dates, and be asking if someone could turn the TV up so that I don’t have to listen to uncomfortable rutting noises.
The thing with telling people it could always be worse irritates me somewhat, as actually, things being worse is a matter of perspective. To someone that has had a very happy life, stubbing a toe could really be a horrendous downer for that day to them, simply because they have had a comfortable life with little that has presented issues. For those who have had significantly harder lives, stubbing a toe might seem like a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon after a large lunch. The key to understanding people’s troubles is really not to make assumptions. We simply cannot base others suffering on our own experiences as we all have different reactions and emotions.
Which leads me to this painting by Louis Ginnett. Ginnett was a portrait and mural painter and lived between 1875 – 1946. He was also known for stained glass designs. He taught at the Brighton School of Art for many years.
This particular portrait is at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate, UK. What I usually do when I am writing about art, is I document my own feelings towards a piece. Then I do some research, then I combine the two to try and help anyone who is interested in understanding the artwork. On this occasion there is very little around this painting that has been documented aside from who has painted it. Therefore all I can give you is my own perception Jacinta.
This is a beautifully painted portrait, of what I am assuming is a Spanish or Portuguese woman, derived from the clothing that she has and the name Jacinta. With just the woman as the focal point, and the dark background, it brings to mind the works of Caravaggio, pinpointing soley the most dramatic thing in the portrait. I love the way the light illuminates her very pale skin and the neck line, leading down to the curve of her breast. To me this highlights Jacinta’s femininity, despite her bobbed hair and almost plain features.
The detail in the shawl that is covering some of her modesty accentuates her unblemished skin, perhaps highlighting her youthfulness.
In her hand, there appears to be coins, which could indicate either that she has been begging, or, considering the state undress that she is in, prostitution. The look on her face, almost contemptuous.
What Ginnett has achieved within this painting is a simultaneous feeling of intimacy and distance. The viewer feels a certain level of closeness to Jacinta because of how she is dressed. Her bare shoulder and chest inviting the audience to feel that she is exposing herself to them in a most intimate way. Yet the expression she gives is far from welcoming. He looks disdainfully downwards and to the side, not meeting the audience’s eye, giving a cold and unfeeling impression to what is about to happen.
Ginnett has carefully composed this painting to make it almost uncomfortable in its viewing. Presenting the audience with a defined character and clear feeling. This is a really master at work in giving a story in what on the surface just looks like a portrait. It is easy for me to make the assumption that Jacinta has had a harder life than most from this interpretation of her.
What do you see when you look at Jacinta? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?