Monday, June 2, 2008

The Choosing

Born in 1847, Ellen Terry was one of eleven children born into a theatrical family. She first took to the stage at the age of eight and when she posed for this painting in 1864, she was already Great Britain's leading Shakespearean actress, and just sixteen years old. The painting is called "The Choosing" and depicts the young woman torn between two worlds. The camellias, beautiful but scentless, represent worldly pleasures and pursuits, while simpler values and virtues are represented by the humble, but far sweeter violets held in her hand. The artist, George Frederic Watts, 30 years her senior, was captivated by her and proposed marriage. To please her parents, Ellen accepted and left acting. The reality of being a child bride was more than she could bear and the marriage lasted but 10 months. After several years, she returned to the stage and is considered, to this day, the greatest Shakespearean actress of all time.

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