27 June 2011

Art Bead Scene: Ophelia

Ophelia: Rosemary is for remembrance, this is for you.
               Pansies are for thoughts, there you go.

               There's a fennel for you, and a columbines.
               There's a rue for you, and here is some for me.
               There's a daisy. I would give you some violets,
               but all of them withered when my father died...

~ Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 4, Scene 5

In researching this painting, I came to find that Ophelia is one of the most illustrated of all Shakespeare's characters and scenes. Most depictions show her as tragic, mad, and distraught. While Odilon Redon's painting hints at the tragedy that befalls this lady, it has a sense of peace about it.

For this month's Art Bead Scene challenge I decided to focus on the color palette, with the bright turquoise, buttery yellow, gray stone and black hair. Diving into my art bead stash, I found this beautiful glass bloom from Lisa Kan. The yellow stamens were the perfect way to tie in the yellow that is so prevalent in this painting.

To hint at the black of the hair and vines, I decided to string this bracelet on black leather cord. Some of the leaf beads are tied to the bracelet with the leather to suggest the dark tones. The round ceramic beads in grays and soft turquoise are like the pool of water with the stone bank surrounding it. I added some silver plated spacers and leaves as well as some Czech glass leaves for the botanicals.

{Ophelia available on Etsy}

In Victorian times, flowers were a language all their own known as floriography. Ophelia's descent into madness is punctuated by her speech before the King when she passes out flowers to the onlookers. Ophelia would have known that secret coded language and it allowed her to speak volumes without really saying a word. Flowers allowed her to speak her mind to the King and Queen without being direct as that would have been impolite and inappropriate for a courtesan such as her. But the message would have been loud and clear to the patrons of the Bard who came to view the play.

A bit about the language of flowers:

Rosemary = remembrance. Ophelia wants her brother Laertes to have fond memories of their father.

Pansy = pleasant thoughts, think of me. Similar to the Rosemary, pansies were given as a symbol that thoughts of the loved one were always near. Ophelia may be hinting to her brother of her imminent demise, to think of her fondly when she is gone.

Fennel = worthy of praise and flattery. When Ophelia hands these to the King, it is a pretty brash move. She is flattering him, but also reminding him that once picked, fennel wilts quickly and this would be a subtle reminder of the foolishness of male adultery.

Columbine = foolishness. Ophelia is reminding the King of his foolish ways.

Rue = regret, disdain. This is a bitter herb and she hands some to the Queen and some to herself. This would be an insult to the Queen by insinuating that there is some action for her to regret and not so subtly telling the Queen that she has contempt for her actions.

Daisy = innocence, simplicity, loyal love. When Ophelia views the daisy it is more with the sadness of knowing that she no longer is filled with innocence, that the events of the play and the relationships she had have stolen that simplicity from her.

Violets = love and faithfulness. This last bloom tells much of her allegiance to her father. She is faithful to his memory and his death has shaken her faith to the core.

Coded messages in flowers were very popular in Victorian times and it was a clever dramatic element to include them in the story. Ophelia does not choose these flowers randomly, and their symbolism is loud and clear to the King and Queen, allowing Ophelia to have the voice that she lacked even in this moment of madness.

Today, the language of flowers is alive and well, with many happy meanings. The recent wedding ceremony of Kate and William continues the tradition with a bouquet chosen specifically for their coded messages in flowers. Flowers such as lily of the valley, hyacinth and ivy were chosen to directly speak to each other of their love and constancy and also included a sprig of myrtle (emblem of marriage and love) that came directly from a plant that Queen Victoria enjoyed.

Your turn...

What message would you like to receive coded in flowers?

Do tell!
Enjoy the day!


Shannon Chomanczuk said...


Off the Beadin' Path said...

First of all, it was so nice to see your necklace, "Bittersweet," on Humblebeads blog! Love the Willow challenge! Your Opehlia piece is a true inspiration, a brilliant interpretation! I would say so much more about everything, you have touched many chords with your entire post! I just ordered one of the Bach Flower Essences, White Chestnut. It's not on the list in the link that you provided, but it "encourages a peaceful and calm mind when thoughts and worries go round and round in your head" - that's me right now, trying to get ready for next week, delivery of jewelry to 2 galleries and start up with 2 flea markets. Aaauuugh! I know you understand!

My Life Under the Bus said...

Love that flower it's gorgeous! I love the way they read things into herbs and flowers.

Brandi said...

I'm always so amazed at the way you manage to pull everything together for the ABS challenges. Every single challenge piece you do immediately evokes the paintings chosen - what a talent you are, Miss Erin!

P.S. I'm having trouble commenting, Erin, so I apologize for any delays.

Unknown said...

You Always bring it..early or late..always! Thats beautiful. Erin you are truly talented!

steufel said...

OH MY GOD! Awesome, awesome, awesome!

SummersStudio said...

The language of flowers is absolutely fascinating. Thank you for that. I think I'll have to look at this a bit more.

Love, love the glass flower in your bracelet and how you added the silver stamen. It's a great focal and the rest of the elements support it so well.

Heather said...

Wow, I had no idea about the meaning of that passage - just like your jewelry, it's filled with many layers and messages. I love this piece and that you are keeping up with the challenges!

SueBeads said...

My first house was a victorian, and we fixed it up to try and get it back to "period". I loved all the flower interpretations, in fact, I did a cross-stitch of it! Erin, you should seriously write a book! I love this piece. I'd love to know how you made that flower bead a clasp - it's gorgeous!

JeannieK said...

I learned something new. Thanks for posting that. Erin, your blog delivers on so many levels, just like your jewelry. The bracelet is stunning!

Patsy Evins said...

I have also explored this wonderful tradition. I was inspired to create a series of glass floral posies beads from my findings! http://www.patsyevinsstudio.com/blog/archives/160

Anonymous said...

so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Erin, I just love how you embellished the middle of the flower with silver curly cues! Your bracelet is beautiful and interprets "Ophelia" perfectly.

I didn't realize that the language of flowers it's so interesting. I'm going to have to read more about them. As for the secret message I would like to receive coded in flowers? I would like some Angelica, with a few sprigs of violets for good measure!

Jo said...

I love what you've done with the centre of the flower!

Jenni said...

What a pretty lamp work bead, I love the addition of the silver stamens and also how you made it into a clasp, just great. Thanks for all the info regarding the flower meanings...SO interesting, I have a cottage style garden and just love the history and meaning of flowers.

Anonymous said...

what a magnificent, insightful and colorful post! i LOVE what you have created and the flower is just divine. lovely work!


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