Manchester Art Gallery

At the Golden Gate

Object description

A pale young woman swathed in orange, sari-like drapery leans despondently against a pair of heavy golden doors decorated in repoussé with an Islamic geometric pattern. Her robes are trimmed with a gold pattern, a section of the fabric pulled up over her head covering her curly auburn hair. She wears a dark blue short-sleeved blouse beneath her robes, of the kind usually worn beneath a sari, and she has blue sandals and bracelets on both her wrists. Her fingers are interlaced and she rests them on her left hip. An oil lamp with a green patina lies discarded on the polished marble floor to the left.

Display label

Gallery text panel In Pursuit of Beauty Late Victorian Art and Design Improving the quality of British art and design had been a concern since the 1850s. The British Empire had expanded into new continents but it was the classical ideal of beauty, based on Ancient Greek and Roman culture that was still considered the model for serious art. The pursuit of beauty was a form of escapism from the mass-production of industrial Britain. As well as looking to the ancient world, artists and designers were delighted and inspired by the arts of Renaissance Italy, the Middle and Far East. Many of the paintings here feature a beautiful woman. Sometimes she is a passive, decorative form, but often she is a dark and brooding femme fatale, a symbol of seduction, deception and destruction. The 'fatal woman' may reflect late Victorian male fears as women campaigned for equal rights and new roles. The emphasis on colour, harmony and rhythm and simplifying the form of an object would become major concerns in the 20th century. They can be seen emerging here in the work of late Victorian artists and designers.