• Paula Rego

    The Family 1988

    In The Family the absent father and husband returns to the picture plane, only to be manhandled by his daughter and his wife. As usual, the narrative clues are ambiguous, and the story could have several endings. Are the women helping the man or hurting him? Who is the little girl at the window? Do the clues perhaps lie in the Portuguese retablo featuring St. Joan, and St George slaying the dragon? Or in the fable of the stork and the fox illustrated beneath? Is the man as doomed as the dragon, or will he in fact resurface like the fox, to eat the stork, once it has removed the bone lodged in his throat?


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  • The story at the heart of the painting came to Paula Rego ready-made in the form of Jean Genet's play The Maids (1947), itself based on the real-life case of the Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, who worked as maids for a rich Parisian family. One day, frightened for no apparent reason other than that of a power cut which inconvenienced and possibly frightened the sisters, they brutally murdered the mother and daughter of the family while the man of the house was out at work. In working with the story, Paula Rego seems to have focused on the unnatural closeness of the sisters, both to each other and the mother and daughter they murder. Ambiguity and menacing psychosis reverberate within the picture, much of it carried in the objects with which the room is claustrophobically furnished. And isn't there something uncertain about the sexuality of the seated figure?

    Paula Rego's Biography and Exhibitions
    BIOGRAPHY

    1934 Born in Lisbon
    1945-51
    Educated in St Julian's School, Carcavelos
    1952-56 The Slade School of Art, London
    1956-63 Lived in Ericeira, Portugal, with her husband, the painter Victor Willing, and three children
    1962-63 Bursary from the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon
    1976 Settled permanently in London
    1983 Visiting Lecturer in Painting Slade School of Art
    1990 Appointed the First National Gallery Associate Artist
    1992 Honorary Master of Art, Winchester School of Art, 12 June
    1999Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, 24 June
           Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 8 July

    2000 Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Rhode Island School of Design, USA, 3 June
    2002 Honorary Doctorate of Letters, The London Institute, 23 May
    2004Grã Cruz da Ordem de Sant'Iago da Espada presented by the President of Portugal

    2005Commissioned by the Royal Mail to produce a set of Jane Eyre Stamps
    Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Oxford University, June
    Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Roehampton University, July

    Currently lives and works in London



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  • Apollo and Daphne, 1622-5


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  • An elegantly dressed man and woman are in a vague, dark room. The man has lovingly placed his arm around the woman's shoulder and a hand on her breast. Very carefully she touches his hand with her fingertips. Both are staring straight ahead, they seem deep in thought. A few objects can be recognised in the obscure background: beside the woman is a plant in a pot and behind her an architectural fragment. The picture, called the 'Jewish Bride', was painted by Rembrandt in 1667. It is one of the most famous and mysterious paintings in the museum's collection.

    Jewish bride?

    The painting became known as the 'Jewish Bride' in the early nineteenth century after the Amsterdam art collector, Van der Hoop, identified the subject of the painting as a Jewish father hanging a necklace around his daughter's neck on her wedding day.
    Today, no one sees this man has the woman's father anymore. It is clearly a couple, although who they are is not clear. The faces appear to be portraits, but the clothes are unusual for the time. Perhaps they were contemporaries of Rembrandt's who posed as characters from the Bible.


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