“Here we see a lovely girl wearing a richly-coloured gown that closely resembles Mariana’s in its cut. Endowed with unusually curly hair (for Waterhouse), Juliet grasps her luxurious blue necklace nervously. She is presented in the full profile perfected by Italian Renaissance artists; for most of the 15th Century, privileged maidens ready to be married off (or recently wed) were depicted in just this pose, aloof from the viewer’s gaze. From around 1480, however, female sitters began to look out toward us. Waterhouse does not go quite that far, yet Juliet does give us a sidelong glance, as if she suspects that Romeo, or possibly the citizens of Verona (all invisible here), are watching her closely….READ FULL ESSAY: Christie’s
This subtle glance is insightful because Juliet is—literally—trapped in an impossible situation, unable to address it head on. Waterhouse underscores the girl’s predicament by positioning her within an unyielding grid of hard architectural forms: the massive brick footbridge and wall behind her, the grey parapet below her, and even the band-like blue river that separates her from the townscape beyond. The illusion of Juliet walking slowly along the river is enhanced by Waterhouse’s decision to cut off the masonry arch visible at top left, as well as the near end of the footbridge (bottom right). Had he painted these forms in their entirety, the scene would become more symmetrical and more static; here, instead, we can imagine Juliet gliding slowly toward the left, glancing warily in our direction.
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