Monday, August 13, 2007
A SPEAKING COUNTENANCE!
I would love to see the play this pose was taken from! Unfortunately, there is no caption telling us the title or the role.
There are some clues as to the type of character Mrs. Scott Siddons (great-niece of Sarah Siddons)is playing. She has crouched, rather than advanced or retreated on one leg -- so she is some type of marginal character: abject, powerless, and out of alignment with the social order. Her right hand also has an unusual shape -- not the pointing index (which was restricted to accusation, deprecation or scorn), nor the relaxed full hand, prone or supine, for polite indication. It is stiffer, wider and shows internal agitation. Her posture is backing away rather than moving towards what she's indicating. In addition, her left hand is clutching her head: this is the standard gesture for mental disturbance. (Sample lines from melodrama that accompany this gesture: "My brain is on fire!" "It burns!" "Brain! brain!")
Together with the loose uncontrolled hair and the shroudlike dress, I would identify her character as a stage "maniac", the preferred 19th-century term. Notice also her fixed gaze and the large amount of white showing in her eyes. I'd be grateful to anyone who can supply the play's title (though this may have been a stock pose for photography).