Josef Mánes

Josef Mánes - Seamstress
The Seamstress is the best example of Mánes's genre paintings. The salient features of the definitive version, prepared by several studies in oil, is modern, unrestrained brushwork, warm colour range and a masterly handling of artistic resources, colours and light subtly modelling the form of objects. The modest interior, flooded by sunlight, with the figure of a young girl bending with tears in her eyes over an unfinished wedding dress, is full of small details, highly significant for the meaning of the picture: an empty bird-cage and a picture of the Karlov Virgin Mary, worshipped as the protectress and patron saint of expectant mothers. These attributes support the by now traditional interpretation - the names of the protagoists of the story are no doubt the result of wishful thinking of late interpreters of the painting. The seamstress making a wedding dress was supposed to be a portrait of Františka Pokorná, bride of Mánes's friend, the painter Adolf Kosárek, who at the time of his wedding was seriously ill with tuberculosis. The Karlov Virgin Mary on the wall may have been a hint at the girl's pregnancy, the bird let out of its cage an indication of her future fate. Whether the figure of the desperate girl revealed an anonymous story from life or was the story of a friend, is not particularly important - the painting with its timeless qualities and a sensitive, fragile rendering of a tragic subject is among the best achievements of modern Czech painting.
measurements: height 39 cm
width 28 cm
material: paper
technique: oil
inventory number: O 3000
gallery collection: Collection of 19th Century Art and Classical Modernism