Classics · Covers

Covers: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I mentioned Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey and Jessica DeMarco-Jacobson, who put me onto that, suggested I check out Anne Brontë’s other novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. And I am quite glad I did.

It’s a story in three parts. The first and last are told by Gilbert Markham and the middle by the woman who becomes the tenant of Wildfell Hall, Helen Graham, who recites her own history in great detail and how she came to the Hall.

In the beginning, Helen comes to the Hall, near where Gilbert lives, she in mourning for her late husband. So she is in black.

I searched for a suitable image in black–the story expands well beyond that. In the end, the Metropolitan came to my rescue, albeit not of a woman in mourning. Instead she is in a riding habit. It is Woman in a Riding Habit (L’Amazone), painted between 1855 and 1859 by the Frenchman Gustave Courbet.

Per the Met:

This painting of a horsewoman (in French, amazone) was first observed in Courbet’s studio in the late 1850s by the artist and critic Zacharie Astruc (1833–1907). He did not provide the sitter’s name, and her identity has never been confirmed. The artist Mary Cassatt admired this picture as “the finest woman’s portrait Courbet ever did.” What very likely began as a portrait has become emblematic of the independent modern woman. Women riding horseback were still a rare sight, and for a woman to ride unaccompanied by a man was considered scandalous.

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