Portrait of a Woman Scorned: Psyche

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Portrait of a Woman Scorned
The Fairer Sex Treated Not-So Fairly
Curated by Katherine Anderson
Berthe Morisot, Psyche, 1876


Each day we constant live in fear. Not the common sense of fear, but rather an underlying desire to be appreciated and included in the goings on of our surroundings. Our subconscious thrives on encounters with the people surround us, and the phobia of exclusion constantly dictates what actions we perform next. Berthe Morisot recognized this desire among women - according to European society, a woman must be thin, well-dressed, and perfectly innocent, a trifecta than drove women insane as they tried to conform to the expected perfection.

Thus, Morisot's masterpiece illustrates the hopelessness of this conformity. We see a young girl cinching the waist of her perfectly tailored dress, standing awkwardly in her heeled shoes as she stares longingly into the mirror. The image of perfection seems haunting, for though the girl appears affluent and well-coifed, the expression of her eyes shows that she feels subpar, unable to be the emblem of beauty and grace. The patterns of the surrounding room perpetuate this entrapment - the young girl cannot escape the demanding trends of her time. The mirror presents Morisot's greatest critique of her surroundings. The young girl appears faceless, undifferentiated from the world around her. She has conformed to the blasé culture that surrounds her.

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