News today that an amateur art-historian, Barbara Webb, has identified the location which pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais used as background for his 1851 painting of the drowned Ophelia. The location is on the Hogsmill River at Old Malden in south London. It’s a long way from Elsinore.
The after-life of this image has been immense, at least in the English-speaking world. For instance, a print of the painting appears on the wall of the room rented by George Eastman, the humble protagonist of George Stevens’ 1951 movie, A Place in the Sun, a film of Theodore Dreiser’s novel, An American Tragedy. I took the presence of the print on Eastman’s wall not only as prophecy of the tragedy to come, but also as a reference to Hamlet, since Eastman, as he is played by Montgomery Clift, is undecided between his two lovers and the two very different fates which his involvement with them entails.