Marie Spartali Stillman - Mariana
Alternate Text: A woman in a green dress sits in front of an open window with a blue curtain behind her. She is look into the distance, not at the viewer, or out of the window but off to the left hand side of the image


She only said, "My life is dreary,

He cometh not," she said;

She said, "I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead!"

- - Tennyson, Mariana, 1832


Marie Spartali Stillman was one of the most important female Pre-Raphaelite artists. As well as being an artist in her own right she modelled for a number of others. She was part of the first wave of British women able to train as a professional artist. She worked with a technique that gives her watercolours the quality of an oil painting. 

 Stillman's Mariana represents the jilted lover of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, a figure utilised elsewhere by both Gaskell and Tennyson. However, her direct source is Tennyson's poem Mariana, quoted above, which was a source of inspiration for a number of artists. A line from Tennyson's poem was quoted in Millais’ version of Mariana when it was first exhibited.

Stillman sees Mariana as a wistful redhead, like many of the painted Pre-Raphaelite women. However, in contrast to Millais more sexualised painting which encloses Mariana in the domestic sphere, Stillman portrays her in a meditative, thoughtful position looking not out of the window, or into the room but into a contented middle-space. The open window, in contrast to Millais offers a potential liberation from the enclosed interior. 

Associated Place(s)


  • Marie Spartali Stillman

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