John Everett Millais’ painting, Mariana in the Moated Grange (1850-51), is an imaginative evocation of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem about the character Mariana from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. The painting depicts a beautifully melancholic figure, Mariana, standing at her window and stretching her back while working on an embroidery project. The decaying but picturesque interior of the moated grange surrounding her enhances every sound that she hears.
In Tennyson’s poem, Mariana was abandoned by her fiancé Angelo and retreated to a moated grange where she waits for his return. Tennyson expands on Mariana’s emotional experience of isolation and loneliness through auditory imagery emphasized by its refrain structure. Through this expansion, we see how poet is able to evoke the hopelessness that comes with loneliness.
Millais’ painting complements Tennyson’s work by visually capturing and highlighting the emotions of solitude felt by Mariana. The intricate details incorporated in every element – from the decaying furniture to Mariana’s attire – lend depth and texture to the scene being depicted. As a whole, both works bring together an interesting interplay between written words and visual art captured impressively by two masters of their craft.