painting by the famous artist Arthur Hughes

English painter Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) gives us his version of William Shakespeare’s Ophelia. In the play, after the death of her father Polonius, Ophelia sings songs and hands out flowers citing their symbolic meanings. Queen Gertrude, in a later scene, reports that the maiden climbed into a willow tree and when a branch broke, fell into a brook and drowned.

Hughes appears to have captured the young maiden just as she was beginning to climb the tree. Even without knowing the story of Hamlet and this painting’s relationship to that play, this painting is of a beautiful red-haired women in a white dress with a bunch of flowers. She could just as easily be a young bride striking a comely pose.