Continuing on my art posts of really happy, joyous images (reference: sarcasm), here is Vasily Perov’s Found Drowned (1867, Oil on canvas, 27″ x 42″). I’ve had a bookmark for it for awhile, and I think it’s an interesting piece.
I think it’s one of those pieces that has a story behind it, but still lets the viewer decide on their own what they think. It’s obviously not a happy piece, but it also comes across as taking place after the real event in a way that we are now starting the next journey.
The subtle, midtoned palette, combined with the soft fog and focus of the background, create a quiet work. Everything about the work says that we’ve missed the woman’s death, and we’re beginning our story in the aftermath of it.
For me, it’s the calmness of the characters that makes it special. The dead woman doesn’t have a horrified look on her face, but more of a tortured serenity. Her face and posture suggest strongly that she was the one who ended her life, resigning a terrible life to the waters.
Despite the horror of a drowned woman, the man seems serene as well. That gives him a very curious character, and by his posing it would suggest that death isn’t new to him. It’s almost like he’s leaning over to tell a story, and in his face is seemingly the sadness of having seen this all before. Maybe he’s considering his own fate. Maybe just considering who she was. Or maybe he’s just tired of seeing this happen again, lamenting his lot in life.
Unlike many other images of death, this one doesn’t come across as horrifying, or even as final. Death is portrayed as just another event, as both the dead and the living seem resigned to their fate. It’s neither of hope or even suffering, just another crossing of paths.