Saturday 15 July 2017

Dolly and Mme Moitessier

Out of its draped neckline rose a throat that was full at the base and slightly suffused with colour ... Her hair and eyes were dark, her skin a beautiful clear olive and flushed over the prominent cheekbones, but her most characteristic feature was her mouth, which was long and thin, the lips as smooth as grape skins, the lipstick worn away into an outline by her eager tongue ... She had a squat European figure, with shortish legs and a full bosom, the whole thing reined in and made impregnable by some kind of hidden structure.
A Family Romance, ch. 1

There's something very painterly about these early-to-mid 90s Brookners. The chapters are long, about double the length of chapters in earlier and later Brookner novels. This adds to the dense, static atmosphere. Descriptions are full and considered. Reading the above description of Dolly, I am reminded of Ingres's Mme Moitessier in the National Gallery (see an earlier post for more on this painting). I know that this famous painting, its sitter in her impossible dress, is referred to directly in one of Brookner's novels; it may even be in this one.

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