La Confidence by Elizabeth Jane Gardner
Representational of a common trend in this Victorian Era, La Confidence portrays a secret being passed from one girl to another. With various accounts of formal elements, iconography, and symbolism within the painting, Gardner is able to reveal a significant story behind the strokes of her paint brush. La Confidence is a unique painting with many significant accounts of various compositional elements. This particular piece of artwork is representational because it is a natural-looking painting and has elements of everyday life within it.
As you can see, the girl on the left is wearing a blue dress that is rimmed with red at the top. This painting is extremely naturalistic that when one is viewing the artwork that it seems as if the girl on the left side is following the viewer with her eyes. Her eyes seem to stand out the most in the entire painting because of this reason. La Confidence appears to have a two-point linear perspective because of the cubed seating the girls are sitting on is off to the left side of the painting.
It diverts the viewers’ eye because the block is not parallel to the plane of the painting. The girl on the right portrays implied movement as she whispers a secret into the other girl’s ear. Her hand is caressing the girl on the left’s hair as she whispers this very secret. In contrast, the girl on the left appears to be extremely stiff, almost statue-like. Analyzing La Confidence in a more contextual view brings forth numerous ideas.
From simply looking at the two girls’ brightness of the skin, this whiteness is symbolic of innocence and in this case, Christianity. The darkness around the two females is representative of all of the World’s sins and temptations that attempt to shatter these girls’ faith. Other than the light on the girls and the small opening on the back left of the painting, everything else surrounding the two of them is almost complete darkness. Additionally, the girl on the left seems to be fading into the dark backdrop, almost as if she is falling into a sinful life.
From her seductive expression, especially in the Victorian Era, the girl on the right appears to be rebelling in multiple ways of the Christian morals and almost looks as if she is attempting to corrupt the girl on the left, but she remains unshaken. The sealed red vase or pot on the left side of the foreground is symbolic of fertility and Christian values. It is on the left side because it is directly symbolic of the girl on the left because she is unshaken by the temptations of sin. Oppositely, the girl on the right only holds a letter in her hands.
It is unknown who the letter is from, but it could be from a young man. This letter is also an example of corruption from the girl on the right because she may be lured in by the writer of the letter to participate in unorthodox behaviors with him that are against her Christian religion. Additionally, the girl on the left has her legs crossed and hands folded in her lap which signifies her innocence and ignorance towards the girl on the left who is seductively caressing and whispering into her ear.
She is in a way, symbolic of the serpent in the Garden of Eden as she attempts to demoralize the girl on the left. Even with all of her evil attempts, the girl on the left still remains nonchalant towards the efforts of the girl on the right. The opening of the wooded area on the left side is also symbolic. This opening represents that even in a dark world of evil, sin, and temptation; there is still a chance to get into the Gates of Heaven. I feel La Confidence is an exceptionally successful piece of artwork.
This painting is a powerful piece not only from the formal elements, but majorly from the iconography and symbolism throughout it. As simple as the painting appears to be, there are multiple secrets within it that the viewer must take time to analyze to fathom the true meaning. The two big components, the two girls, seem to be the only important pieces of the image. But after evaluating the painting, clues such as the vase on the foreground, the mysterious letter, and the small light opening in the dark backdrop all correlate to aid the viewer in understanding the artwork as a whole.
Being created in the Victorian Era, the seductiveness shown in the painting may seem contradicting to the society of the time, but this very seduction represents more of a stand for heterosexual relationships than a rebellion of this era. Although La Confidence was not my first choice of artworks, I am glad that I chose this piece because there is much more significance to it than I first thought when I saw it at the Georgia Museum of Art. This is probably my most favorite piece on display at the gallery. La Confidence is so simple, yet so complicated once one actually looks into the image and that is why I love it.