The Departure Of The Mayflower

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The Departure Of The Mayflower
Winning Bid Undisclosed
This item SOLD at 2015 Apr 11 @ 14:56UTC-7 : PDT/MST
The Departure Of The Mayflower
Artist: Wyeth, N.C.Date of Birth: 1882-1945
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 40 x 30 inches
Signed: Signed lower right

According to the catalogue raisonne_, ÒThe artist reused this composition, in 1941, in horizontal format, as The Departure of the Mayflower, one of the decorations for the Metropolitan Life Company.Ó By their stillness, by the way they all face in a single direction, you feel the emotion they all share. But it isnÕt a single, simple emotion. It isnÕt just fear, nor abandonment, nor a sense of apprehension about the futureÑthe winter, the natives. Nor is it the feeling that we sum up as, ÒBe careful what you wish for.Ó Because they asked for this, these pilgrims, these wanderers, yearning for a place to plant the purity of their puritanism, far from the cramped, elbow-by-jaw dogmas of Old Europe. Today the sky is blue and the high, puffy cloudsÑan N.C. Wyeth characteristicÑand placid ocean speak their benedictions. But tomorrow? For as rooted as the pilgrims were, as strong as they were in their faith, they are still human. And nothing is more human than to wonder how you got to this place and to wonder what tomorrow will bring. Rocky shore gives way to blue green bay and to a small headland in the distanceÑlike England and Holland telescoped and brought near in the mindÑand then at last to the little ship, the Mayflower, about to disappear over the curve of the world, made newly round by science and adventure.This painting illustrates LongfellowÕs 1858 poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish, in which the brusque old soldier Standish vies with his best friend, the scholar John Alden, for the hand of beautiful Puritan maiden Priscilla Mullens. Alden, sent by Standish to ask for PriscillaÕs hand, discovers that the young woman in fact prefers him. Standish, outraged by what he sees as a betrayal, loses himself in his campaigns against hostile Indians. When word comes to Plymouth that Standish has died in an ambush, Alden and Priscilla marry. But, in a last twist, Standish, who survived, shows up at the wedding, having repented of his misplaced anger. WyethÕs chooses a moment some minutes after Alden has decided that he will not do the noble thingÑleave Plymouth and Priscilla to Standish and return to England on the MayflowerÑwhile the threat of war looms. Noted N.C. Wyeth expert, artist Douglas Allen observes, ÒWyeth picked the most interesting and dramatic moments in LongfellowÕs poem, moments when the fate of the Pilgrim colony was at its most precarious.ÓSun-illumined and white, on the eastern verge of the ocean
Gleamed the departing sail, like a marble slab in a graveyard;
Buried beneath it lay for ever all hope of escaping.
Lo! as they turned to depart, they saw the form of an Indian,
Watching them from the hill; but while they spake with each other, Pointing with outstretched hands, and saying, ÒLook!Ó he had vanished. So they returned to their homes; but Alden lingered a little,
Musing alone on the shore, and watching the wash of the billows Round the base of the rock, and the sparkle and flash of the sunshine, Like the spirit of God, moving visibly over the waters.John Alden may well wonder whether he has done the right thing by staying, but itÕs too late to turn back.
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