The May Queen

Tag writer: Ann Musser, Assc. Dir. for Academic Programs & Public Education, SCMA

This sculpture irritates my mind just below active awareness, like a pebble in my shoe.  I try to rid my mind of it, or maybe make peace with it. At this moment, the image of childhood it portrays holds my attention. The May Queen is seen but not heard. She is tidy, beautiful, demure, dreamy, white and delicate.  Pure.  A fetish-like vision of girlish childhood.  She is frozen, lifeless, and perfectly behaved.  Is this the picture of childhood in the minds of adults who criticize and abuse their real children when they behave as real ones do?  The May Queen doesn’t wriggle in her chair, smear her food, or play. She doesn’t throw tantrums, lie, or wonder about the mysteries of being alive. Growing up, I remember wishing I could possess the impossibly quiet poise portrayed in this sculpture. As I write this, my own five-year-old daughter hops and jerks calling for my attention.

I hope my girl can escape the tyranny of striving for perfect. Escape is not an option left to The May Queen. She is consigned to always stay silently where she is, just as she ought to, but lingers in the back of my mind.

Image Information: Daniel Chester French, American (1850-1931). The May Queen, 1875.  White marble. 16 x 14 x 7 1/2 in.Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts.  Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Joel E. Goldthwait (Jessie Rand, class of 1890).


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