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Essays on Paula Rego

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Maria Manuel Lisboa

1. Past History and Deaths Foretold: A Map of Memory

Texte intégral

‘Is that love you’re making?’
Arthur Osborne, Is That Love You’re Making?
The discursive explosion of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries [meant that] what came under scrutiny was the sexuality of children, mad men and women, and criminals; the sensuality of those who did not like the opposite sex; reveries, obsessions, petty manias, or great transports of rage. It was time for all these figures, scarcely noticed in the past, to step forward and speak, to make the difficult confession of what they were. No doubt they were condemned all the same; but they were listened to; and if regular sexuality happened to be questioned once again, it was through a reflux movement, originating in these peripheral sexualities.
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality

Ideal Homes

1‘The death […] of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world, and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover’ (Poe, 1951, 982). Poe’s eulogy of the dead woman as muse encapsulates a centuries-long tradition, from Dante, Petrarch and Camões through Dickens, Herculano, and Tolstoy, to worship vanished female icons (Marilyn Monroe, Diana, Princess of Wales), loved at least partly because they are dead. In commenting on Paula Rego’s 1997–1998 series based on the nineteenth-century Portuguese novel by Eça de Queirós, The Sin of Father Amaro (figs. 3.1; 3.2; 3.4; 3.5; 3.7–3.9; 3.12; 3.14; 3.19–3.21; 3.23; 3.27), Ruth Rosengarten draws a contrast between Rego’s empowered rendition of the female protagonist and the version created by her literary precursor, whose ‘corpse becomes the visible sign of a Christian morality that silences female desire’ (Rosengarten, 1999a, 24). In the analysis that follows in this chapter and in chapter 2, concerning works from the ten years that preceded the Father Amaro series, I shall pay particular attention to the ways in which the standardized roles of wife, mother, nurturer and ministering angel as extensions of that Christian morality are revised in Paula Rego’s work. I shall also remark upon the resulting effects regarding the gender, class and racial assignation of the roles of victim/corpse and killer/ survivor, in the work of an artist whose vision almost invariably defies expectations.

2I will begin, however, by considering three works from the 1960s that, as much by virtue of their titles as by their visual effect (whose semantic accessibility largely depends on those titles), allude to the political regime at its height at the time of their creation. Salazar Vomiting the Homeland (fig. 1.1), Iberian Dawn (e-fig. 3) and When We Had a House in the Country (fig. 1.2) all variously but with uniform antagonism address cornerstones of the regime, through the person, symbolism and policies of its leader. In Salazar Vomiting the Homeland, the image that Salazar’s propaganda machinery cultivated — namely that of the ascetic and monastic ruler, wedded to the nation and to his job — is replaced by that of a greedy, vampiric, quasi-cannibalistic spectre, disgorging the nation upon which he had previously banqueted.

  • 1 e-fig. 3 Paula Rego, Iberian Dawn (1962). Collage and oil on canvas, 71.5 x 92 cm, all rights reser (...)

3Paula Rego’s painting of 1960 poses many questions regarding the Estado Novo regime: why would Salazar wish or need to vomit a motherland with which he was supposedly at one? Which aspects of the motherland are being disgorged here? Is the need to do so, whether successful or not, a denunciation of the gap between theory (a motherland and its leader, united in proud isolation) and practice (the dissenting world of realpolitik)? Why does the motherland make its leader sick? Is the relationship after all not that of a groom and his willing bride, but rather that of a virus weakening its host? The same ambiguity appears to operate in other works of the same period: Iberian Dawn (e-fig. 3)1 and When We Had a House in the Country.

Fig. 1.1 Paula Rego, Salazar Vomiting the Homeland (1960). Oil on canvas, 94 x 120 cm. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.1 Paula Rego, Salazar Vomiting the Homeland (1960). Oil on canvas, 94 x 120 cm. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
  • 2 This reference echoes the song of the same title in Bob Fosse’s film of 1972, Cabaret. In the film (...)

4The title of Iberian Dawn, echoing quasi-fascist refrains of hyperbolic nationalism/patriotism (‘tomorrow belongs to me’),2 draws out the lampooning figures of various protagonists (the horizontal one on the left, the one in the centre and the large one on the right), each apparently engaged in the same retching behaviour as the Salazar figure in the painting of the preceding year. The soothing golden tones (signalling the birth of a new day and presumably of a new nation) which take up almost exactly half of the picture’s surface area contrast with the dismal, dysphoric grey of the other half. More crucially, the rising sun of the eponymous dawn is paradoxically located within the grey segment. Which will come to dominate? Sunlight or that mist out of which Don Sebastião was supposed to ride to save the nation, but never did? At the height of the Estado Novo, in the words of Fernando Pessoa who died two years after Salazar rose to power, many discerned no hope for the nation:

Neither king nor law, nor peace nor war,
Can sketch in trace or essence,
The dim glow of land
Which signals Portugal’s evanescence.
A dim flame with no fire,
Like a will’o the wisp.
No one knows what is desire,
No one knows their own soul,
Or what is good or what is foul.
(What distant anguish weeps nearby?)
Everything is unstable and perishes,
All is fragmented and vanishes.
Oh Portugal, today you are mist…
Now is the hour!
Valete, fratres.
Pessoa, ‘Nevoeiro’, (1979)

The same grey tone is picked up by one critic as being one of the signifying elements in When We Had a House in the Country (fig. 1.2) (Rosengarten, 1997, 44–46). Its title ironically refers to the colonies as the country cottages of the nation, and operates here as an indictment of the Portuguese colonial undertaking:

[This work] has implicit in it at the level of an absent secondary proposition, an acerbic criticism of Portuguese colonialism. What vision could be more critical of the history of Portuguese colonialism than this figuration, in visceral and depressing colours, giving, in a panoramic sweep of the horizontal scene, the simultaneity of the divergent destinies of colonizer and colonized? (Rosengarten, 1997, 44–46)

In the period spanning the decade from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s, Paula Rego abandoned both abstractionism and the cut-and-paste method of figures drawn, painted, cut out and recollaged, and moved instead to a more figurative mode. This retained the narrative element of her previous production, even emphasizing it through the greater transparency that the naturalist method allowed. Many of the paintings of this new phase, including the untitled Girl and Dog series (figs. 1.13; e-fig. 6; e-fig. 7; 1.21; 1.22; 1.23; 1.26–1.33) and most of the paintings on family themes (figs. 2.1; 2.3–2.5; 2.8–2.11; 2.13; 2.14), foreground the personal over the political, whilst they nonetheless retain, through allusion, a national-political content beyond the overriding sexual politics that inform them. On occasion, however, over the course of the 1900s Rego also returned to subjects that prioritized the political and colonial/race/class concerns of prior works.

Fig. 1.2 Paula Rego, When We Had a House in the Country (1961). Collage and oil on canvas, 49.5 x 243.5 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.2 Paula Rego, When We Had a House in the Country (1961). Collage and oil on canvas, 49.5 x 243.5 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

5In the first image I shall analyse in detail here, The Fitting (fig. 1.3), a mother witnesses the fitting of her daughter’s ballgown by a kneeling seamstress.

6The relative scale of the figures as well as the play with a foregrounding and backgrounding strategy, as seen so often in Paula Rego, is both perplexing and illuminating. The young daughter looms large in a billowing dress, which, it has been suggested, hides many secrets (Rego quoted in Rosengarten, 1997, 82). Her mother, although the smallest figure of the three, dominates with her authoritative stance. Her fiery, even demonic red hair and her quasi-clerical or militaristic attire is similar in some of its associations to that of the godmother in The Bullfighter’s Godmother (fig. 2.10), another challenging female figure I shall discuss in chapter 2. In the foreground, though disempowered by her subservient posture and class status, is the seamstress.

Fig. 1.3 Paula Rego, The Fitting (1990). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 132 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.3 Paula Rego, The Fitting (1990). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 132 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

The interplay of relations is equivocal, and the demarcation of the respective power positions is mutually contradictory: the mother, by virtue of her familial and class situation, may be the self-evident figure of domestic authority, but her small size relative to the other figures cancels this out to an extent. Her costume, moreover — a female rendition of either a priestly gown or a soldier’s uniform — may signal either the aping of church and/or state authority, or transgression outside the sphere of domestic female rule and the usurpation of a masculine mantle of publicly exercised power. The daughter’s status, albeit also imposing by virtue of her size, is constrained by her youth and implicit obedience to the mother, from whom her dress, according to Rego, may hide secrets. Additionally, she is her mother’s potential successor in the social hierarchy, towering as she does over the kneeling seamstress, who may in fact be about to pull the (class) rug from under her feet or to strip the shirt (dress) off her back. A reversal and a revolution are hinted at, therefore, which would also account for the seamstress’s disproportionately large stature in relation to her older mistress.

7This atmosphere of threat and the blurring of power demarcations is enhanced by the ghostly figures painted on the wardrobe door, and by the disproportionately small child reclining in a lifeless position on the armchair. A final puzzle is introduced by the half-concealed poster of a Spanish flamenco dancer on the wall behind the wooden counter. The Spanish note introduces ambiguity through the allusion to two possible and mutually contradictory lines of interpretation.

8The least challenging is that of the introduction of a schmaltzy, folkloric cod exoticism. Spain has been, for ten centuries, the enemy against which Portugal pitted itself in its determination to remain independent. The latter’s Peninsular neighbour, however, and particularly Franco’s fascist Spain, was the only destination outside Portugal to which Salazar ever travelled, including the African colonies, which he never visited. Spain alone, therefore (and almost for the first time in the history of two countries, which have traditionally either invaded one another’s territories or existed inimically back to back), enjoyed the privilege of quasi-home status in the eyes of the Portuguese leader, as the only territory outside the national borders with which contact was not deemed to defile the ‘proudly alone’ purity of the Estado Novo. Spanish artefacts, and especially the gaudy flamenco dolls that were the most treasured possessions of many Portuguese little girls, were a condoned intrusion of pluriculturalism into the insularity of censored national life. The flamenco poster, therefore, might gesture towards the regime’s acceptance of a controllable foreign intrusion, which, in effect, shored up the unity of the Portuguese-Spanish Fascist brotherhood.

9On the other hand, however, it might signal the operation of a dangerous underground resistance. In the Iberian Peninsula, flamenco dancing and culture to this day carry implications that extend beyond the crude tourist diet of tame, apolitical exoticism. Flamenco is the music and dance of the Andalusian Gypsies, or Flamencos, and it had its roots in Gypsy, Andalusian, Arabic and Spanish-Jewish folk song. The religious heterodoxy introduced by these origins, some of which have set off resonances of Inquisitorial religious persecution since the Middle Ages, are further confirmed by the positioning of the flamenco practitioners (who also included heterodox Christians) as generally situated on the fringes of social acceptability. The themes of flamenco music and dance tend to be those of despair, love, religion and death, the key concept in flamenco being the duende, which is the surrender by the dancer to absolute emotion. Flamenco, therefore, in its untamed version, becomes both the release of the unbridled self and the art form par excellence of the outsider, precisely those elements of society marginalized by a conflation of social, religious and political imperatives. Their interests would have stood in exact antithesis to the emotionally-corseted, religiously orthodox and politically oppressive parameters of the Salazar regime.

10It is therefore fitting that the flamenco poster in this painting, which signals a dangerous slippage away from convention at multiple levels, should figure marginally, in a background and lateral position, half-hidden by a wooden sideboard and guillotined along both its horizontal and vertical axes. In a typical Rego sleight of hand, the sidelining of its effect (it features in the background and it is truncated) is countered by two factors: the eye-catching red colour of the dancer’s dress and, more worryingly, the species-likeness between it and the ballgown that is being fitted. The outsiderishness and unorthodoxy signalled by the flamenco association lies both outside the centre stage (in the doubly peripheral shape of a foreign figure in an image within an image), but, more threateningly, very much at its heart (in the association between the daughter of the house and a gypsy dancer). The link between a debutante-style dress and flamenco attire draws the latter into a status quo that traditionally marginalized it, but which it thoroughly infiltrates in the manner of the Kristevan abject (Kristeva, 1982). Here, its agency threatens the integrity of the cycle of bloodlines and class, symbolised in the figure of the large daughter of the house. Her secrets, hidden under that suspicious dress (Rego quoted in Rosengarten, 1997, 82) — possibly by the equally large seamstress — remain undetected by a mother whose relative size and nescience may reflect the challenging of power structures within both the family and the nation.

11The link between this picture and The Maids (fig. 1.4) is class, and specifically the working or underclass, as represented here by the seamstress, and in The Maids by the eponymous servants.

12The inspiration for this work, Jean Genet’s play of the same title (Genet, 1967), heightens the theme of revolution that is already present in the image itself: the toppling and murder by the servant of her master (or in this case mistress, gender here being certainly noteworthy: a man in drag but even so a man). The picture has recourse to a discrete but identifiable period and to historical-political markers, which again substantiate a reading informed by the awareness of Salazar’s regime as an enduring preoccupation for this artist. The first of these markers is the 1940s-style clothing of the mistress of the house, which makes a reappearance in other paintings of the 80s, such as The Cadet and His Sister (fig. 2.9), also discussed in chapter 2. In Rego’s The Maids, the mistress about to be murdered is in fact a man in perfunctory drag, as suggested by Rego herself (McEwen, 1997, 163); I shall return in due course to the significance of drag in connection with other pictures. Here the model sports the Brylcreemed haircut of the archetypal 1940s matinée idol, and the undefined shadow on the upper lip suggests the pencil moustaches of the same period, which were, of course, fashionable during the heyday of the Estado Novo period. Location markers are also relevant: in more nation-specific ways. The open-plan living-room-cum-outdoor-veranda, for example, dovetails with the presence of the black maid to suggest the colonial setting already discussed in connection with When We Had a House in the Country (fig. 1.2). The colonial effect is further enhanced by the hibiscus flower in a vase on the dressing table, one of the luxuries and spoils of colonial high life. In this context, the inappropriately warm Prince-of-Wales check suit and thick tights worn by the mistress introduce a dislocation that signals eminent failure on the part of the European colonists to adapt and ‘go native’ (echoes of British dignitaries in the British Raj dressing for dinner in 40C).

Fig. 1.4 Paula Rego, The Maids (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 212.4 x 242.9 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.4 Paula Rego, The Maids (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 212.4 x 242.9 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

13The picture, particularly when elucidated by an awareness of the Genet plot, conveys an atmosphere of menace. Visually, the vocabulary of threat ranges from the obvious to the camouflaged. At first glance we are struck by the figure of the blonde child, whose fair hair and pale skin situate her firmly on the European side of the equation, and who is being at the very least restrained but possibly strangled by one of the maids. This ambiguous and potentially threatening pose was to be often repeated throughout Paula Rego’s subsequent work, for example in some of the Girl and Dog pictures to be discussed next (figs. 1.13; e-fig. 6; e-fig. 7; 1.21; 1.22; 1.23; 1.26–1.33) and in The Family (fig. 2.14). In The Maids, the next generation of authority figures is summarily dealt with through this act, while the black maid concerns herself with the current mistress (the man in drag who is presumably the mother of the little girl). The threat of the black mammy turned murderess of her masters and her masters’ children is a familiar trope in the cultural imagination of slave economies and colonial powers (Christian, 1985, 181–215), and in Paula Rego it will resurface in the context of the Girl and Dog series (figs. 1.13; e-fig. 6; e-fig. 7; 1.21; 1.22; 1.23; 1.26–1.33). In The Maids the black servant holds no weapon, but her left hand suggestively reaches for something inside a skirt pocket. More eloquently, however, her right hand appears to be positioning the rather bovine mistress’s thick neck, much as one would adjust that of an ox being readied for slaughter (or that of an aristocrat’s for the guillotine). The silhouettes of the tree branches outside resemble the grasping hands of both maids, the latter a motif that will be repeated in subsequent paintings (Girl and Dog Untitled c and e, figs. 1.30 and 1.32; Departure, fig. 2.8; The Cadet and His Sister, fig. 2.9).

14The picture features two other intriguing elements. The first, and almost certainly ironic, is the lily artistically displayed on a side-table. This flower, which will reappear in other paintings, carries well-known connotations of virginity and purity, and in particular associations with the Annunciation to Mary (the angel in the vast majority of depictions of the Annunciation carries a lily in his hand: see for example figs. 1.5; 4.42; 7.2). Here, however, it appears purely decorative in an unholy scene in which women are not in fact pure but forever damned (‘thou shalt not kill’, no exceptions). If the image refers to Genet’s play, this is not a case of an annunciation paving the ground for salvation, but an execution leading to damnation. Indeed, the other significance of the lily is as the customary flower in funerals, here bringing an additional dimension of cruelty: who takes flowers to the funeral of someone they murdered?

Fig 1.5 El Greco, Annunciation (c. 1595–1600). Oil on canvas, 91 x 66.5 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:El_Greco_-_The_Annunciation_-_Google_Art_ Project.jpg

Fig 1.5 El Greco, Annunciation (c. 1595–1600). Oil on canvas, 91 x 66.5 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:El_Greco_-_The_Annunciation_-_Google_Art_ Project.jpg

More to the point here, however, are the links that lilies possess to Jesus at the Final Judgement in Christian art. A lily in his mouth or on either side of his face, in conjunction with a sword, symbolizes mercy in judgement (Hall, 1991, 192–93; Becker, 1994, 178), a reference almost certainly paradoxical in connection with the Rego picture and its allusion to revenge killings: revenge upon the mistress, who is possibly guilty of class/race crimes, and the little girl, who might become so in the future. The other figure to be considered here is that of the shadowy boar in the foreground, in the bottom right-hand corner. The boar or pig is a complex and sometimes contradictory symbol in art. Its negative connotations are multifarious, and apposite as regards the colonial indictment arguably intended by this image: the pig is a symbol of intemperance and gluttony, because of its habit of rooting about in the dirt, a behaviour possibly coterminous with indiscriminate imperial pillaging. The flip side of this coin is the wild boar’s theoretically ennobling symbolism in the Christian art of the Middle Ages, as a representative of the warrior and priestly classes (who, however, were also implicated in European/ Portuguese colonial enterprises). It might even serve as a symbol of Christ (in whose name, of course, proselytizing to heathens was justified, Becker, 1994, 233). These latter associations, therefore, would indirectly link this animal back to the military and missionary dimensions of empire between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries, as pursued by various European powers including Portugal.

Fig. 1.6 Marcantonio Raimondi, The Last Judgement; Christ with Lily and Sword at Top, Flanked by Virgin and St John the Baptist Interceding on Behalf of the Humans Below, after Dürer (c. 1500–1534). Print, 11.8 x 10 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia. org/wiki/File:The_Last_Judgment;_Christ_with_lily_and_sword_at_ top, _flanked_by_Virgin_and_St_John_the_Baptist_interceeding_on_ behalf_of_the_humans_below,_after_D%C3%BCrer_MET_DP820341.jpg

Fig. 1.6 Marcantonio Raimondi, The Last Judgement; Christ with Lily and Sword at Top, Flanked by Virgin and St John the Baptist Interceding on Behalf of the Humans Below, after Dürer (c. 1500–1534). Print, 11.8 x 10 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia. org/wiki/File:The_Last_Judgment;_Christ_with_lily_and_sword_at_ top, _flanked_by_Virgin_and_St_John_the_Baptist_interceeding_on_ behalf_of_the_humans_below,_after_D%C3%BCrer_MET_DP820341.jpg

Fig. 1.7 Hans Memling, The Last Judgement, triptych, central panel (c. 1467–1471). Oil on panel, 242 x 180 cm. National Museum, Gdańsk. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​ File:MemlingJudgmentCentre.jpg

Fig. 1.7 Hans Memling, The Last Judgement, triptych, central panel (c. 1467–1471). Oil on panel, 242 x 180 cm. National Museum, Gdańsk. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​ File:MemlingJudgmentCentre.jpg

15Both the pig and the boar carry other conflicting connotations, namely those of favoured sacrificial animals versus unclean, untouchable and even demonic creatures. But of greater, and possibly more perverse interest here, is the boar’s significance within the context of the medieval theory of the Four Temperaments. Medieval physiology saw the body as governed by four kinds of fluids or humours, which, according to their relative distribution and intensity, determined temperament, disposition and health in individuals. The humours, their associated temperaments and their somatic conditions were also seen to bear an affinity with the four elements and with four animals whose natures they shared, as follows (Becker, 1994, 233):

Phlegm

Phlegmatic

Lamb

Water

Blood

Sanguine

Ape

Air

Bile

Choleric

Lion

Fire

Black bile

Melancholic

Pig

Earth

The pig is the animal associated with melancholy, which, in its turn, is identified with an introspective, intellectual and artistic temperament (Becker, 1994, 233). The cryptic pig in Paula Rego’s picture, therefore, lends itself to an alternative (and antithetical) interpretation, not now as the avatar of imperial, colonial or dictatorial greed, but, on the contrary, as the overseeing, demiurgic presence of the artist/creator. It may be relevant, therefore, to listen to the artist herself on the subject of this animal: ‘I always wanted to do a pig — it used to be my favourite animal: soft, but at the same time with those prickly hairs. […] The pig eats its young. It is a pleasant animal to look at […]’ (Paula Rego quoted in Rodrigues da Silva, 1998, p. 9). The ‘pleasant animal’ that eats its young, the favourite animal of an artist known for painting somewhat worrying family scenes (the Red Monkey series, figs. 1.20; 2.3; 2.4; The Family, fig. 2.14 to mention but a few), here presumably stands as her alter ego: a creature guilty of a violent crime, whom she seems not only to absolve (in calling it a pleasant animal) but brings into being, imagistically and imaginatively, as the creator of this painting. The judgmental yet anarchic presence of the artist in animal shape will make a return in In the Garden (fig. 1.15).

16The colonial theme has been reiterated by Paula Rego throughout her work. Two of its most interesting manifestations, Mother (fig. 3.19) and First Mass in Brazil (fig. 5.2) will be discussed presently. A further example is to be found in one of her most famous paintings, Time: Past and Present (fig. 1.8).

Fig. 1.8 Paula Rego, Time: Past and Present (1990–1991). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 183 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.8 Paula Rego, Time: Past and Present (1990–1991). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 183 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

This is one of the artist’s most complex works, not only because of its large dimensions but also due to the deployment across the vast expanse of canvas of a multitude of symbols and narratives, jostling with each other for centrality and even for space. An elderly (possibly retired) sailor sits at home, surrounded by memorabilia from his travels, and by representatives of the next generation. The pageant of history unfolds around him but gestures also towards the present and future of his family (his young relatives) as well as towards unchanging national concerns (as betokened by various nautical items to be discussed in detail). The title of the picture invites us to ponder the themes of past and present time. What arguably speaks loudest in it, however, is the uncertainty of the future. At a personal level the future seems assured by the cycle of generations, represented by the old man, the equally old woman, and the three children who are presumably their grandchildren. Even glossing over the noticeable omission of the intermediate generation of a father and a mother (a phenomenon which, as regards the absent adult/middle-aged male, is repeated to significant effect in The Dance (fig. 2.5), the future heralded by the children is not clear-cut. The little girl in the background stands against an empty landscape, which, given her grandfather’s calling, presumably ought to be a beach with the sea spreading to the horizon, but is in fact merely an empty expanse of sand that might equally be a desert.

17The sea metamorphosed into wasteland — a signifier of either national loss or national comeuppance — is a frequent signifier in Paula Rego. Beyond the iconography of Don Sebastião — the king discussed earlier, who crossed the water but lost his life in North Africa, and in the process lost the nation its independence — Rego, as will be seen, engages antagonistically throughout her work with the sailing adventures of the motherland (see for example the discussion of Departure, fig. 2.8; The Cadet and His Sister, fig. 2.9; Mother, fig. 3.19; In the Wilderness, fig. 3.23; and First Mass in Brazil, fig. 5.2. Her reasons may be grounded in sound historical common sense, rather than nostalgia. In the aftermath of the revolution of 25 April 1974 which in turn led to the independence of the African colonies in 1975, Portugal underwent a period of economic collapse and social instability — as had also been the case following the loss of the East Indian territories in the seventeenth century and of Brazil in 1822. Post-1975, more than one million people (the so-called and much-resented retornados, or returnees), left the former colonies over a period of less than two years, and flooded a country with a population of eight million, an almost non-existent welfare infrastructure, and a democracy undergoing teething difficulties. Since then, the national landscape has remained on many counts dismal, even in the face of the obvious rewards of restored democracy and political freedom. Not surprisingly, then, the future for this erstwhile sea-borne empire might, with reason, be depicted as the empty wasteland, or the room without a view that we contemplate in Time: Past and Present. This would have been true even in the early 1990s when the picture was created.

18Outside, where we might have expected the sea to be, there is nothing. And inside are depicted the protagonists performing what has become a defunct script with appropriate props. Apart from the small girl outlined against the void of the ocean-less landscape beyond the door, the picture includes two other children: a baby in a cradle, wearing an expression of fear on its face; and a small girl, sitting at a low table, ostensibly writing on a piece of paper which, however, is blank. The ominous symbolism of the up-and-coming generation faced with an empty future, which might represent the end of a national seafaring history, reverberates back to the old man, sitting idly in a chair, over the back of which is draped the oilskin jacket of former sea journeys. This beached sailor is himself the anthropomorphic rendition of the travel trophies arranged around the room, including the hippopotamus statue — a token, presumably, of exotic African destinations — and, more significantly, the small shelved boat, whose diminutive scale and exile on dry land speak clearly of obsolete imperial undertakings. This boat is a forerunner of one of similar import, discussed in chapter 3 in connection with Mother (fig. 3.19). And finally, still on the theme of former sailing heroes and ships put out to grass, and as if to add insult to injury, we see the figure of a small doll in the shape of a little sailor boy, presiding over man and ship. This infantilization (or mummification) inflicts yet another blow on the adventure of the Discoveries.

19The other elements in the picture are more cryptic. On the walls hang numerous pictures and statuettes. Their subjects are dominated by religious and diasporic themes connected to the imperatives of the maritime enterprise: a praying woman (symbol both of the religious faith underpinning the proselytizing impetus for the maritime discoveries, and of the women left behind by adventuring males: ‘quantas mães em vão rezaram […] para que fosses nosso, ó mar’ [‘how many mothers prayed in vain […] that you might be ours, oh sea’], Pessoa, 1979); an angel (signalling the heavenly reward for national heroes); and a statuette of Saint Sebastian (the namesake of the doomed king who put an end to it all). The pictures strike a melancholic note. A careful reading of the relevant legend tells us that Saint Sebastian, known almost exclusively as the young man pierced with arrows as in the pose depicted here, in fact survived this ordeal only to be murdered at a later time; he might therefore be said to typify (not unlike the Portuguese Don Sebastião) a man who tempted fate once too often. After the arrow episode, a punishment exacted by the Roman authorities for his declaration of Christian faith, he was nursed back to health but returned to confront the Roman emperor, Diocletian. On this second occasion his defiance led him to be beaten to death with clubs, and his body thrown into the Cloaca Maxima, the main sewer in Rome (Hall, 1991, 276–77). If to risk death once is a misfortune, to do it twice is carelessness. And the same maxim may be applied with a vengeance to Portugal’s propensity to lose not one or even two empires, but three, in Asia, Brazil and Africa.

20In Time: Past and Present, the largest picture-within-a-picture is that of the angel in flight. This figure, at face value uncontentious, may however carry a more cryptic significance. Its overall colour, entirely in tones of red and black, impresses as demonic rather than paradisiacal, and furthermore, it is cloven from top to bottom by a crack in the wood panel, which rends both the picture and the angel in two. The fractured result, compounded by the disturbing colour tones, invites broader speculation. The duality introduced by the crack, for example, might be seen to gesture towards a variety of heterodox (and heretical) religious schisms or Manichean beliefs, which in the Middle Ages unleashed religious persecution on a large scale throughout Europe. And religious heresy, transposed into a twentieth-century Portuguese context, translates as an attack against the church — one of the foundation stones of the Estado Novo — and therefore, obliquely, against the regime itself.

21Finally, I wish to consider the small figure of the green-tailed mermaid, centre top, next to the painting of the maid with two children. The mermaid, a mythical sea creature that lures sailors to perdition, clearly stands outside Christian acceptability, in antithesis to the nuns, saints and angels of the rest of the interior decor (pace the possible unorthodoxies associated with the latter). The mermaid, therefore, acts at the very least as a direct (rather than cryptic) threat both to religious orthodoxy and to the sea-going policy which in the fifteenth century re-drew the lines of national history for five centuries to come. The pagan menace of a creature that sends conquering, empire-building navigators off the straight and narrow path, compounds all the elements of dangerous, non-Marian female sexuality, religious heterodoxy and anti-imperialist political dissidence which ran counter to the rule of government Paula Rego here holds in her line of fire.

  • 3 This image has proved difficult to reproduce here, but it can be viewed in Ruth Rosengarten, ‘Verda (...)

22The colonial theme has been reiterated by Rego in her work throughout the decades. Other manifestations of this — Mother (fig. 3.19) and First Mass in Brazil (fig. 5.2) will be discussed presently. In all of them the unfolding of national history is characterized by political mismanagement, with anarchy always close to the surface. This is the tenor of the anti-Trinitarian triptych, History I, History II and History III,3 in which the staidness of the official version of national life surrenders to carnivalesque frenzy, and is irremediably wrong-footed by it. In this tripartite précis of history, both individual and collective agency (the demarcation between the two becomes blurred), are reenacted as a nightmare of rape, looting and pillaging, and thus become disconnected from any possible depiction as wise, noble or epic.

Fig. 1.9 Benjamin Cole, A Mermaid with Measuring Scale after A. Gautier D’Agoty (1759). Line engraving, 19 x 10.6 cm. Wellcome Collection, CC BY, https:// wellcomecollection.org/works/ahv53sks/items?sierraId=

Fig. 1.9 Benjamin Cole, A Mermaid with Measuring Scale after A. Gautier D’Agoty (1759). Line engraving, 19 x 10.6 cm. Wellcome Collection, CC BY, https:// wellcomecollection.org/works/ahv53sks/items?sierraId=

23History, then, in this artist’s vision, is driven by a multifaceted understanding of political management and mismanagement, in the context of which anarchy is always close to the surface.

A Home is Not a Home Without a Pet

24In the mid- to late-eighties Paula Rego began work on a group of pictures that would emerge as the Girl and Dog series (figs. 1.13; e-fig. 6; e-fig. 7; figs. 1.21; 1.22; 1.23; 1.26–1.33). Over the following two years she returned repeatedly to the theme, and what transpires is the beginning of a project still ongoing, whereby the political code is deciphered through the vocabulary of the personal, the familial, the amorous and the sexual, and in which, invariably, the return of the repressed, leading to anarchy, is rendered both anthropomorphically (dogs representing men) and in a gendered fashion (through the figures of dangerous young girls).

25In The Maids (fig. 1.4), as already observed, the death-bound mistress appeared to be a man in drag, down to the beefy shoulders, muscular legs, masculine period hair and pencil moustache. In what follows, I shall argue that from the mid-1980s onwards Rego cast the male in her pictures as the victim of a variety of murderous female impulses. The urge to do so has required her, on occasion, to transsexualize the protagonists of the literary texts from which she draws inspiration. In her series of images of 1997–98 based on the nineteenth-century novel The Sin of Father Amaro by Eça de Queiròs, for example, which will be discussed in chapter 3, gender assignations of power and powerlessness are reversed, thus empowering the women (who are sometimes androgynous or even masculine — Lying, fig. 3.7; Girl with Chickens, fig. 3.8) at the expense of any number of skirt-attired males, clerical or otherwise (In the Company of Women, fig. 3.1; The Ambassador of Jesus, fig. 3.4; Mother, fig. 3.19). The same is true in The Maids (fig. 1.4), already discussed, in which the murder of a female mistress prescribed by the original text is both respected and subverted. Respected, since a murder does take place and since the figured who is to be murdered is costumed as a woman; but subverted, because in the end, as would be the case with the later Father Amaro pictures (for instance The Coop, fig. 3.12), Rego cannot after all bring herself to cast a woman in the victim role, and — in The Maids — does so only deceptively, through a cross-dressing or transgender manoeuvre. The deception, moreover, is left deliberately transparent, enabling the viewer to discern the victimized male underneath the rudimentary gender reversal.

26Perfunctory disguises that allow the viewer to penetrate the reality they only half-heartedly camouflage are central to the works I shall now discuss, with reference to the metamorphosis from man to dog.

A Dog’s Life

27At the end of the 1980s Rego painted a series of works revolving around the theme of covert kinslaying (Departure; The Cadet and His Sister; The Soldier’s Daughter; The Policeman’s Daughter; The Family: figs. 2.8; 2.9; 2.11; 2.13; 2.14). These will be discussed in chapter 2. Regarding the Girl and Dog images that concern us now, studies from the field of criminology have purported to show that serial killers often begin their criminal careers with episodic animal mutilation (Felthous, 1980, 169–77; Goleman, 1991). If so, how appropriate that this artist’s choice of themes, which underwent a significant escalation in violence from the 1980s onwards, should crystallize in that decade with the serial mischief inflicted upon a number of beleaguered dogs by a variety of scary girls. Let us look at Sanda Miller:

The Untitled Girl and Dog series of 1986 present variations on the same theme [of violence], but the brutality of the earlier animal drolleries is here replaced by a feeling of uncomfortable suspense in the recurring motif of the pubescent girl, lovingly tending a pet. But instead of tender nurturing, she seems about to inflict unspeakable acts upon the animal, ‘castrated’ into total passivity. Here ‘the dividing line between nurturing and harming — between love and murder — is always hair-thin, for the artist’s concern is not with good and evil at their extremes, but with the area between, the acts of cruelty with which love is shot’. (Miller, 1991, 58)

In Latin, the terms ‘hospitality’ (that which one provides to visitors within one’s home), and ‘hospital’ or ‘hospice’ (the place where one goes to be sick and sometimes to die) share a common etymology. In Paula Rego, as remarked earlier, homeliness, which, as suggested above, surely involves pets, has a disquieting habit of turning unheimlich. Home and the home comforts become unwholesome, yielding not healing and health, but instead pain and death. With reference to the images of girls and dogs (or off-stage dogs) (figs. 1.13; e-fig. 6; e-fig. 7; figs. 1.21; 1.22; 1.23; 1.26–1.33), Agustina Bessa-Luís wrote as follows:

The girls play with the dog as if it were a child. They bathe it, feed it, shave it as if it were a man, the dog is a man whom one pretends to serve in order to dominate him through servitude. The game consists of turning servitude into power. The dog, what does a dog signify? The guardian who patrols, grunts, threatens, warns of the presence of strangers, or in other words, man. It is necessary to treat him with respect, spoil him, utter words of enchantment, such as abracadabra, dress him, heal him, lull him into sleep until he becomes harmless and it is possible to go to him on tiptoe and strangle him. The girls with the dog are part of a revelation about the [whole oeuvre], a statement with regard to art. (Rego and Bessa-Luís, 2001, 16, italics added)

In an interview with John Tusa, Rego explains that ‘painting something about Vic’ (Victor Willing, Rego’s husband) was the motivation behind the Girl and Dog series. Asked whether the paintings made reference to his illness, incapacitation and death from multiple sclerosis in 1988 she replied: ‘Yes. It was so embarrassing because it’s such a personal thing. You can’t do it directly, you have to find a way around it’ (Tusa, 2001, 10). This statement, illuminated by a later remark in the same interview (‘my work is about revenge, always, always’) brings us back in a neat circle to the impetus to do harm to those one loves, quoted in the opening to this monograph. The weakened dog in need of nursing, but instead in peril of being put down, may be man’s but is clearly not woman’s best friend. Rego’s art becomes ‘a way of saying the unsayable’ (Greer, 1988, 33) and her dogs the displaced object of transference, the targets of a brand of aggression whose modus operandi is the simulacrum of stereotypical female caring roles, whether maternal, wifely, sisterly or filial. Thus the acts of nursing, feeding and shaving are translated into preludes to murder.4 The same process finds more literal translation in works later on in that decade, so that in retrospect, the dogs in the Girl and Dog series emerge as the only less extreme alter egos of a gallery of castrated monkeys (Wife Cuts Off Red Monkey’s Tail, fig. 2.4), emasculated wolves (Two Girls and a Dog, e-fig. 4)5 and, more ostentatiously, eviscerated canine protagonists (Amélia’s Dream, fig. 3.21). Together, they stand as the chorus line for a performance leading to bloodshed closer to home, within the artist’s own species and within everyone’s symbolic family, in images such as The Bullfighter’s Godmother (fig. 2.10), The Family (fig. 2.14), The Cadet and His Sister (fig. 2.9) and The Policeman’s Daughter (fig. 2.13).

28Throughout her painting career Paula Rego has returned with some insistence to the theme of cross-dressing, drag and disguises of various natures: the men in women’s clothing in The Maids (fig. 1.4), The Company of Women (fig. 3.1), Mother (fig. 3.19), and Olga (fig. 1.11), or the female figure wearing soldier’s fatigues in The Interrogator’s Garden (fig. 1.10).

Fig. 1.10 Paula Rego, The Interrogator’s Garden (2000). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 110 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.10 Paula Rego, The Interrogator’s Garden (2000). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 110 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

And while in The Maids the female murder victim is replaced by a man, in the Girl and Dog series painted between 1986 and 1987, the man in his turn is replaced by a dog. Paula Rego has stated in the past that in her view dogs are noble, vital and vigorous creatures, and that to reach their status is an honour (interview with Judith Collins, 1997, 125). The caveat to this statement, typically devious on the part of this artist, is that she was referring to a series of paintings called Dog Women (Baying), fig. 1.12; Bad Dog, fig. 6.14), painted much later, in 1993.

Fig. 1.11 Paula Rego, Olga (2003). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 160 x 120 cm. The Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.11 Paula Rego, Olga (2003). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 160 x 120 cm. The Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom, all rights reserved.

29In these works, indeed, the Dog Women in question are vigorous and athletic, but also defiant, irreverent and even threatening. This is clearly not the case with the male dogs of the earlier Girl and Dog series (figs. 1.13; e-fig. 6; e-fig. 7; figs. 1.21; 1.22; 1.23; 1.26–1.33), which, as Ruth Rosengarten has observed, are passive, docile, sickly or downright invalid (Rosengarten, 1997, 68). Elsewhere, indeed, the artist has commented that in her view the dog is the animal that most closely resembles man, in the same breath reminiscing about a dog she owned as a child, which was very small, which she didn’t like very much and which ‘had suicidal tendencies, and used to jump out of high windows’ (Rodrigues da Silva, 1998, 9). Did he jump or was he pushed?

Fig. 1.12 Paula Rego, Dog Women (Baying) (1994). Pastel on canvas, 100 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.12 Paula Rego, Dog Women (Baying) (1994). Pastel on canvas, 100 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

In this earlier Girl and Dog series, the dog is cast as the avatar of the man (whose best friend he is, according to popular wisdom) and he is clearly imperilled at the hands of a series of perfidious little girls, who variously handle and manhandle (or womanhandle) him, pin him down, feed him, shave him and taunt him, sexually or otherwise. The idealized Portuguese woman of the Salazarista vision may have been the selfless wife, mother and carer, but if so, these little girls, the preoccupying distortion of that ideal, are the mothers of future Rego women, whose viciousness to dogs (Amélia’s Dream, fig. 3.21) and men alike (The Family, fig. 2.14), leaves little to the imagination.

30The dog is proverbially associated with faithful obedience to its master, a trait that may be carried to abject lengths. In traditional iconography this animal, ironically in view of the gender antagonism explicit in the Rego pictures, is often the symbol of a good marriage (Becker, 1994, 84–85). In portraiture, for example, if sitting at the feet of a woman, or on her lap, a dog signifies marital fidelity, or in the case of a widow, faithfulness to her husband’s memory (Hall, 1991, 105). If Paula Rego is drawing upon these allusions, however, one is tempted to see that gesture as ironic, when deployed, as it is here, within the context of a series of pictures in which the nurturing/wifely/maternal roles entail a level of ambiguity that easily translates into murderous intent. The vindictiveness with which the animals are treated in these images, therefore, also invokes the contempt with which dogs are also viewed in the many European cultures (including Portuguese) that use ‘dog’ as an insulting epithet (Becker, 1994, 84). In this series, the dog, who is supposedly man’s best friend and who also represents him in these images, is mishandled by a girl who variously taunts it, ill-treats it and castigates it for its weakness. The aggression occurs in the context of traditional female activities such as nursing, feeding and bathing, but which, in these pictures, cross a thin dividing line and become violent. The result, one might say, is a gallery of bitchy girls and their dogs, embroiled in a series of unsettling games (of cat and mouse) — with or without the involvement of magic, black or otherwise.

31Magic, as it happens, becomes a clear consideration in the next picture, Abracadabra (fig. 1.13).

32‘Abracadabra’, as every child knows, is the word that, in fairy tales, triggers a moment of transformation, a leap from established reality into a parallel universe of sorcery. After the word is uttered, in fantasy narratives as well as in this painting, the status quo is destroyed. In this particular picture, especially when contrasted with others in the same series, nothing much has yet happened to the dog. But it will, as indicated by some of the implied metamorphoses in other images, in particular Two Girls and a Dog (e-fig. 4), with which this first picture bears particular affinity.

33Abracadabra depicts a dog sitting on its haunches between two girls, with one leg lifted in the air. In view of the images to come, it is possible that the dog is exposing its belly in a posture of placation but also ill-advised vulnerability. One of the girls is not touching him, but instead positions her arms as if for cradling, although she holds nothing in them. Her posture heralds the nurturing stance of several of the other pictures in this series, and carries eerie echoes of a Madonna with child, or, as the case may be here, an empty-armed Madonna without child. The themes of motherhood ending in a void and of a Madonna without issue will be explored in detail in chapters 4 and 7, in the context of the abortion pastels of 1998–1999 (figs. 4.3–4.5; 4.14; 4.15; 4.24–4.26; 4.30; 4.31; 4.37; 4.38; 4.41; 4.49) and the Virgin Mary cycle of 2002 (figs. 7.1; 7.3; 7.9; 7.10; 7.11; 7.12; 7.19; 7.20). In Abracadabra the other girl is depicted holding up both arms and hands in an invocatory gesture that presumably alludes to the title.

Fig. 1.13 Paula Rego, Abracadabra (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 157 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.13 Paula Rego, Abracadabra (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 157 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

34Two other elements draw the viewers’ attention. First, the thematic touchstone of this series (which, following our argument, is of gender and love relations cast in an antagonistic mould), is ushered in by the hearts worn by the hieratic girl, not on her sleeve but rather as trophies and here displayed on the hem of her dress. In this picture, therefore, sexual politics are played out in the realm of the personal, the domestic, the amorous or the conjugal, and set roles are reversed with considerable fanfare. This intention is trumpeted by the second detail, namely the flowers lying plucked and discarded on the ground. In both art and poetry the flower figures above all as a symbol of femininity, and since it draws upon sun and rain it stands as a symbol of acquiescence and humility (Becker, 1994, 115): both defining traits of selfless womanhood. Differently coloured flowers stand for different things (white for death or innocence, blue for dreams and mysteries, etc.), but here we are treated to the display of a broad spectrum of colours, signifying possibly Everyflower, or Everywoman (but certainly not Everyman). Or is it Everyman, after all? In still-life paintings flowers symbolize the evanescence of human life (Hall, 1991, 126), and because of their transience are also sometimes associated with the souls of deceased persons (Becker, 1994, 115). Bearing in mind the relative postures of the protagonists of these pictures — the soft-bellied dog, the girl crushing a bed of flowers from which the plucked ones have also presumably originated — the memento mori of flower buds prematurely picked should probably be heeded by the dog, rather than the girls. She loves me, she loves me not… Whether the answer to this enquiry is positive or negative, harm may in either case be the outcome for the object of these girlish affections.

35The title, Abracadabra, suggests metamorphosis or change, and begs the question as to what exactly it is that this particular dog will change into. In parallel with that question, which subsequent pictures of incapacitated dogs amply elucidate, the next picture I wish to consider invites an altogether different kind of enquiry: namely, what it is that the dog might have changed from?

36In Two Girls and a Dog (e-fig. 4), one of the later pictures in the series, we contemplate the same cast of protagonists, with the addition of two important components. With a deviousness that echoes the apparent unimportance of the flamenco poster in The Fitting (fig. 1.3), and which was to be repeated in subsequent works (the diminutive soldier and mater dolorosa figures in The Soldier’s Daughter, fig. 2.11; the cockerel in The Cadet and His Sister, fig. 2.9), these components remain in the background, ostensibly as filler details or decor. In Two Girls and a Dog, they are the figures of a wolf-like dog and the silhouette of a man. I will return to these presently.

37In this picture, which Rego has said is a deposition (more about this later), a dog is being shod by two girls, one of whom restrains his efforts to resist, and the other of whom forces a curious pair of slippers back to front onto his hind paws. The first thing that strikes us about this image is the use of force, much more explicit than in Abracadabra (fig. 1.13). Here, the trajectory from masculine/canine power to powerlessness bespeaks much more explicitly the violence entailed in that change. The slippers being forced upon the dog’s feet are of a curious type: furry like an animal’s paws, but shaped like human feet with toes. They signal the half-achieved metamorphosis either from man to beast or vice-versa. The direction of change remains unclear, but in either case it is problematic for two reasons: first, because it signposts the imposition, clearly not welcomed by the dog, of a self that is not his own (since he is literally being forced to step into someone else’s shoes); and second, the fact that those shoes are back to front alludes, with comic but also tragic literalness, to impaired progress along a route that appears to be going nowhere fast.

  • 6 The term ‘Dominican’ has sometimes been said to be based on the false etymology ‘domini canis’ (hou (...)

38Regression is incorporated into the picture, not merely along the dimension of space (footwear that walks backwards), but, even more importantly, of time. The wolf in the upper left-hand corner may represent the past (pre-historic) ancestor of the domesticated or even abused animal in the foreground. Other than the Roman worship of the wolf, from the Middle Ages onwards the lupine acquired associations of evil, greed and heresy (Hall, 1991, 343). The wolf, the villain of any number of children’s tales, is in many ways a true embodiment of the outlawed and dangerous Other. Christian symbolism, for example, addresses primarily the wolf-lamb dyad that casts the lamb as the symbol of the Christian faithful and the wolf as the embodiment of demonic interests (Becker, 1994, 331–32). More to the point as regards this picture, dogs have sometimes been depicted attacking wolves (Hall, 1991, 343), (for example in some Dominican paintings, possibly as an illustration of fighting the enemy within the self).6

39Clearly, in the Paula Rego picture, an added dimension of complexity comes into play, since the wolf may be the representative of unorthodoxy but here it is shown as a small figure in the background, whilst his tamed relative is either a defeated/deposed (from the cross) hound/Son of God or worse, an abused pet. And he is further weakened by the presence of the two girls who, by assuming an atypical guise of female violence, reopen hostilities between the mainstream and the outsider, thereby willingly casting themselves as the new occupants of the latter role. In this picture, it would appear, we are dealing with a wolf in girls’ clothing.

Fig. 1.14 Andrea di Bonaiuto, Church Militant and Triumphant (1365–1367). Fresco, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Andrea_di_bonaiuto, _ dettaglio_dal_cappoellone_degli_spagnoli.jpg

Fig. 1.14 Andrea di Bonaiuto, Church Militant and Triumphant (1365–1367). Fresco, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Andrea_di_bonaiuto, _ dettaglio_dal_cappoellone_degli_spagnoli.jpg

40In chapter 2 we will return to the topic of dogs/wolves who fall foul of little girls. And as ever in Paula Rego’s work, the agenda — in this instance the one guiding human-canine interaction — will also be reflected through the prism of gender.

  • 7 Paula Rego has sometimes painted men in skirts as in indicator of male weakness and peril, for exam (...)

41In Two Girls and a Dog, as suggested, the wild associations of the wolf are undercut by its size; likewise, the dog’s position in the background and its lack of importance within the narrative of the picture emphasize its current domesticated status. Analogous conjectures may apply also to the figure of the gender-ambiguous man in a skirt, whose compromised status within the painting is more or less equivalent to that of the wolf, or possibly even less significant, since the wolf here might be said to carry greater imagistic impact than the man, by virtue of its striking eyes, which contrast with the facelessness (anonymity) of the shadowy human figure. In Rego, the weakening effect upon men of dressing in drag has already been observed, and will re-appear in later works (The Company of Women, fig. 3.1; Mother, fig. 3.19; Olga, fig. 1.11). Be that as it may, both the wolf (now evolutionarily obsolete, because ‘civilized’ and tamed into a dog), and the eunuch-like skirted man7 (whose thunder is stolen in all respects — size, visibility, location — by the two girls in the foreground), stand out as exponents of their own peripheral status. Compositionally and thematically, each signals redundancy in a picture that casts girls on top.

42Finally, the wolf carries one last association that might be of relevance to an anti-imperial undertow in this artist’s work. The she-wolf who in legend suckled Romulus and Remus became the icon of Roman imperial power. And the Roman Empire — through the image of the fasces, a symbol of Roman power — became itself the precursor to European fascism in the 1930s and 40s. More specifically, the influence of the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula remains one of the key cultural roots of historic Portugal, including its imperial ambitions. However, empires — be they Roman, Portuguese or otherwise — eventually disintegrate, and Paula Rego has enjoyed rubbing salt in that wound since her earliest cut-and-paste works of the 1960s. In that context, therefore, the figure of a Roman wolf fallen upon hard times and demoted either to a background prop or to the status of domestic dog acquires political relevance. And through another cross-gender/cross-species/cross-dressing sleight of hand, when the female rendition of the symbol in question (the she-wolf of ancient Roman legend) changes sex and species and becomes the canine companion of a man in a skirt, all power is lost. In Two Girls and a Dog the imperial lupine mother metamorphosed into male pet symbolises the decline of men and empires, a decline emphasised by means of the pain undergone by a weakened canine male at the hands of a daughter/wife/mother.

43If, much in the manner of the beleaguered dog, the man and the wolf are seen here as creatures on their way to extinction, or already extinct, their in-built fragility is reiterated by the last two components of the picture: first, the plucked daisy (once again, she-loves-me, she-loves-me-not) which, much as in the previous picture, may at any moment suffer the insult added to injury of being trampled by a sturdy female foot. And second, the clay pitcher. The popular Portuguese proverb that proclaims that a pitcher taken to the fountain too often is bound to break — ‘tantas vezes vai o cântaro à fonte que um dia quebra’ (which is another way of warning against pushing one’s luck too far) is here taken one step further by a destructive authorial imperative, which seems unwilling to leave desirable breakages in the hands of fate: the hammer positioned next to the pitcher (which figures also as a potential weapon of assault in Prey, fig. 1.28) can have one use, or perhaps two, or even three: the annihilation of pitcher, flower and dog in one fell swoop. For they are all proven to be mortal, including the Son of God in images of depositions such as the one that follows.

44The next picture, In the Garden (fig. 1.15), engages with themes of political import beyond antagonism in matters of gender.

Fig. 1.15 Paula Rego, In the Garden (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.15 Paula Rego, In the Garden (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

We are faced once again with the same cast of two girls restraining a dog showing signs of discomfort. The other components of the picture are a gladiatorial pair composed of a lion and an ape, a tiny escaping hare, and a towering cactus plant. The picture invites questions regarding geographic location, which, as is often the case in Rego’s work, carry political significance. The ethnicity of the two girls is not entirely clear, but they might be black, a possibility repeated in other paintings of the Girl and Dog series (for example Abracadabra, fig. 1.13; Girl and Dog Untitled a, b and g — e-fig. 6 and figs. 1.29 and 1.33 respectively). The native habitat of the lion and also, though not exclusively, of the ape, is Africa, and this is true too of the giant cactus, which sports heart-shaped flowers nestling between vicious looking spikes. If the heart shapes, as suggested previously, are shorthand for the personal love/marriage dimension, with all its implied Regoesque dangers, the African allusion keeps that personal aspect linked to wider concerns of national (and specifically colonial) politics.

45Let us begin with the figure of the ape. In Christian art and literature the ape is almost uniformly evil, representing heresy and paganism. An ape with an apple in its mouth signifies the Fall of Man (which, in the final analysis, as is well known, was more readily attributed to Woman), and an ape tied up by a chain symbolizes the defeat of Satan. In the ape, man recognized a baser image of himself, such that the former came to represent vice in general, or humanity gone astray (Hall, 1991, 20).

Fig. 1.16 George Stubbs, AMonkey (1799). Oil on panel, 70 x 55.9 cm. Walker Gallery, Liverpool. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​ wiki/File:George_Stubbs_-_A_Monkey_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Fig. 1.16 George Stubbs, AMonkey (1799). Oil on panel, 70 x 55.9 cm. Walker Gallery, Liverpool. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​ wiki/File:George_Stubbs_-_A_Monkey_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Fig. 1.17 Zacharie Noterman, Monkey Art (1890). Oil on panel, 54 x 65 cm. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File: Zacharie_Noterman_-_Monkey_art.jpg

Fig. 1.17 Zacharie Noterman, Monkey Art (1890). Oil on panel, 54 x 65 cm. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File: Zacharie_Noterman_-_Monkey_art.jpg

Fig, 1.18 Pseudo-Jan van Kessel II, Still Life of Fruit with a Monkey and a Dog (after c. 1660). Oil on copper, 16.5 x 22 cm. Dorotheum, Vienna. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Pseudo-Jan_ van_Kessel_II_-_Still_life_of_fruit_with_a_monkey_and_a_dog.jpg

Fig, 1.18 Pseudo-Jan van Kessel II, Still Life of Fruit with a Monkey and a Dog (after c. 1660). Oil on copper, 16.5 x 22 cm. Dorotheum, Vienna. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Pseudo-Jan_ van_Kessel_II_-_Still_life_of_fruit_with_a_monkey_and_a_dog.jpg

Fig. 1.19 Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, The Antique Monkey (1726). Oil on canvas, 81.5 x 65.4 cm. The Louvre, Paris. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chardin, _la_scimmia_antiquaria, _1726_ca._02. JPG

Fig. 1.19 Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, The Antique Monkey (1726). Oil on canvas, 81.5 x 65.4 cm. The Louvre, Paris. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chardin, _la_scimmia_antiquaria, _1726_ca._02. JPG

Fig. 1.20 Paula Rego, Red Monkey Drawing (1981). Acrylic on paper, 76.5 x 56 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.20 Paula Rego, Red Monkey Drawing (1981). Acrylic on paper, 76.5 x 56 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
  • 8 e-fig. 5 Picasso’s lithograph Monkey as Painter (1954), 50.6 x 37.2 cm. © icollector. com. Posted b (...)

More curiously, however, from the Middle Ages onwards the ape, like the pig discussed previously, came to represent the activities of painting and sculpture (a famous example being Picasso’s lithograph Monkey as Painter, e-fig. 5),8 an iconography also adopted by Rego.

46The artist’s skill, being regarded (and disregarded) by the likes of Plato as essentially imitative, became linked to this animal, also known for its miming abilities. The ‘Ars simia Naturae’ (Art apes Nature) aphorism resulted in frequent depictions of the artist as an ape engaged in painting a portrait, sometimes that of a woman (Hall, 1991, 22).

47But what are we to make of the use of a monkey that symbolically links artistic practice to sinfulness and evil, in the work of a woman who often places another animal (the dog) closely associated with loyalty to his (male) master, in the position of cast-down victim?

48The dog in In the Garden is forcibly held by a black girl, whose assumed homeland (one of the African colonies) has been subject to claims of ownership by Portugal since the fifteenth century. Here, noticeably, the dog is clearly in paroxysms of pain. If every dog has its day, this day isn’t it for Rego’s beast, nor for the interests it represents. The latter are betokened in absentia by the ambiguous streak of blue in the background, which might indicate the sky or alternatively the vanishing ocean of unspecified sea-borne empires. The dog’s pain may or may not be related to the actions of the hands ambiguously positioned near its backside, with a potentially violating intent that foreshadows the intrusive hand of another young girl in The Policeman’s Daughter (fig. 2.13). Cradling arms and homely aprons notwithstanding, therefore, the dog’s obvious suffering gives the lie to any notion of maternal nurturing. And it is perhaps for this reason that the hare, an established symbol of the Earth-as-mother, as well as of human fertility and maternity (Becker, 1994, 137– 38), is depicted in diminutive scale, and about to exit the picture plane.

49In the absence of a caring mother, or at least of an orthodox one, the dog may be in difficulties, but he is not alone. The third animal in this composition is the lion engaged in a fight with the ape. The lion is the traditional representative of the ruling status quo and of its strong (absolutist) leaders. He is the king of beasts, symbolizing power and justice in their masculinist, imperial and Christian configurations. The values and interests of God, King and Country (imperial or otherwise), as well as of patriarchy (the male lion as leader of the pack), are all embraced within the symbolism of this animal. In In the Garden (fig. 1.15), however, we see a lion antagonistically challenged by (and recoiling from) that artist-ape, which itself symbolizes evil, as do the girlish torturers of the dog, the latter depicted here as the lion’s (man’s) sidekick. All this animosity is unleashed within a garden several apples short of an Eden, and whose vegetation, favouring spiky African cactii, is conspicuously lacking in trees of either Life or Knowledge. In this non-paradisiacal scene, girls, women, female artists in the guise of monkeys, and even plants that represent daughter-colonies, mutiny against, and seemingly overcome both faithful domestic animals and the great beasts of the jungle, both portrayed here in various degrees of peril.

50The dog is very small in the next painting, Looking Back.

Fig. 1.21 Paula Rego, Looking Back (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.21 Paula Rego, Looking Back (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

This picture involves what turns out to be an unholy female trinity of three girls, one sitting on a bed, one lying on it and one kneeling beside it. A dog, disproportionately small in relation to the rest of the figures, crouches under the bed. McEwen has suggested, albeit rather coyly, that the girl sitting on the bed is masturbating (McEwen, 1997, 146). If so, the traditional set-up of a woman posed as object of voyeuristic titillation for both artist and intended audience (both conventionally male), is here challenged in various ways. First, the euphemistic sexual delectation provided by the stylized, self-offering canonical nudes of traditional Western art (figs. 4.11; 4.12; 4.13; 4.17; 4.18 and others) is replaced by the cruder notion of exhibitionistic onanism. Second, the replacement of a female nude by a fully-clothed set of models (a forerunner of the abortion works of the 1990s, figs. 4.3–4.5; 4.14; 4.15; 4.24–4.26; 4.30; 4.31; 4.37; 4.38; 4.41; 4.49) curtails the more obvious and immediate source of voyeuristic male gratification. Third, the act of self-sufficient pleasure for women (the sisters doing it for themselves) absolutely excludes men either as participants or recipients (viewers). Fourth, the potential voyeurs within the painting are voyeuses, and moreover they are girls rather than adults. Male expectations surrounding female bodies, involving more-or-less specific spectator fantasies about actual sex with the female object under contemplation, are contravened in this picture, through the self-sufficiency implicit in an act of masturbation that here does not even require the aid of a fetishistic representation of masculinity. And finally, the in-built, ready-made and all-female audience (all-female, since the male dog is ostentatiously consigned under the bed and has no view of the proceedings), not only denies access to male-viewer fantasies about sex with the aesthetic object but goes further and negates the very existence of a male gaze. The state of visual exclusion indicated by a dog that can see nothing extends to a similarly disenfranchised male audience, and to the obstruction of a titillated male gaze which here simply is not in question.

51The act of masturbation, which is the blatant negation of an Other (see also chapter 3, fig. 3.2), and here specifically of a male partner, invites instead the partial participation of female spectators within and outside the picture, as partners in these various transgressions, from which the male is elided, except possibly as victim. The no-can-do, no-can-see token presence of the tiny dog serves to emphasize his exclusion from any dimension of significant agency, animal disempowerment being instead re-affirmed by the reclining girl wrapped in a furry blanket. The blanket (pelt, fleece: a hunting trophy?) achieves her partial metamorphosis into beast (half-animal, half-woman, a twin of another dangerous half-and-half female, namely the mermaid (part-woman, part-fish) of Time: Past and Present, fig. 1.8), and thus stands for a different kind of appropriation. What is indicated here, as is the case in Red Riding Hood (Mother Wears Wolf’s Pelt) (fig. 6.2), is the claim to another creature’s skin, to non-human status and/or to a license for ferocity, which that animal may have once shown but is now hers. The girl’s leonine features and mane-like hair associate her with the lion which, in the previous picture, configured the status quo in a more orthodox male rendition.

52And if it were necessary to labour the point, this particular female lion (a lioness in drag, given her authority-conferring transgender mane), carries a bird on her shoulder, in the style of the standard cartoon pirate with his parrot, thereby reaffirming the suggestion of transgressive power. Here, therefore, she is both an outlaw pirate and a she-lion, a female imbued with stereotypically male powers, and all the more dangerous by virtue of that unmasked femaleness.

53The sexual taunt of do-it-yourself sex in Looking Back, rendering the male redundant as it does, is taken one step further in Girl Lifting Up Her Skirt to a Dog (fig. 1.22).

54Here the canine male is again brought into play, but merely as an aid to female malice. The dog faces the girl expectantly, but also with incomprehension, and there is no question here of male voyeuristic pleasure. His cocked ears and curled tail indicate that he is waiting for her next move. Other than the girl’s provocative stance faced with her perplexed spectator, the rest of the picture also bespeaks aggressive sexuality. The phallic mountain in the background reiterates a prowess of which the dog himself appears incapable, and echoes the girl’s taunting challenge, as do the blood red roses, another hackneyed signifier of sexuality, which here, as in Abracadabra, fig. 1.13, Two Girls and a Dog, e-fig. 4, and Snare, fig. 1.23) are scattered on the ground, ready to be trampled.

55The dangers of critical analysis based on biographical information are too well-rehearsed to require further elaboration. However, Paula Rego herself opens the door to this line of speculation through the information she has offered in interviews and in her book written jointly with Agustina Bessa Luís (Rego and Bessa Luís, 2001). The Girl and Dog series, as mentioned already, came about as the result of her desire to ‘do pictures about Vic’ in the last years of his life, before his death from multiple sclerosis in 1988. MS, a famously unpredictable disease, can be particularly cruel to men, causing, among other forms of incapacity, impotence. In Girl Lifting Her Skirt to a Dog, the sexual taunt is unmistakable, as is the dog’s incapacity to respond to it.

Fig. 1.22 Paula Rego, Girl Lifting Up Her Skirt to a Dog (1986). Acrylic on paper, 80 x 60 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.22 Paula Rego, Girl Lifting Up Her Skirt to a Dog (1986). Acrylic on paper, 80 x 60 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

56The striped pattern on the girl’s dress, which will reappear in a variety of forms in other paintings, carries semantic implications that variously allude to the traditional prison uniforms of story-book illustrations (Portugal), or to the attire of the standard comic-strip burglar (Britain). What remains technically ambiguous but painfully decipherable, both in this and in other pictures, are the identities of the jailer and the prisoner. In view of Willing’s entrapment by a condition that in its later stages deprived him of movement and reduced him to absolute dependence, the answer is easily come by.

57Just as striking is the ambiguity conveyed by the position of the girl’s hands, which in this picture lift the skirt in a gesture of sexual provocation, whilst in Snare (fig. 1.23) and in The Little Murderess (fig. 1.26), both of 1987, they enact violence and murder by strangulation. Bodily harm and homicide (and I would argue that it is very much homicide, rather than caninicide which is represented in the latter two images), therefore become akin to the sexual provocation of Looking Back and Girl Lifting Her Skirt to a Dog, with which these pictures share a similarity of intent.

Fig. 1.23 Paula Rego, Snare (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. British Council Collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.23 Paula Rego, Snare (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. British Council Collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

In Snare, sexual innuendo is apparent, albeit less explicit than in Girl Lifting Up Her Skirt to a Dog. The contrasting poses of power and powerlessness again dominate a picture in which the gender allocation of the standard missionary position gives way to a girls-on-top reversal played out as the male slave/female dominatrix of sado-masochistic bondage. Bondage, physical, sexual or otherwise, is brought into the equation by the title of the picture, and had also become apparent in some of the untitled Girl and Dog paintings of the previous year, to be discussed presently.

  • 9 Paula Rego appears often to play on the visual pun, and on the possible metaphorical implications o (...)

58In Snare the narrative of toppled power — male by female — is also multilayered. As in previous pictures, the image features red roses as indices of sexuality: one plucked and abandoned on the ground beside the helpless dog, who is himself about to be ‘plucked’ (in the sexual sense of the term) by this unmaidenly maiden.9 The other flower is triumphantly displayed as the head dress (crowning glory) of a girl who, eerily, in the midst of violence, displays not a hair out of place.

59The gendered reversal of fortunes is reinforced by the figures of the crab and the horse. By virtue of the shell that protects it from the outside world, as well as its connection to water, the crab is associated with the womb (Becker, 1994, 69), or the wish to return to it. This impulse, in turn, is psychoanalytically associated with what, for want of a better term, might be termed vulnerable mummy’s boys. In Christian symbology the crab also bears links to Christ and with the Resurrection (Becker, 1994, 69). As such, therefore, here it provides also a political link (and challenge to, or lampooning of) the Estado Novo regime, whose interests, as mentioned previously, were entangled with those of the Catholic Church. This helpless sea creature might play on the identification between Salazar and the pseudo-messianic, lost Don Sebastião (unable to return from overseas to right historical wrongs) as well as undermining the regime’s propaganda machinery, which drew upon the symbolism of Christian iconography. The purpose of such propaganda was to present Salazar as the would-be saviour of the nation: a modern Don Sebastião who did return and did claim Africa — albeit now its southern rather than northern parts (Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau and the Atlantic archipelagos, as opposed to Morocco and Ceuta) — to replenish the nation’s piggy bank. In Paula Rego’s work, however, the upended Christian crab, reminiscent of the proverb that charity begins at home, is clearly unable to set itself to rights, much less a nation and its wider troubles.

60The crab here evinces impotence rather than the gift of eternal life, and it finds an avatar in the harnessed horse in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture, which, much like the hare of In the Garden (fig. 1.15), is literally, as well as figuratively on its way out. The horse, sometimes represented as a chthonic or infernal creature, has traditionally been understood to harbour associations with life-giving, albeit dangerous, forces. Its strength can signify unbridled impulsiveness but, if harnessed by reason, it can convey global justice (the white steed of Christus triumphator, Becker, 1994, 145–46).

Fig. 1.24 John Thornton (glazier), Apocalypse (detail Christ on Horse (Apocalypse) (1405–1408). Great East Window, York Minster, United Kingdom. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​ File:York_Minster_-_Christ_on_the_White_horse.jpg

Fig. 1.24 John Thornton (glazier), Apocalypse (detail Christ on Horse (Apocalypse) (1405–1408). Great East Window, York Minster, United Kingdom. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​ File:York_Minster_-_Christ_on_the_White_horse.jpg

As a symbol of youth, strength and sexuality, furthermore, the horse is the favoured mount of battling kings and noblemen (Becker, 1994, 145–46), well worth a kingdom, and without which they risk becoming Richard III. It is also, and very much to the point here, the attribute of Europe (Europa), as one of the mythical Four Parts of the World.

Fig. 1.25 Luca Giordano, Series of The Four Parts of the World: Europe (between 1634 and 1705). Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 cm. Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia. org/wiki/File:Luca_Giordano, _copies_-_Series_of_the_Four_Parts_of_ the World._Europe_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Fig. 1.25 Luca Giordano, Series of The Four Parts of the World: Europe (between 1634 and 1705). Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 cm. Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia. org/wiki/File:Luca_Giordano, _copies_-_Series_of_the_Four_Parts_of_ the World._Europe_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

The latter, usually personified as a female figure in the art of the Counter-Reformation (and therefore of an absolutist Catholic imperative), serves as a reminder of the worldwide spread of Roman Catholicism, with Europe in particular habitually foregrounded as the Queen of the World. Weapons and a horse allude to victory in war (Hall, 1991, 129). In Snare, however, the horse, which is neither glorious nor unbridled nor triumphant, is harnessed not to reason, but to a tame, domestic wheel-cart, and it is depicted as diminutive in scale. The triumphant leadership it might have embodied, therefore, much like the overturned Christ associations of the crab, appear enfeebled. And if the horse in one of its guises represents Europe and its bellicose imperatives, the latter, which in a specific Portuguese context translate as the imperial outward reach of the nation, in this image share the plight of the disempowered crab.

61Snare, as already argued, bears clear affinities with The Little Murderess (fig. 1.26), through a move that turns sex into violence, specifically murder.

Fig. 1.26 Paula Rego, The Little Murderess (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.26 Paula Rego, The Little Murderess (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Here the positioning of the girl’s hands, reminiscent of those of the servant poised to attack her mistress in The Maids (fig. 1.4) will find later echoes in the sister grooming her brother for war in Departure (fig. 2.8), while the act of grooming becomes in its turn coterminous with aggressive behaviour in some of the Girl and Dog pictures still to be discussed, as well as in later images such as The Family (fig. 2.14), The Cadet and His Sister (fig. 2.9) and The Policeman’s Daughter (fig. 2.13).

62Although chronologically part of the Girl and Dog series, neither The Little Murderess nor Prey (fig. 1.28) feature a dog. Both, however, fit thematically within the preoccupations of the series. In The Little Murderess the composition, as clarified by its title, focuses upon a young girl with a ligature stretched between her hands, poised to strangle or having just strangled a victim off-stage (which is where, in time-honoured tradition, the bloodiest crimes of Greek tragedy traditionally take place). If this connection were not enough to elevate the girl’s status, her size and scale, defined as they are in proportion to the other objects in the picture (the chair, the pelican, and the ox and cart in the background), would do so beyond any doubt.

63In this picture it is unclear whether the murder has already occurred or is about to take place, but whether the former or the latter, the annihilation is in any case already so thoroughly achieved that the victim figures only in absentia, and is noted metonymically by means of a pile of (sacrificial?) clothes scattered across the bed and floor.

64The ox may throw some light on the murder that has or is about to be committed, since it is one of the sacrificial animals of choice in Antiquity; it also functions as a symbol of contemptible (bovine) contentedness, as well as meekness in the teeth of an inauspicious fate. Even more revealing, however, is the presence of the pelican perched on a chair, painted in the manner of a typical Portuguese arts-and-crafts object. The pelican, present elsewhere in Paula Rego (Sleeping, fig. 1.27; The Family, fig. 2.14) elicits the collective folk memory of the self-sacrificial motif par excellence, as the bird which pierced its own breast in order to feed its young with its blood. But when murder and suicide become indistinguishable, it might not be unreasonable to suspect a cover-up.

  • 10 See chapter 4 for the story of Lilith, Adam’s first wife and murderer of her male children.
  • 11 See for example Marina Warner, Alone of All her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (London: (...)

65This legend of the self-wounding pelican, however, was the later version of an earlier rendition. In the earlier narrative the bird plays a less laudable role and kills its ugly offspring, although three days later it repents and revives them with blood from a self-inflicted wound (Becker, 1994, 230). In the Middle Ages the initial version gave way to the later one, which itself becomes allusive of Christ’s sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection. Medieval fastidiousness, it would appear, recoiled from the possibility of a murderous mother, as well it might. The Medea-style echoes of mothers turned killers, which reverberate through the paradigm of Lilith,10 Eve and the Fall (loss of eternal life), were assiduously smothered by the medieval mentality that prevailed in the following centuries, promoting, as it did, the cult of Mary as the antidote for the shortcomings of humanity’s First Mother.11 The worship of Mary, as we have seen, was also encouraged in Portugal by the political authorities under Salazar. And it is tackled head-on by Paula Rego, in her portrayals of young girls whose mock-maternal, murderous behaviour sets them on an early path to violence. In this picture, the selfish and selfless pelican echoes the moral uncertainty of seemingly good mothers who may after all turn out to be atavistically bad.

Fig. 1.27 Paula Rego, Sleeping (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Arts Council of Great Britain. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.27 Paula Rego, Sleeping (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Arts Council of Great Britain. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

66Young girls are the mothers of the future, and the mother in Portugal, as we have seen, was the pivot around which home, nation and ideology gravitated. She was simultaneously the lowest of the low in the power stakes of realpolitik and the foundation stone of the power infrastructures. If the mother were to run amok, the entire edifice of society would collapse. In Prey (fig. 1.28), more clearly even than in The Little Murderess, Rego appears to treat us to the spectacle of that downfall.

Fig. 1.28 Paula Rego, Prey (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.28 Paula Rego, Prey (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Not uncommonly in the case of this artist, seemingly unimportant details open up paths to interpretation. This will be the case, for example, when we come to look at The Cadet and His Sister (fig. 2.9) and The Soldier’s Daughter (fig. 2.11). In Prey, the title of the painting itself prompts us to focus on small details, since the eponymous figure must be the bird caught between the jaws of the small fox in the background, in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture. In European lore the fox is the villain of countless folk tales, standing for slyness and cunning, and, in medieval art, for the Devil and his attributes, including mendacity, injustice, intemperance, greed and lust (Becker, 1994, 120). The fox, whose shadow is here projected upon a satanic red ground, grips between its teeth a bird that appears to be a dove, the iconic representation of no less than the Holy Spirit itself. The bloody encounter between the two animals thus lays down the battle lines between good and evil, as enacted by the picture’s more prominent protagonists, in what may turn out to be a biblical but also a political allegory.

67The imperilled dove sets the tone for yet another attack by Rego on the holy regalia of Catholicism and — following yet again the logic that her enemy’s friends are her enemies — on its secular (politicized, state) associations. And the religious theme is reiterated through the inclusion of the three figs situated discreetly in the shadow of the girls’ bodies. In the Judaeo-Christian imagination, figs carry an association with the leaves with which Adam and Eve covered their nakedness in the aftermath of the Fall. More to the point, given both the nature of the discussion underway here, and the fact that we are presented with the fruits, rather than with the leaves, it is relevant to note that in the New Testament Jesus curses a fig tree to be fruitless as a condemnation of the Jewish people (Matthew 21: 18–22, Becker, 1994, 111). In Christian art a withered fig tree came to symbolize the synagogue as the locus of religious heresy. And the fig tree sometimes replaces the apple tree as the Tree of Knowledge, and as the source of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. In Paula Rego’s work, religious heresy tends to address itself to Roman Catholic rather than Jewish orthodoxy. In this case, however, Judaism may be signalled by the presentation of fruits that act either as the ostentatious display of the shameful (but here shameless) forbidden fruit, or as the defiant yield of a tree supposedly cursed with Semitic barrenness, but in this instance disobediently fruitful.

68As is often the case in her work, in Prey Paula Rego draws upon the device of distorted scale to make her point. In the absence of perspectival points of reference that might justify the appearance of monumental size, the two girls appear to be giants within a relatively dwarfed world. They stand by and look down upon a building whose small scale is, it would appear, real, as opposed to being the effect of distance or angle. Because of this, and because of its compositional juxtaposition with the girls, the building appears to be fingered as the target of an attack that would link it to the ensnared bird — possibly about to fall foul of a malicious foot or the conveniently positioned hammer (analogous to that in Two Girls and a Dog, e-fig. 6), which is almost as big as the building itself. Since the edifice may be next in line for destruction, it is interesting to speculate on its function, which is undetermined by its appearance. It might fit into any one of several categories, including that of residential, religious or public building — or all these rolled into one. Like Everyflower, in a previously discussed work (Abracadabra, fig. 1.13), this may be Everybuilding, the amorphous representation of any or all aspects of communal existence. Be that as it may, its primary function here appears to be that of foregrounding its own destructibility. And whether it is a venue for domestic, religious or municipal/state activities, its impending destruction hints yet again at a direct attack against the status quo that anchors itself on these edifices, and against the rule of law they underwrite.

69The next seven pictures to be considered are very much a series within this series. They are all tableaus rather than narratives, and with one minor exception (or possibly two), they include only two protagonists, namely the girl and dog central to the paintings just discussed. All six thematize scenes involving the nurturing of the dogs by the girls: spoon-feeding, offering a drink, shaving, caressing.

  • 12 e-fig. 6 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled a (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. © hundkunst. Po (...)

70Beginning with Girl and Dog Untitled a (e-fig. 6),12 this image conveys the lowest level of aggression of the six. A woman offers a drink to a dog whose mouth she may or may not be forcing open with her thumb.

  • 13 Examples of Rego’s work that engage openly with the themes of empire and colonialism are When We Ha (...)

71The most contentious aspect of this image, which is repeated in subsequent and more openly aggressive images, is the manner in which the dog held on the girl’s lap is stripped of both species-specific (canine) and adult characteristics, becoming reduced instead to the status of a human infant with all the helplessness that entails. Upon closer inspection, however, other elements stand out. The woman appears to be black, a fact that puts out yet another semantic feeler in the direction of those earlier and later works of anti-colonial intent.13 In this context, a wealth of documentary and imagistic evidence from civil rights and earlier abolitionist activism sets up reverberations here, creating an effect that is both poignant and menacing. The trope of the black mammy obliged to nurse the children of her white masters, possibly at the sacrifice of her own offspring, which has echoes in every colonial or apartheid regime, is, in its more sentimental or whitewashed renditions, a comic salt-of-the-earth character (Mammy in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Eliza in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin). As such, it obfuscates a reality closer to that of the tragic mater dolorosa. In the latter capacity, however, the black mother of generations of enslaved or colonized sons is a bereft mother with the potential for demonic metamorphosis, all the way up to and including the murder of those master-race children, or masters, or dog-avatars. And the latter, in their turn, in the Paula Rego version of this blueprint plot, are variously infantilized, made fragile and metaphorically or concretely manoeuvred into a soft-belly-uppermost position, prior to the striking of a variety of blows.

72In Girl and Dog Untitled b, the atmosphere of doom is reinforced through recourse to a variety of compositional props, such as the lilies on the floor in the foreground.

73Lilies occasionally feature in Paula Rego’s pictorial universe (in The Maids, fig. 1.4, but most notably in a painting of the following decade, First Mass in Brazil, fig. 5.2, to be discussed in chapter 5. Historically, the iconography of the lily possesses a multiplicity of meanings, as I discussed earlier in this chapter. It is a flower closely associated with death; it is also the flower almost always wielded by the archangel Gabriel in pictures of the Annunciation (figs. 1.5, 4.42, 7.2), and possibly for that reason, via a tortuous sublimating path (sexual impregnation transposed to virginal conception), as well as due to the shape of its pistil, this flower, in tandem with its association with purity and innocence, also carries a strong phallic significance (Becker, 1994, 178).

Fig. 1.29 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled b (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.29 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled b (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

74The lily of the valley is also a medicinal plant used for a variety of ailments. Gerarde’s Herbalist of 1633, for example, tells us that white lilies and lilies of the valley are used to treat the treatment of ailments associated not with the state of infancy (as would obtain in the case of these babyish dogs), but with problems at the other end of the age spectrum; in other words, the ‘second childhood’ of senescence: gout, inflammation of the eyes and memory problems. Interestingly, ointments derived from this flower were also thought to alleviate specifically male problems: ‘tumours and aposthumes of the privy members’ and ‘aposthumes in the flankes, coming of the venery and such like’ (Gerarde, 1633, 191). The lily, therefore, addresses the ailments of males either sexually weakened, sexually infected or in their dotage. However, it also bears relevance to the lives of women in the fruitfulness of their prime (hence perhaps another link to the Annunciation): ‘the water thereof distilled and drunke causeth easie and speedy deliverance, and expelleth the fecondine or after-burthen in most speedy manner’ (Gerarde, 1633, 191). Pain in childbirth, as decreed in Genesis, was the punishment that — in addition to the sanctions shared with Adam — befell the female sex alone, in the aftermath of Eve’s disobedience (‘in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children’, Genesis 3: 16). The lily, therefore, alluding as it does on the one hand either to male impotence or alternatively to promiscuous sex resulting in venereal disease, and on the other hand to female fecundity acquitted of that Genesiacal pain, would appear to deliver a double blow to the biblical presupposition of aggravated culpability accruing to the female sex: first because it relieves women from punitive suffering in childbirth; and second because it hounds men either with accusations of illicit lechery or with taunts of sexual disempowerment, both of which may be seen as the unmanly extrapolations of Adam’s inability either to restrain or resist Eve in the Garden of Eden. And in addition, the lily that thus delivers sinful women from travail, by a symbolic sleight of hand appears to deliver them also from Evil; as the flower connected with the Annunciation of Mary’s blessed motherhood, it appears to address both female pain and blame, simultaneously acquitting all mothering women from the consequences of Eve’s original sin.

75In Paula Rego’s work, however, the movement across categories (good and evil, pure and tainted) is never straightforward, involving instead a disquieting blurring of boundaries. Thus the Angel Gabriel’s lily traditionally held out to Mary in almost all pictures of the Annunciation (figs. 1.5, 4.42 and 7.2) might at first glance appear to pardon the actions of the potentially aggressive mother/murderer in the picture being considered here. Yet motherhood in this artist’s work, always problematic as will be discussed in subsequent chapters, here, lilies notwithstanding, appears, at the very least, a taunt and at worst a threat levelled against the helpless male. What is in question in Girl and Dog Untitled b is no longer merely the do-it-yourself sex of Looking Back, fig. 1.21 or Girl Lifting Up Her Skirt up to a Dog, fig. 1.22, but, even more challengingly, do-it-yourself pregnancy, in view of a male incapacity that the lily’s therapeutic uses cruelly evoke. The uncomfortable reminder applies to any given generation of ageing Josephs (Joseph’s Dream, fig. 3.10; Our Lady of Sorrows, e-fig. 21) but also to future generations of young males. If, thanks to the lily, women other than Mary may also be pain-free in delivering their baby sons, the same flower, in association with the dog on the girl’s lap — in a pose that carries intimations of infant, lover and patient — presages those newborn sons’ future decline into impaired, gouty, blind and impotent old age. ‘The man who used to be your little boy grew old’ (Pessoa, 1979).

76Girl and Dog Untitled c (fig. 1.30), is the other image in this series that at first glance displays only slight or no aggression on the part of the girl towards the dog.

77A woman feeds a dog with a spoon, but stands beside him, rather than restricting him in any way. In context, however, the first note of warning is sounded by her ethnicity, which here again appears to be black/African, with the implications already discussed. Other familiar echoes are the customary use of bestiary references, in this case an owl, as well as motifs that recur in other paintings, namely flowers reminiscent of grasping hands on garments and pieces of cloth, and prison-bar patterns.

78The owl, a nocturnal bird, is associated with darkness, sleep and death, and is seen in general as a bird of ill-omen. Although more positively associated with wisdom or religious enlightenment, even these traits have a negative side (Becker, 1994, 223–24). The Bible, possibly because of an instinctive suspicion of any attempt to breach the divine monopoly over knowledge, counts it among the unclean animals, and in Christian symbolism it figures as a reference to Christ’s death. In this picture the owl oversees proceedings from the background, perched on a trunk, pedestal or lectern (the latter appropriate, given this bird’s preaching and/or studious connotations). Mysteriously, it appears to sport a pair of hybrid bat-like, albeit colourful wings, the bat and the owl being in any case animals that share a common symbology. Like the owl, the bat partakes of the attributes of the night, and was also included in the Biblical list of impurities; its wings also refer to death. The bat has, moreover, additional links with vampirism perpetrated against sleeping children and women, and with blood-sucking associated with sexual violation. Since it lives in caves, which are the supposed entrances to the afterlife, the bat acquired the attributes of immortality; and because of its nocturnal habits as well as the fact that it sleeps upside down, it was sometimes accused of being an enemy of the natural order. Finally, because of its half-mammal, half-bird status, it has often symbolised ambiguity, alchemy or metamorphosis (Becker, 1994, 35–36).

Fig. 1.30 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled c (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.30 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled c (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

79Bat and owl, therefore, both potential hell-dwellers, here figure in a seemingly congenial tableau, but within which, in effect, the dog, as the representative of masculinity and of the status quo, is enfeebled (like a blood-drained child or damsel), as well as being once again deprived of his species traits (he stands precariously on his hind legs like an inadequate human, and is fed like a baby or an incapable, sick or elderly person).

80Three additional components of the image contribute to the impression that all is not as anodyne as it first appears. First, the perspective of the garden path leading to the fence is distorted. At first glance it appears like an indeterminate toothed structure (somewhat like a denticulated wheel or an open mandible seen in profile, or as the lateral view of a vagina dentata), positioned as if ready either to bite or, given the angle of aperture, to swallow the dog in his entirety. The dog himself is standing on a piece of cloth whose pattern here appears to be flowery (specifically tulips), but which, when repeated in a subsequent picture (Girl and Dog Untitled e, fig. 1.32), due to the variation in angle, resembles instead either (hellish) flames or hands, reaching out either in pleading or in menace. And finally, in the background there is a wooden fence. The fence’s posts only acquire significance in the context of the repetition of patterns explicitly or allusively reminiscent of prison bars, recurrent throughout this series of paintings (the playpen in Girl and Dog Untitled e, fig. 1.32; the pattern on the bedspread in Girl and Dog Untitled d, fig. 1.31; the pattern on the girl’s shorts in Girl and Dog Untitled g, fig. 1.33; the stripes on the girl’s dress in Girl and Dog Untitled b, fig. 1.29 and in Girl Lifting Up Her Skirt to a Dog, fig. 1.22).

81The bar-like fence posts in Girl and Dog Untitled c (fig. 1.30) suggest a possible reference to the force-feeding of hunger-striking political prisoners, here casting the dog (the representative of the status quo) as the victim of that self-same plight, and thus offering a reversal of the usual handling of civil disobedience under dictatorship.

82In the second force-feeding picture, Girl and Dog Untitled d (fig. 1.31), the relative positions of girl and dog are equally ambiguous.

83Here the girl sits with the dog on her lap, holding a spoon in one hand and propping open his jaw with the other, whilst he attempts to turn away. The position of her arm is ambiguous: twisted and not necessarily supportive, conveying instead the impression of duress. It is unclear whether she is caring for the dog or attacking him, nursing him or strangling him. The dog’s colour, yellow for cowardice or hypochondria, emphasizes his pusillanimous or at least disempowered status, as reiterated by the other objects in the room: the pattern on the bedspread, again allusive to prison bars, and the chamber pot in the background, which reinforces the theme of incontinence or invalidism.

Fig. 1.31 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled d (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.31 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled d (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

84The last two pictures in this series are linked through the focus on a vulnerable area of the dog’s anatomy, namely his throat. In Girl and Dog Untitled f (e-fig. 7) a dog sits again in an anthropomorphic (supplicant) posture, balancing on his hind legs, in what appears to be a playpen.

Fig. 1.32 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled e (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.32 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled e (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Although the playpen seems to be open on one side, the dog remains confined within his perimeter. The only part of him that reaches outside it, although, as it would appear, to no particular purpose, is his phallic tail. Facing him is a girl who holds his jaw in her hand, although it remains unclear whether the intent behind that gesture is as a precursor to caressing, feeding or slaying. The bars of the playpen repeat the striped prison-bar pattern seen elsewhere, while her skirt and hat set off inter-imagistic reverberations: the tulip/hand pattern on her skirt mirrors that of her left hand and also that on the piece of cloth in Girl and Dog Untitled c (fig. 1.30), while the bat-like motif of the hat again evokes the symbolic meanings already discussed in connection with the figure of the owl in that same painting.

85The last noteworthy component of this image, other than the girl’s skin-colour, reminiscent of other black/African protagonists, is the diminutive building in the background. A twin of the vulnerable dwelling in Prey (fig. 1.28), it prefigures a homeliness that however gives way to the Freudian uncanny in these pictures. Its size, and therefore its vulnerability, highlight by association the similarly dwarfed status of the dog in relation to his friend/aggressor.

  • 14 e-fig. 7 Paula Rego, Girl Shaving a Dog (Girl and Dog f) (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. © a (...)

86The next picture in this series is Girl and Dog Untitled f (Girl Shaving a Dog) (e-fig. 7).14

87A young girl sits in a nursing chair, but she is engaged not in breast-feeding the dog but in shaving those areas of his face and neck habitually shaved by men. The dog is thus once again anthropomorphized. The grooming theme will find an echo in two paintings to be discussed in chapter 2, namely Departure (fig. 2.8), and The Family (fig. 2.14), in both of which the nurturing coexists with something more menacing. In Girl and Dog Untitled f (e-fig. 7), too, and particularly in view of the dog’s gritted teeth, the girl’s actions lend themselves to dual interpretation as either shaving or throat-cutting.

88The image, of course, sparks an obvious question: if this is indeed a dog, why shave him? The attempt to answer that question invites speculation regarding the erasure of the animal’s canine traits, here, in this worst of both worlds, replaced by ineffectual pseudo-humanity. Furthermore, the act of shaving stands also as an attack on his dignity, since shaved dogs (usually poodles), tend to be both ridiculous and toy-like.

89If this is not a dog but in fact a man, or a man’s representative in this series of paintings, his object-position invites further questions. For example, under what circumstances is a man shaved by someone else, rather than shaving himself? Two of the possible answers to this question translate into antithetical formulae of masculine power or powerlessness. First, this man/dog may be enjoying the privilege of being shaved by a (black) subaltern — a servant whose temptation to let grooming slide into murder (cutting his throat rather than shaving it, in a re-run of the pending murder in The Maids, fig. 1.4) would always, in an imperial or colonial setting, carry the price tag of her own life.

90Alternatively, a man may be shaved if he is an invalid or too disabled to do so for himself, a state vindictively hypothesized in previous images, which depicted the rendering of services such as feeding or offering a drink. These, more unequivocally than shaving, are acts less likely to be performed by the subalterns of a powerful master than by the carer for an enfeebled patient. In Girl and Dog Untitled f, e-fig. 7, the more anodyne interpretation of a little boy at his mother’s knee becomes doubly improbable, since young boys don’t require shaving, and grown men who do tend not kneel for that purpose at the knee of maternal figures.

  • 15 See for example Amélia’s Dream (1998) (fig. 3.21), which again picks up the theme of female violenc (...)

91The final unanswered enigma in the picture refers to the shape (possibly a bird) in the top centre left of the painting, which, in an echo of the owl in Girl and Dog Untitled c (fig. 1.30), looks down on proceedings against a background of seeming hellfire. As is the case with so many other Rego pictures,15 whatever the private significance of this figure, its beady eyes assign it the role of spectator in the violence underway centre stage. This comical figure becomes the avatar of the many matter-of-fact girlish witnesses (and therefore accessories) to numerous acts of violence in this artist’s universe.

92Finally Girl and Dog Untitled g presents us with yet another aspect of ambiguity: a girls prepares to place a necklace around the neck of yet another hapless dog. The question is, will she pull the ends of it too tight? When does a necklace become a hangman’s rope?

93As referenced at the beginning of this section, criminological research on psychological profiling has found that serial killers often begin their activities with animal mutilation and killing. In Paula Rego’s work during the decades of the eighties and after, serially violent young female protagonists progress from attacks on dogs to crimes against humans, in particular the family, both in its consanguineous and marital guises. As discussed in chapter 4, in her pastels of the late 1990s on the theme of abortion, the violence may be said to extend this anti-family agenda to relatives yet unborn. In the next chapter I shall concentrate on the series of paintings on the subject of the human family that spanned the decade of the 1980s.

Fig. 1.33 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled g (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 1.33 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled g (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Notes

1 e-fig. 3 Paula Rego, Iberian Dawn (1962). Collage and oil on canvas, 71.5 x 92 cm, all rights reserved. Posted by Paula Mariño, ‘Paula Rego: A Vontade Subversiva e Liberadora (Parte I)’, Muller-Árbore, 12 May 2014 (scroll down the page to the third image: click on it to expand), http://paulampazo.blogspot.com/2014/05/paula-rego-vontade-subversiva-e.html

2 This reference echoes the song of the same title in Bob Fosse’s film of 1972, Cabaret. In the film the song acts as a paradigmatic referent signalling the rise of Nazism as embodied in the youth of the nation, and is itself an allusion to an actual song of the Hitler Youth in the 1930s.

3 This image has proved difficult to reproduce here, but it can be viewed in Ruth Rosengarten, ‘Verdades Domésticas: O trabalho de Paula Rego’ in Paula Rego (Lisbon: Centro Cultural de Belém; Ministério da Cultura; Quetzal Editores, 1997), pp. 43–117. The images appear on pp. 62–63.

4 ABC Australia, ‘Carers Who Kill’, 24 June 2018, https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/carers-who-kill/9889508; https://hellocaremail.com.au/relief-suffering-carers-kill/

5 e-fig. 4 Paula Rego, Two Girls and a Dog (1987). Acrylic paint on paper on canvas 150 x 150 cm. © Paula Rego Gallery. Posted by leninimports.com, http://www.leninimports.com/paula_rego_gallery_2.html

6 The term ‘Dominican’ has sometimes been said to be based on the false etymology ‘domini canis’ (hounds of God). Be that as it may, in fig. 1.15 the black and white dogs represent the protection of the faithful against evil.

7 Paula Rego has sometimes painted men in skirts as in indicator of male weakness and peril, for example in The Sin of Father Amaro series (The Company of Women, fig. 3.1; Mother, fig. 3.19).

8 e-fig. 5 Picasso’s lithograph Monkey as Painter (1954), 50.6 x 37.2 cm. © icollector. com. Posted by icollector.com, https://www.icollector.com/Monkey-as-Painter-Pablo-Picasso-Lithograph_i30709487

9 Paula Rego appears often to play on the visual pun, and on the possible metaphorical implications of plucking (plucked flowers, plucked geese — in The Soldier’s Daughter, fig. 2.11), as alternative renditions of the theme of the weakening of the male (Samson shorn).

10 See chapter 4 for the story of Lilith, Adam’s first wife and murderer of her male children.

11 See for example Marina Warner, Alone of All her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (London: Picador 1985).

12 e-fig. 6 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled a (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. © hundkunst. Posted by Petra Hartl, ‘Paula Rego — Girl and Dog‘, hundkunst, 30 November 2018 (sixth image down, on right-hand side of panel), http://www.petrahartl.at/hundundkunst/2018/11/30/paula-rego-girl-and-dog

13 Examples of Rego’s work that engage openly with the themes of empire and colonialism are When We Had a House in the Country and First Mass in Brazil.

14 e-fig. 7 Paula Rego, Girl Shaving a Dog (Girl and Dog f) (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. © artnet. Posted by artnet.com, http://www.artnet.com/artists/paula-rego/untitled-girl-shaving-a-dog-vlh_T0Pcp27ldu8Pf4n-fQ2

15 See for example Amélia’s Dream (1998) (fig. 3.21), which again picks up the theme of female violence against dog-men.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1.1 Paula Rego, Salazar Vomiting the Homeland (1960). Oil on canvas, 94 x 120 cm. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Fig. 1.2 Paula Rego, When We Had a House in the Country (1961). Collage and oil on canvas, 49.5 x 243.5 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Fig. 1.3 Paula Rego, The Fitting (1990). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 132 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 42k
Titre Fig. 1.4 Paula Rego, The Maids (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 212.4 x 242.9 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 45k
Titre Fig 1.5 El Greco, Annunciation (c. 1595–1600). Oil on canvas, 91 x 66.5 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:El_Greco_-_The_Annunciation_-_Google_Art_ Project.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Fig. 1.6 Marcantonio Raimondi, The Last Judgement; Christ with Lily and Sword at Top, Flanked by Virgin and St John the Baptist Interceding on Behalf of the Humans Below, after Dürer (c. 1500–1534). Print, 11.8 x 10 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia. org/wiki/File:The_Last_Judgment;_Christ_with_lily_and_sword_at_ top, _flanked_by_Virgin_and_St_John_the_Baptist_interceeding_on_ behalf_of_the_humans_below,_after_D%C3%BCrer_MET_DP820341.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Fig. 1.7 Hans Memling, The Last Judgement, triptych, central panel (c. 1467–1471). Oil on panel, 242 x 180 cm. National Museum, Gdańsk. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​ File:MemlingJudgmentCentre.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 46k
Titre Fig. 1.8 Paula Rego, Time: Past and Present (1990–1991). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 183 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 1.9 Benjamin Cole, A Mermaid with Measuring Scale after A. Gautier D’Agoty (1759). Line engraving, 19 x 10.6 cm. Wellcome Collection, CC BY, https:// wellcomecollection.org/works/ahv53sks/items?sierraId=
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 27k
Titre Fig. 1.10 Paula Rego, The Interrogator’s Garden (2000). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 110 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Fig. 1.11 Paula Rego, Olga (2003). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 160 x 120 cm. The Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Titre Fig. 1.12 Paula Rego, Dog Women (Baying) (1994). Pastel on canvas, 100 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 23k
Titre Fig. 1.13 Paula Rego, Abracadabra (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 157 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 38k
Titre Fig. 1.14 Andrea di Bonaiuto, Church Militant and Triumphant (1365–1367). Fresco, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Andrea_di_bonaiuto, _ dettaglio_dal_cappoellone_degli_spagnoli.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 1.15 Paula Rego, In the Garden (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 1.16 George Stubbs, AMonkey (1799). Oil on panel, 70 x 55.9 cm. Walker Gallery, Liverpool. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​ wiki/File:George_Stubbs_-_A_Monkey_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 18k
Titre Fig. 1.17 Zacharie Noterman, Monkey Art (1890). Oil on panel, 54 x 65 cm. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File: Zacharie_Noterman_-_Monkey_art.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 34k
Titre Fig, 1.18 Pseudo-Jan van Kessel II, Still Life of Fruit with a Monkey and a Dog (after c. 1660). Oil on copper, 16.5 x 22 cm. Dorotheum, Vienna. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Pseudo-Jan_ van_Kessel_II_-_Still_life_of_fruit_with_a_monkey_and_a_dog.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 1.19 Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, The Antique Monkey (1726). Oil on canvas, 81.5 x 65.4 cm. The Louvre, Paris. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons. wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chardin, _la_scimmia_antiquaria, _1726_ca._02. JPG
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 19k
Titre Fig. 1.20 Paula Rego, Red Monkey Drawing (1981). Acrylic on paper, 76.5 x 56 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 25k
Titre Fig. 1.21 Paula Rego, Looking Back (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 38k
Titre Fig. 1.22 Paula Rego, Girl Lifting Up Her Skirt to a Dog (1986). Acrylic on paper, 80 x 60 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 30k
Titre Fig. 1.23 Paula Rego, Snare (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. British Council Collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 35k
Titre Fig. 1.24 John Thornton (glazier), Apocalypse (detail Christ on Horse (Apocalypse) (1405–1408). Great East Window, York Minster, United Kingdom. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​ File:York_Minster_-_Christ_on_the_White_horse.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Titre Fig. 1.25 Luca Giordano, Series of The Four Parts of the World: Europe (between 1634 and 1705). Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 cm. Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia. org/wiki/File:Luca_Giordano, _copies_-_Series_of_the_Four_Parts_of_ the World._Europe_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 34k
Titre Fig. 1.26 Paula Rego, The Little Murderess (1987). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Fig. 1.27 Paula Rego, Sleeping (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Arts Council of Great Britain. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 55k
Titre Fig. 1.28 Paula Rego, Prey (1986). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 45k
Titre Fig. 1.29 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled b (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 73k
Titre Fig. 1.30 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled c (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-30.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 43k
Titre Fig. 1.31 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled d (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-31.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 49k
Titre Fig. 1.32 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled e (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-32.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Fig. 1.33 Paula Rego, Girl and Dog Untitled g (1986). Acrylic on paper, 112 x 76 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9751/img-33.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 51k