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Essays on Paula Rego

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Maria Manuel Lisboa

3. The Sins of the Fathers: Mother and Land Revisited in the 1990s

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To arrive at the truth in all things, we ought always to be ready to believe that what seems to us white is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it. St Ignatius de Loyola, Spiritual Exercises
2+2 (God willing) = 4
Medieval equation

Burning Books

1‘In addition to papism, the Reverent probably suspected [the parrot] of latent femaleness’ (Kingsolver, 1999, 71). Papism aside — because it is something to be taken for granted in the context of the pictures to be discussed now and in The Crime of Father Amaro, the Eça de Queirós novel that inspired them —Barbara Kingsolver’s parrot, by name Methuselah, combines two suspicious traits which are defining concerns in Paula Rego’s depiction of femaleness: a penchant for profanity and resilient longevity.

2‘I have always been a literary painter, thank goodness, like all the decent painters’. Walter Sickert’s quip, quoted by Virginia Woolf (Woolf, 1992, 36), sets him among the ranks of an increasingly depleted group of artists which include Paula Rego. In 1997–1998 Rego used The Crime of Father Amaro, a novel by the nineteenth-century Portuguese writer Eça de Queirós, as the inspiration for a series of pastels that incorporated all of the preoccupations raised in previous chapters (nationality, gender, religion), within a body of work whose referent, more markedly even than before, was Portugal itself, past and present (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).

3Before proceeding to a brief account of Eça de Queirós’s novel, and to a consideration of Rego’s works themselves, I wish to discuss briefly some similarities and differences in Eça’s and Rego’s respective nineteenth- and twentieth-century aesthetic positions. Paula Rego is one of the most literary of contemporary painters. Her work often begins with a prior narrative or literary text (Eça de Queirós, Charlotte Brontë, Jean Rhys, Thomas Hardy, Jean Genet, Franz Kafka, Henry Darger, Blake Morrison, Fernando de Rojas, fairy tales, nursery rhymes). Her relationship to the texts, however, as she herself acknowledges, can go further even than the originals in terms of polemic edge and the degree to which she destabilizes their power games and hierarchies. In her own words, ‘I always want to turn things on their heads, to upset the established order, to change heroines and idiots. If the story is “given” I take liberties with it, to make it conform to my own experiences, and to be outrageous. At the same time as loving the stories I want to undermine them, like wanting to harm the person you love’ (quoted in McEwen, 1997, 138) The stories she tells, therefore, stories recounted, as Marina Warner would have it, ‘from a place […] generally overlooked, the female child’s’, (Warner, 1994, 8) and with the intent of causing anarchy, are as much profanities uttered against the ‘master text’ — the literary text — as they are against the meta-text, the status quo against which she deploys her sacrilegious imagination.

  • 1 e-fig. 9 Paula Rego, Centaur (1964). Collage and oil on canvas, 140 x 139 cm. Casa das Histórias, C (...)

4Commenting upon some of her early work of the 1960s, Germaine Greer contends that works such as Centaur (1964) (e-fig. 9)1 are both flatteringly imitative pastiches of Picasso and the Catalan Primitives, and biting satires of them, their motifs not so much quoted as snatched for outlandish purposes (Greer, 1988, 29).

5This double-edged defiance, which flatters by allusion while simultaneously hijacking a prior master-text, operates also with reference to Eça de Queirós’s novel. The pivot of the relationship between text and image in this case is laughter, but, more particularly, differing modes of laughter.

  • 2 See footnote 7.

6Both Paula and Eça laugh with the intent of social critique. But Eça de Queirós laughed at what was bad in society in order to point the path to goodness; in other words, he laughed irreverently but with a missionary zeal and in the service of social and moral reform.2 Paula Rego’s laughter carries a different resonance.

  • 3 Alfredo Campos Matos, Dicionário De Eça De Queirós (Lisbon: Caminho, 1993).

7Marina Warner talks of Rego’s universe as ‘a home that’s become odd, prickly with desire, and echoing with someone’s laughter’. (Warner, 1994, 7). Less cryptically, Victor Willing observed that while Rego ‘discovered early that humour can disarm the pompous and insincere’, she also ‘disappointed some admirers who wanted more, when she decided that some things are not a laughing matter’ (Willing, 1988b, 273) Thus, what many critics have seen as Eça’s great flaw as a writer — the inability to know when to stop laughing and begin weeping3—has no equivalent in Rego’s darker approach. In this artist, mirth is abruptly reined in and can turn nasty with disconcerting suddenness, aiming not so much to reform as to wreak havoc.

8But if Paula Rego is a hit-and-run artist, a changeling at the heart of the status quo, she is also, and causally, a defensive one. In an echo of the enduring desire to give fear a face through painting it, Victor Willing argues that she laughs at the characters in her stories in order ‘to make them less dangerous’. The intent to tackle perceived threats, however, is carried as far as possible and then possibly a little further than strictly necessary for defensive purposes. Defense often becomes disproportionate retaliation, and as Willing argues, it can entail also ‘a great deal of violence’ perpetrated against her characters (Willing, 1971, 44).

9While acknowledging the shared thematic territory between Rego and Eça in these pictures, therefore, it is also necessary to recognize what separates them. In doing so, it may be helpful to consider Ernst van Alphen’s distinction between the concepts of figurative and figural painting. The former refers to illustrative work whereas the latter specifically does not imply ‘a relationship between an object outside the painting [for example, in the text] and the figure in the painting that supposedly illustrates that object’. In the latter case, the figure in the painting ‘is and refers only to itself’ (Alphen, 1992, 28). I would suggest that in the case of the Father Amaro pastels, as in much other work by Paula Rego, while the works ostensibly gesture to a text and even to specific scenes within that text, what is involved is in fact a figural rather than a figurative performance entailing, in some cases, no more than a superficial reference to the narrative and protagonists. The text thus becomes the pre (text) for images to which it may be more or less tenuously linked. The pictorial responses to the prior text differ from it to varying degrees, in terms of what is ventured both thematically and ideologically. Whether dealing with fairy tales, nursery rhymes, other writers, composers (Verdi, Puccini), artists (Hogarth), or film makers (Disney), Rego’s pictures are in equal measure homages to, exaggerations of or challenges to beloved but recalibrated precursors. And the text therefore may at times act as no more than the catalyst for an elaborately choreographed performance: that is, the apparent link between the text and the pictures is, in fact, incidental. In the more extreme instances, the connection between text and image is severed and the images declare independence from the written word to which they had purported to refer. Sometimes, then, though by no means always, the picture as performance enacts its separation from a text whose un-relatedness to that selfsame picture is foregrounded, leading to the creation of a universe whose disturbing alterity to the instigating narrative actually becomes the point. Or one of the points. A point rendered all the more intriguing, for all the surface parallels that are allowed to linger.

  • 4 Until a recent translation by Margaret Jull Costa, the title of the novel was usually rendered as T (...)

10The preoccupations that had driven the works of previous decades might be said to lead directly to the place where we find ourselves in this phase of Rego’s work: namely a set of images triggered by Portugal’s most resolutely anti-clerical novel, a text that pointed to a social reality in which truly there was no place for a woman. Or not, at least, for one who was not dead. Eça de Queirós published The Crime of Father Amaro4 in 1875 at a period in the nation’s political life when the conflict between the absolutist and liberal factions that had led to a civil war earlier in the century had not entirely abated. A system of two-party rotativism ensured political stability at the price of stagnation. The perceived threats of republicanism and atheism were kept at bay through the signing in 1847 of a Concordat with the Vatican (a forerunner of Salazar’s similar move in 1940), which guaranteed the legislative yoking of church and state interests. The analogies between the nineteenth-century status quo against which Eça pitted his satires and Paula Rego’s church and state bêtes noires are striking, and almost certainly contributed to the attraction this novel held for her.

11Briefly, the plot involves the figure of a Catholic priest, the eponymous Amaro, newly appointed, thanks to his contacts in influential circles, to the prosperous parish of Leiria, a small town in central Portugal. Amaro takes lodgings with a middle-aged matron, Augusta Caminha (known as São Joaneira because she is a native of the small town of São João da Foz) and her nubile daughter, Amélia. He quickly settles into a comfortable life in a pious environment shored up by the devout support of a number of beatas, devout women who submit to priestly authority in all matters, both spiritual and secular. Amaro, forced into the priesthood by his childhood benefactress, the Marchioness of Alegros whose servant his mother had been, finds clerical life satisfactory in the power it gives him over his predominantly female flock, but eminently unsatisfactory in terms of the celibacy vows it imposes on him. The plot moves steadily towards the foreseeable seduction of Amélia by Amaro. After the humiliation of a poverty-stricken, orphaned childhood lived among servants, the hardships of the seminary and the daily degradation of being, as he sees it, a celibate eunuch amongst men, Amaro now rejoices in being leader of the pack: as priest in an ultra-Catholic society he rules society in the name of God, church and state; and as her lover he controls the body and mind of the adoring Amélia, ‘the flower of the congregation’.

12Amaro and Amélia enjoy their sexual encounters in the house of the sexton, which Amélia visits once or twice a week, ostensibly to pay charity calls on the latter’s crippled daughter, Totó, who is bedridden with tuberculosis. After a while, Amélia finds she is pregnant and the lovers’ world threatens to collapse. With the connivance of Canon Dias, Amaro’s hierarchical superior and moral mentor — who is also the lover of Amélia’s mother — and the grudging help of Dona Josefa, Dias’s sanctimonious and disapproving sister, it is contrived that in the later stages of gestation, when the pregnancy will become impossible to conceal, Dias will take São Joaneira away for their annual seaside holiday while Amélia retreats with Dona Josefa to a remote country house. There she will give birth in secrecy and dispose of the child through some form of discreet arrangement, prior to returning to her old life.

13Things proceed smoothly enough up to a point, but Amélia dies in childbirth, an event whose causes are glossed over by the two priests to the world at large and to her oblivious mother in particular, as the consequence of a ruptured aneurism. One other event, perhaps the crucial one as regards the moral structure of the novel, remains to tell. To Amaro falls the task of disposing of the newborn infant who, in his anticipatory thoughts, he had wished stillborn. When it comes to making the necessary arrangements, he faces a dilemma: his servant, Dionísia, formerly the town whore, her very name suggestive of unbridled amorality, offers him two choices: the first is a bona fide wet nurse who will rear the child with reasonable guarantees of discretion, albeit in a community and country where sniggers about suspicious priests’ ‘nephews’, ‘nieces’ and ‘godchildren’, sometimes, although not frequently, had been known to ruin sacerdotal careers. The other is a woman called Carlota, who is sinisterly known as a ‘weaver of angels’ (‘tecedeira de anjos’) because no child placed in her care ever survived longer than a day or two, being instead dispatched, as ironic local parlance would have it, to become an angel in Heaven. Amaro wrestles briefly with his conscience but hires Carlota and when his son is born delivers him unbaptized to the infanticidal nanny. When he hears the following day that Amélia has died of post-natal complications he tries to rescue the child but finds that he is already dead. The aftermath of inconsolable sorrow for his dead lover and guilt about his murdered child is the narrative postscript of a prosperous Amaro seen ten years later. On that occasion we learn that, following the events narrated here, he was relocated to an even better parish where he now lives untouched by the earlier scandal, wields power in clerical circles and still has an eye for the ladies. The final nail in the coffin of priestly honour sees Amaro and Dias reunited and joking about the merits of confining love affairs to married confessants, on the grounds that in the event of an inconvenient pregnancy, he who is the husband is the father. As is always the case in Eça’s writing, throughout the narrative but more emphatically so in these concluding pages, the personal is made political through the metonymical extrapolation from Amaro’s moral decadence to that of the nation at large.

  • 5 Page numbers in translated quotations refer to the original passage in the Portuguese text, in the (...)

‘The truth, gentlemen, is that foreigners envy us… And what I am about to say is not intended as flattery: whilst we have in this country respectable priests like your good selves, Portugal will hold up its head with dignity in Europe! Because Faith, gentlemen, is the pre-requisite of Order! ’
‘Undoubtedly, Count, undoubtedly’, said the two priests emphatically.
‘And if in doubt, gentlemen, look around you! What peace, what life, what prosperity!
And with a grandiose gesture he showed them Loreto Square which just then, at the end of a serene afternoon, distilled the essence of the city. […] Pairs of ladies went by, with false hair pieces and high heels, an air of exhaustion, with greenish skin, a sign of racial degeneration; young men of ancient families rode by on skeletal nags, faces still pale from a night out on the tiles; on the benches of the square people stretched out like vagrants; […] and this decrepit world moved slowly under the bright sky of a wholesome climate […] in lazy idleness towards where the four doorways of a tavern loomed dark and the alleyways of a neighbourhood of prostitution and crime led out like open sewers. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 499–500)5

Perversely in the case of a writer who was a professed atheist, only readers who believe in God can find solace from the outrage of Amaro’s unpunished crimes in the belief of his damnation in the hereafter. For non-believers like Eça himself, this is truly a case of crime without punishment. Until the advent of Paula Rego.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

14The Sin of Father Amaro is a series comprising sixteen large pastels and nineteen sketches. Some refer directly to episodes in the novel, some are imaginary re-workings of certain scenes, and some are entirely unrelated to the original narrative but may reflect emotions experienced by the protagonists or the reader or both, with elements of wistfulness and might-have-been. The latter two on the whole relate to revenge fantasies.

15I shall begin with The Company of Women. Rego’s art teacher from her school days in Estoril was an Englishman called Patrick Sarsfield to whom, when she left, she offered a picture of a man lying drowned on a beach, the first and forerunner, as he was later to hazard, of the many men-as-victims in her work. This early propensity may have links to her depictions of childhood, in a way that is particularly apposite when considering this picture. Alberto Lacerda has written of Paula Rego that she ‘knows all about the ligaments of innocence twisted by perversity and oppression’ (Alberto Lacerda, quoted in McEwen, op. cit., 83), a description that adapts itself exactly to an early narrative flashback to the young Amaro in the novel:

The servants described Amaro as a milksop. He never played, never ran around in the fresh air. […] He’d become very timorous. He slept beside one of the old nannies, always with a lamp lit. The maids, in any case, also effeminized him; they called him pretty boy, cuddled him, kissed and tickled him, and he rolled around under their skirts, touching their bodies with happy giggles. Sometimes […] they dressed him in girl’s clothes, laughing heartily; he submitted to them, half-naked, languidly, with lecherous eyes, his face flushed. And the maids used him in their intrigues: he was the one who told tales. He became very manipulative, a liar. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 35–36)

Although the spirit of the image is drawn from this passage, the title is drawn from another passage in the period when Amaro, posted to Leiria, has taken lodgings with São Joaneira and her daughter, Amélia:

Right from the beginning, cosily surrounded by comfort, Amaro felt happy. […] The days went by peacefully, with good food, a comfortable bed and the gentle company of women. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 94, italics added)

It is the early Amaro of the first passage quoted above, however, the child as the father of the man, whom Rego focuses upon in this picture. She has explained that in certain of the images, and specifically in this one, she chose to use an adult male model to represent the child. In this way, I would argue, not only is the young Amaro depicted as foretelling the nature of the adult man but, moreover, by a reverse (and perverse) process, the man is brought back to disempowered childhood, emasculated by the skirt he wears and clinging to the capacious skirts of the women servants. Dress, or undress, is important in these images. In three of the four pictures in which Amaro figures (The Company of Women, fig. 3.1, Mother, fig. 3.19 and Perch, fig. 3.20) he is only partially dressed (in two he is bare chested and wearing a skirt, in the other he wears a dressing gown and in all three he is barefoot). A half-naked, barefoot man is unfit to go out into the public sphere where men supposedly belong, but is instead confined to the home, the domestic setting where in theory women dwell.

Fig. 3.1 Paula Rego, The Company of Women (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 170 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.1 Paula Rego, The Company of Women (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 170 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

16Beyond the introductory flashbacks to childhood, the body of the novel concentrates on the adult Amaro, the priest who despotically demands from Amélia, and to a lesser extent from the devout old women that surround him, absolute submission to his will and desires: an autocratic impetus that Eça deterministically traces back to that early childhood disempowerment at the hands of a series of controlling women: the mother who granted him no father, the Marchioness who made him a priest, the servants who alternatively teased and mollycoddled him, and the Virgin Mary who, in his seminary days, figured prominently in his adolescent fantasies. We shall return to the latter presently, when discussing The Cell (fig. 3.2). In the novel Eça consigns Amaro’s childhood traumas to an explanatory flashback, whereas in The Company of Women (fig. 3.1) Rego foregrounds the effects of a psychologically damaged childhood in her depiction of this melancholic and then murderous man-child.

17The mirror that appears in this as well as in other pictures in this series (The Ambassador of Jesus, fig. 3.4; The Coop, fig. 3.12; Mother, fig. 3.19) will be important to this reading. A considerable amount has been written about the deployment of mirrors within paintings. Norman Bryson for example has suggested that ‘what the mirror […] within a picture introduce [s] is the idea of a radical disjunction’ (Bryson, 1990, 152), a separation between states or terms coterminously deployed within the same image. To this, one might add that a mirror can also be said to relativize viewpoints and interpretations, and to shatter the illusion of a unified objective perception of reality on the part of the viewer (‘what I think I see is what is in fact there’), by offering an alternative view with some differences. In the case of The Company of Women, it will be suggested, reverting to Bryson’s terminology, that the disjunction introduced is a split between the self (the present self) outside the mirror and the past childhood self whom the mirror reflects back, and to which the adult self longs to return while being debarred from doing so. In this series (for example, Mother, fig. 3.19), Amaro never looks directly into the mirror. Paula Rego has suggested that she deploys mirrors in order to provide the illusion of space without the need to allow the characters the benefit of doors or windows, a remark that suggests their confinement in enclosed spaces. With reference to The Policeman’s Daughter (fig. 2.13), John McEwen advances the notion of windows that are open but offer no view and no means of escape (McEwen, 1997, 167). As mentioned in earlier chapters in connection with Time: Past and Present (fig. 1.8) and The Policeman’s Daughter, the mirror that devolves the gaze upon the solipsistic self, much like the window without a prospect, bears relevance both to an individual (psychological) and to a national (historical) plight, as conjured up by Eça in nineteenth-century Portugal and by Rego’s post-dictatorship work in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Later on in this chapter I shall argue that the mirror with a single view (the self), and the window with a restricted view of the sea or with no view at all (The Policeman’s Daughter, fig. 2.13; Mother, fig. 3.19), represent a series of knives turned in historical wounds. For now, however, I shall argue that at the level of individual psychic concerns a mirror can be defined as the stage upon which the narcissistic plot of self-love and self-search is enacted. The mirror is the surface that reflects the self caught in the vortex of the inward-looking gaze.

18If, as Paula Rego suggested, the adult man in The Company of Women (fig. 3.1) represents the lost child, the mirror into which he wishes to gaze while being debarred from doing so represents the narcissistic pull, which, in Amaro, will remain unsatisfied, and which itself alludes to a more atavistic desire. Following Freud, the Oedipal son fears castration by the father as retaliation against his incestuous desire for the mother and resolves this crisis by relinquishing that desire and learning to identify with the male parent. The reward is entry into the sphere of empowered masculinity. The dismissal of the mother was the price paid for the gratification and privilege of becoming a man, but a repressed longing for her may endure in the unconscious, triggering future pathologies, including narcissism. With some modifications of orthodox Freudian logic, in Eça, Amaro’s narcissism (self-love) becomes a compensatory mechanism rendered necessary by the loss of the mother. The man who gazes in the mirror, or, as may be the case here, wishes to but cannot, is the arrested Oedipal son whose filial detachment has been only imperfectly achieved. Presently we will discuss the manifestation of that narcissism in Amaro’s dealings with Amélia, in particular in the episodes represented in The Ambassador of Jesus, but the problem is also given brutal iconographic expression in The Cell.

Fig. 3.2 Paula Rego, The Cell (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 160 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.2 Paula Rego, The Cell (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 160 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
  • 6 Eça did in fact write a novel involving mother-son incest, which was only published posthumously as (...)

If Eça shirked mother-son incest as the most emotive form of the taboo,6 Paula Rego’s less hesitant scalpel lays it bare for us with an added sacrilegious twist and horribly few punches pulled. In The Cell (fig. 3.2) we contemplate not only sex with the mother, but sex with Mary, Humanity’s Mother, as well as masturbatory sex, which by definition is narcissistic sex without issue. This picture corresponds partly to that episode already referred to in the novel, in the course of which Amaro, while a young seminarist, fantasizes sexually about the Virgin Mary.

In bed, at night, he tossed and turned, unable to sleep, and in his thoughts, in his dreams there burned, like a silent fire, a desire for the female. Hanging on the wall in his cell there was an image of the Virgin, crowned with stars, standing on a globe, her eyes gazing at the immortal light, crushing the serpent underfoot. […] As he looked at the picture, Amaro forgot her holy status, saw nothing but a beautiful blonde girl; he loved her: he undressed, sighing, peering lasciviously at her out of the corner of his eye: and sometimes his curiosity even led him to imagine lifting the demure folds of her blue tunic and thinking about her figure, her curves, her white flesh. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 42)

In The Cell that scene is depicted by Paula Rego with a profanity magnified at various levels. Amaro, the adolescent again portrayed as a mature man, lies on a bed in a suspicious posture. Let us hear the artist herself: ‘He is deeply lonely and is masturbating. I am sorry for him, but he ought not to take advantage of Our Lady’ (quoted in Marques Gastão, op. cit., 44). The effigy of the Virgin concealed under the bed presumably acts as the fetishizing accessory to the forbidden act of onanism. The composition transgresses a breathtaking number of taboos. First the religious taboo of sex with, or à propos of, the Virgin Mary. Second, the Freudian interdiction of desire for the mother, let alone, as here, a Holy Mother and a virginal one at that. Third, the gender betrayal entailed in the abandonment of masculinity (because if masculinity is the status attained in the post-Oedipal phase by the son who successfully jettisoned desire for the mother in favour of identification with the father — and, in the case of a priest, with God-the-Father — that trajectory is here reversed by this foetal, contumacious, womb-driven, mother-desiring son). Fourth, the act of spilling one’s seed for pleasure rather than procreation. And fifth, the desecration of the monastic space (his cell in the seminary), which traditionally is the realm of God the Father and of celibate priests If as Mieke Bal (1990, 515) argues, the figure of the woman set in domestic interiors constitutes a genre within which the household becomes a female affair and men are intruders (for example in the seventeenth-century Dutch school of Vermeer, Ter Borch and de Hooch), Rego (and in the novel Eça) reverse that generic expectation. They do so, moreover, by setting up as object of temptation the only woman who, ‘alone of all her sex’ (Warner, 1985) should never be seen as such; a man who ought to be sexless but is tempted by her even so; and in a place (a seminary), to which no woman should ever be admitted but is, in representation if not in the flesh. The abject, camouflaged as the iconography of orthodox worship, undertakes the task of dismantling it. In Eça and Paula, the result is a libidinous priest who breaks all his vows, deflowers a virgin, begets a son and murders him. No need for a hammer (Sleeping, fig. 1.27; Prey, fig. 1.28) to dismantle this particular holy edifice.

Fig. 3.3 Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing (c. 1665). Oil on canvas, 45 x 39.9 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Johannes_Vermeer_-_A_Lady_Writing_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Fig. 3.3 Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing (c. 1665). Oil on canvas, 45 x 39.9 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Johannes_Vermeer_-_A_Lady_Writing_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Instead in The Cell, she depicts an empty space from which the woman has decamped, leaving in her place the mocking simulacrum of a fleshless effigy, as well as a space that is cell-like yet (because sexually defiled) no longer monastic, and, either way, unheimlich rather than homely. In this picture Amaro is simultaneously an adult man and a foetal presence. He lies both on top and not on top (because the bed separates them) of the statuette of the Virgin. She in her turn is positioned as the obliging receptacle for his sexual and emotional outpourings, but paradoxically also as the unattainable object of desire whose (maternal) lap is rendered inaccessible by the mass of the bed.

19Paula Rego’s rendering of Amaro’s standard Oedipal relationship to a variety of mothers and lovers, holy and secular, lends itself also to post-Freudian psychoanalytic readings (Lacanian and Object Relations Theory). According to the various reformulations of writers such as Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Melanie Klein, Karen Horney, Dorothy Dinnerstein and Nancy Chodorow, in parallel to the Oedipal castration conflict with the father and the final identification with him by the son, there operates a much more fundamental need for escape from the mother (Horney, 1973; Kristeva, 1982; Chodorow, 1979; Dinnerstein, 1987). According to Horney and Dinnerstein, the psychic dominion of the father becomes apparent as being, after all, a less ominous alternative than subsumption into the body of the mother, and therefore preferable to the danger that the mother represents.

20Contrary to mainstream Freudian thought, these authors reinstate the maternal as the focus of their analysis. Dinnerstein and Chodorow argue that in a culture in which the care of children falls almost exclusively to the woman, the mother is simultaneously the first love, the first witness and the first source of frustration of the child. The mother allays hunger, tiredness, pain, boredom and fear, or fails to do these things. She is the source of all that is good and all that is bad in the sensorial world of the infant, who experiences the mother as holding absolute power of life or death over him or her, a fact that determines the nature of relations with women (mothers) in adulthood. According to this understanding, the post-Oedipal mother becomes the entity who must of necessity be confronted and discarded by a son who, according to Simone de Beauvoir (1988), will define himself as an independent being by means of his rebellion against her, or by means of her erasure. Karen Horney, too, and later Nancy Chodorow and Dorothy Dinnerstein, followed the same line of argument:

Men have never tired of fashioning expressions for the violent force by which man feels himself drawn to the woman, and side by side with his longing, the dread that through her he might die and be undone. And for the grown son, furthermore, the mother under patriarchy comes to be seen as the representative of a sex disenfranchised from power, which luckily is not his own. (Horney, 1993, 134)

The development of masculine identity, therefore, and the integration of the ego, are seen to depend upon a process of painful separation from the mother, which paradoxically goes hand in hand with an enduring if contradictory desire for return to amniotic fusion within the maternal womb. That fusion, however, can only be attained at the price of abandoning all that was achieved when the Oedipal son relinquished desire for the mother in exchange for entry into the Symbolic Order: the empowered realm of the father, of language and of masculinity (Lacan, 1992). The mother signifies regression to lack of autonomy, the loss of post-Oedipally achieved individuation. The return to her and to the state of pre-identity she emblematizes signals both a danger to the self and a crime against the Law of the Father. The punishment would be a loss of separateness which however, paradoxically, may also appear as the paradisiacal recovery of lost unity with the maternal body in infancy (Chodorow, 1979; Dinnerstein, 1987).

21The mother, therefore, is everything and nothing, literally the be-all and end-all of the son who loves her but must abandon her, only sometimes to find, as is the case with Amaro, that he can never fully do so. Her impact is necessarily double-edged, encompassing at it does the ‘good mother’-‘bad mother’-‘powerless mother’ triad, and her effect upon the filial male psyche is equally blurred. Rego’s portrayal of this ambivalence is achieved through the unsettling images of a taciturn Amélia/Mary, and her impact upon Amaro, in pictures such as The Ambassador of Jesus, Amélia’s Dream and Mother. The resulting disquiet is commensurate with a similar ambiguity in the portrayal of Amaro himself. In The Cell (fig. 3.2) he appears simultaneously as grown man and foetal child, and the desecration perpetrated against this sacred Mother, as well as all other mothers, is both the act of a child denied his (sexual) wish and the rape of a woman by a resentful adult. But what Paula Rego taps into here, furthermore, is the compounded impetus of defiance not just of the mother but of the Father (God) whose sexual chattel here is defiled by the contumacious Oedipal son. The sexual possession of any mother, let alone a Holy one, Bride of God and Mother of that God’s Son, must have seemed the iconoclastic equivalent of vindictively killing several birds (a maternal one, a paternal one, a religious one and by association a political one) with one stone, through the fulfilment of recidivist Oedipal desire.

22The figure of the man who could not or would not grow up is not new in this artist’s work. In this group of pictures, as in her earlier Peter Pan series, Paula Rego deals with a maternally-fixated, mother-loving, mother-hating and mother-raping, emotionally-arrested son unable or unwilling to exchange the mother for the father, Mary for God, or Amélia for the Pope (in this case papal intransigence regarding priestly celibacy). More importantly, she emphasizes not the quaint but rather the murky implications of that masculine refusal to grow up. If what the mirror reflects back at the narcissistic son is the regression unleashed by the inability to accept the loss of the mother in exchange for identification with the father, it is not surprising that in these pictures Amaro can never allow himself to gaze with any safety into that abyssal maternal space, which, for him and for men in general, encompasses both delight and death. In the twisted, pathological spiral that is the desiring and hating mother-son encounter, we find truly enacted that maxim according to which Paula Rego defined some art as being underpinned by the desire to harm those one loves. And both in the novel and in the images, the father (Father Amaro) too, as represented by God and his Church, are both indicted and discredited.

23For the adult but still narcissistic Amaro, orphaned of his mother at an early age, his destiny controlled by the old Marchioness who decided his future, and alternatively bullied and pampered by her women servants, Amélia represents one of two possibilities. First and more straightforwardly in the novel she is the woman whose surrender in the face of his despotic love pours balm on the wounded Oedipal ego:

From their very first tryst in the sexton’s house, she had surrendered to him absolutely, her whole self, body, soul, heart and will. There wasn’t a single hair on her body, the smallest idea in her head, however insignificant, that did not belong to the priest. […] Amaro enjoyed his power over her prodigiously: it made up for past humiliations. […] Now, at long last, he had that body, that soul, that living, breathing being at his feet, and he ruled over her like a despot. […] One day she went as far as saying, thoughtfully:
‘You could even become Pope’.
‘Stranger things have happened’, he replied seriously. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 336)

Second, and this is one of the aspects in which Paula Rego’s vision so audaciously foregrounds what Eça opted to understate, Amélia is also, in Amaro’s eyes, a secular rendering of Mary, a Virgin he sinfully deflowers and a Holy Mother whom as an adolescent he had dreamed of possessing in incest and profanity. In a later scene in the novel Amaro goes one step further. As part of his seduction campaign, he uses his priestly importance to achieve that which, paradoxically, that priestly position forbids, namely sexual gratification:

He drummed into her ears the glory of the priesthood. […] He dazzled her with venerable scholarship: St. Clement who called the priest ‘an Earthly God’; the eloquent St. John Chrisostom who said that ‘the priest is the ambassador who delivers God’s instructions’. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 338)

The Ambassador of Jesus, however, refers specifically to the scene in the novel in the course of which Amaro meets Amélia in the sacristy and dresses her in a cloak intended to adorn a statue of the Virgin. In a passage of extraordinary eroticism, he places the cloak on Amélia’s shoulders and, as she gazes at herself in the mirror, he embraces her from behind and kisses her hard, whispering that she is ‘lovelier than Our Lady’ (Queiròs, s.d., 345). Both become aroused, but the ultimate profanity (sex on the floor of the church with the Virgin, or at least with a woman wearing her clothing) is cut short when Amélia snaps out of her ecstasy in terror at the sin that she has nearly committed. Paula Rego’s picture, staged in front of a mirror in which once again we see Amaro’s reflection, whereas he himself does not, taps into two different concerns: first his hypocrisy, as he sits with one hand on Amélia’s forehead in priestly blessing whilst the other rests on her thigh; and second, Amélia’s moment of recoil, by-passing any preliminary delight. As ever in Paula Rego’s work, unlike in the original text, frustration rather than pleasure especially befalls the male.

It so happened that one day he showed her a cloak for Our Lady, which had arrived a few days earlier, a gift from a rich parishioner from Ourém. Amélia admired it a lot. […] Amaro unfolded it, causing its embroideries to sparkle by the light of the window. […] And looking at Amélia, comparing her tall form with the that of the dumpy statue of the Virgin: ‘It’s you who would look wonderful in it. Come here… ’
She took a step back:

Fig. 3.4 Paula Rego, The Ambassador of Jesus (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 180 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.4 Paula Rego, The Ambassador of Jesus (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 180 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

‘Heavens, no, what a sin! ’
‘Nonsense’, he replied […]. It hasn’t been blessed yet. It’s as though it was coming from the dressmaker. ‘No, no’, she said weakly, but eyes already shining greedily. […] ‘Don’t be silly. Let’s have a look’. He placed it on her shoulders, secured it with a silver clasp. […] ‘Oh, baby, you are lovelier than Our Lady’. […]
He drew up behind her, crossed his arms over her breasts, held her tightly — and his lips on hers, gave her a long, silent kiss. […] Her breathing quickened, her knees trembled: and with a sigh she leant on his shoulder, pale and overcome with pleasure.
But suddenly she stood straight […], her face burning:
‘Oh Amaro, how dreadful, what a sin!… (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 343–45)

  • 7 José Maria Eça de Queirós, O Primo Basílio (Cousin Basílio) (Lisbon: Livros do Brasil, s.d.). With (...)
  • 8 José Maria Eça de Queirós, Os Maias (Lisbon: Livros do Brasil, s.d.).
  • 9 José Maria Eça de Queirós, A Tragédia da Rua das Flores (Lisbon: Livros do Brasil, 1984).
  • 10 José Maria Eça de Queirós, ‘Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loira’ in Contos (Porto: Lello e Irmão, (...)
  • 11 A Tragédia da Rua das Flores, op. cit.

In an author whose obsession with incest has become notorious — all of his most important novels deal with it, whether real (between cousins;7 between brother and sister;8 between mother and son,9); or symbolic (between son-in-law and mother-in-law;10 between Amaro as priest and spiritual father and Amélia as his daughter in the parish flock;) — mother-son incest nonetheless remained taboo, with the exception of a novel he left unpublished, and which only became available posthumously, eighty years after his death.11

24The subject, however, is addressed indirectly in The Crime of Father Amaro too. Amaro, as already discussed, is orphaned of his father and brought up among women (his biological mother who however also dies young, the Marchioness who finances his education and the servants who cosset him), only to be brutally separated from them at puberty and closeted in the all-male world of the seminary, where the only female presence is the fetishistic picture of the Virgin Mary on the wall of his cell. This transition from all-enveloping femininity in childhood to absolute separation from it upon entering the masculine world of God-the-Father will leave Amaro forever prey to post-Oedipal bereavement and ensuing narcissism. The narcissistic injury is partly, but only partly, soothed when, upon arrival in Leiria, he settles into his lodgings with Amélia and S. Joaneira, ‘with good food, a soft comfortable bed, and the soothing company of women’ (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 94). For Amaro, henceforward, the perfect woman will always need to combine in herself those lost childhood mothers as well as the desired Virgin of his puberty. She must be simultaneously virgin, whore and mother. Amélia represents this conflation, standing in as she does for the Virgin upon whom she models herself and in whose cloak he wraps her, the object of desire who supplies him with illicit sex, the mother who administers home comforts to him and later (albeit more problematically), the mother of his own son. She is therefore the woman who grants him the possibility of satisfying various fantasies concerning both the nature of the ideal woman and his own status, the latter requiring the synthesis of the three mutually exclusive images of himself to which he subscribes: God (or husband) to the Virgin; lover (or man of the world) to his object of desire; and little boy (or son) to the mother figure who however will be punished with death when she betrays him by conceiving a rival child, namely his own son.

25Amélia, the parishioner and spiritual daughter whom in moments of passion he calls ‘filha’, (literally ‘daughter’ in Portuguese but translatable into English as a term of endearment such as ‘baby’), is therefore the mother, the daughter, the lover and the Virgin. In all these roles however his agency upon her is a sullying one: sullying towards the spiritual daughter whose weakness he abuses, the mother he incestuously desires, the lover he kills through a lethal pregnancy and the Virgin Mother he deflowers, kisses, makes love to or uses as an aid to masturbation. Thus in the scene in the sacristy depicted in The Ambassador of Jesus (fig. 3.4), a series of religious, social and blood taboos are simultaneously broken. The desecration is emphasized in two ways: in the backdrop to the profane event we discern scenes alluding first to the domesticity (the woman peeling vegetables) into which Amaro was made welcome by S. Joaneira (another mother or motherly woman whom he betrays by seducing her daughter); and second to the innocence Amélia once possessed but later loses under his influence (as epitomized by the little girl on the chair playing with a doll).

26Be that as it may, this picture presents us first and foremost with the moment in which Amaro, the representative (ambassador) upon Earth of God-the-Father and God-the-Son, in polluting the daughter (child), the bride (as represented by the white dress worn by Amélia here), and the mother (symbolized by the Holy Mother’s blue cloak), encounters not paradisiacal pleasure but rejection. The sexual bliss that would have been the prize in exchange for which he sells his soul, is replaced by denial, as indicated by the outstretched arm (vade retro) with which Amélia keeps him at a distance. In the novel, the aftermath of Amélia’s horror at the outrage they have jointly perpetrated against the Virgin’s sanctity is her refusal to make love on that day, thus denying her despotic father-lover his sexual fulfilment, and the little boy his Oedipal wish. In Rego’s picture the reaction to the paternal or priestly hand on her forehead and the libidinous one on her thigh (echoes of The Policeman’s Daughter’s raping/ministering hands, fig. 2.13) goes one step beyond sexual rejection. Her posture mirrors that of the triumphant angel or Fury above her head (which prefigures that in Angel, fig. 3.27, also in this series) and acts as an implied exorcism. As regards the man of God, here and in the novel, the reaction from his daughter/lover/ parishioner is ‘get thee behind me, Satan’.

27In Rego’s vision, then, the transgression against God-the-Father implied in the attempted snatching of his bride and mother by a priest who reneged upon his vows, does not even gain the filial/Oedipal/sexual pay-off for which it would have been worthwhile risking damnation. And the mirror into which Amaro cannot or forgets to look, therefore, reflects back at us — if not at him — the regressive image of the motherless and mother-loving child who will never find compensation for that earlier maternal loss: not through narcissism and self-love (he does not look in the mirror and can never truly love himself); nor through the abandonment of the mother in favour of a wholehearted identification with the father (or Father: he is a disobedient priest); nor by rebelling for good and all against that father and resigning from masculinity in favour of an Oedipal return to the maternal feminine which in this picture, in any case, rejects him.

28For Amaro, a repressed man and reluctant priest, women in general and Amélia in particular will remain problematic in perpetuity: the mother who died and left him, the godmother who castrated him by making him a priest, the women servants who both loved and taunted him, and, most of all, Amélia who loves yet rejects him, and who moreover brings the wheel full circle by dying like his own mother.

29Problematic though the female sex proves to be, however, the murder of the child whose birth kills Amélia, explicit in the novel and implicit in pictures such as The Rest on the Flight to Egypt (fig. 3.14), to be discussed presently, reinstates the Freudian scenario of inimical fathers and sons. In killing the son who is a man’s passport to immortality Amaro destroys both himself and arguably the deity whose representative on Earth he is. This emphasis, both in the novel and in the pictures, ultimately emphasizes the fragility of a patriarchal order whose endurance surely depends on the Darwinian will for continuity and on the solidarity of males — both divine and secular — united within the status quo. Instead, Amaro burns his boats behind him and severs his ties with God by breaking his celibacy vows, but also kills the child who would have been his passport to potent masculinity.

30In the next picture to be considered, Girl with Gladioli and Religious Figures, the woman (or women) for whose sake he breaks his vows — Amélia in her various guises as mother, daughter, Virgin and lover — metamorphoses into something unfathomable and possibly dangerous.

31Paula Rego described this picture as a depiction of Amélia (standing in the foreground wearing white bloomers) as a living shrine or reliquary, incarnating in her bosom, to which her left hand points, the relics and redemptory potential of other unspecified saints. This artist’s excursions into sainthood and hagiography, most famously in the mural Crivelli’s Garden (fig. 3.6) in the restaurant of the National Gallery in London and in the cycle of images on the life of the Virgin Mary (chapter 7, figs. 7.1; 7.3; 7.9; 7.10; 7.11; 7.12; 7.19; 7.20), disclose an idiosyncratic approach to received wisdom, not only as to what are seen to be the significant events and standard interpretations of various Biblical figures, but more disturbingly as to exactly who or what constitutes a saint or saintliness, or warrants classification as such.

32Thus in Crivelli’s Garden, which ostensibly presents us with a gallery of female saints, side by side with the uncontroversial figures of Mary, Elizabeth and Saint Catherine there appear the figures of women who might be more immediately associated with examples of female evil as decried by Holy Church Fathers since time immemorial. We notice, for example, the figures of two prostitutes (albeit ones who became saints: Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt).

Fig. 3.5 Paula Rego, Girl with Gladioli and Religious Figures (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 160 x 120 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.5 Paula Rego, Girl with Gladioli and Religious Figures (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 160 x 120 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
  • 12 It is worth noting, however, that there is a rich history of Judith being celebrated in religious f (...)

33Although these redeemed sinners in themselves are not controversial, in an interview about these panels Rego emphasized their less orthodox facets, such as for example the tale of Mary of Egypt having been swallowed by the Devil and later bursting out of his stomach, thus becoming the patron saint of women in labour. The choice of emphasis on a semi-demonic eruption rather than a virgin birth as the role model for prospective mothers is at the very least unexpected. Nonetheless, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt, respectively a prostitute who became a saint and a prostitute who became a saint who became an iconic mother (and who, confusingly, then befriends the Devil that swallowed her), are outdone in hagiographic eccentricity by the remaining figures of Judith, the killer of Holofernes, and Delilah, the betrayer of Samson, both notable examples of female violence and therefore improbable saints.12 Against the background of such idiosyncratic interpretations of sainthood, Amélia as a reliquary enshrined in living flesh can be understood as a vehicle of Rego-style alterity. In her case, as in that possibly of Judith and certainly of Delilah, the definition of sainthood must be seen to be seriously askew: the woman who in Amaro’s rogue perception is the representative of Mary, is a Virgin who allows herself to be penetrated and impregnated by a man, and a mother who is unable to save her child from infanticide. In being such she undermines both the untouchability of the Marian ideal and the omnipotence of God-the-Father, so that the son born in this instance, albeit begotten by his priestly envoy on earth, is shown to differ from the original Holy Child in two crucial ways: he is tainted by both original sin (due to the circumstances of his conception) and mortal sin (since he dies without the option of baptism or resurrection: after delivering him to the murderous nanny Amaro changes his mind and tries to rescue him, but he is already dead). Tainted birth and eternal damnation — or at best perpetuity in limbo — are of course characteristics that could never be associated with Christ.

Fig. 3.6 Paula Rego, Crivelli’s Garden (left-hand panel) (1990–1991). Acrylic on paper on canvas, left panel, 190 x 240 cm. Sainsbury Wing (brasserie), National Gallery, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.6 Paula Rego, Crivelli’s Garden (left-hand panel) (1990–1991). Acrylic on paper on canvas, left panel, 190 x 240 cm. Sainsbury Wing (brasserie), National Gallery, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

34In Girl with Gladioli and Religious Figures (fig. 3.5) the dark figure seated beside Amélia, described by Rego as an assistant, seems to be presenting her to the viewer — behold the handmaid of the Lord — but in this deviant fiat the envoy of God is transformed through her clothing and facial expression into an Angel of Darkness. In the background we see an enigmatic tableau involving a saint (as indicated by her halo) floating in the air, and a little girl who may be either bearing her aloft or dragging her down to earth: in other words, either propelling her into oxymoronic sorcerous sainthood (since it is usually witches, not saints, who fly through the air), or holding her down in a secular, earthly dimension that blocks her ascension to Heaven (the same satanic/holy ambivalence will be apparent in Assumption, fig. 7.20, to be discussed in chapter 7). Either scenario is problematic from the point of view of Gospel truth, and the disquiet is emphasized by another aspect of the composition: the little girl’s posture has the effect of appearing to cut off the aerial figure’s feet, an effect that in itself introduces ambiguity: on the one hand we have the lopping off of inconvenient clay feet as a means of safeguarding the hallowed status of the saintly/satanic woman; and on the other hand a female rendition (with advantage again to the woman) of decapitations such as those of Holofernes and Saint John the Baptist by Judith and Salome respectively.

35In addition, the child who tackles the saint in a wrestler’s grip wears on her head the blue mantle of the Virgin. In the lexicon of religious iconography the traditional wearer of blue veils is Mary, but here she appears as a Madonna run amok, engaged in ambiguous behaviour which, other interpretations aside, might also appear as that Woolfian act of killing angels referred in the previous chapter. The image thus reconfigures the notion of a Holy Mother propelled back into the anarchic world of childhood, which is always dangerous terrain in Rego’s pictorial universe. In this context the figures in the upper-left-hand corner lie partly outside the picture plane and frame, a compositional decision that suggests the leakage of pictorial anarchy into the outside world and its established order. The final blow delivered by this powerful picture, with regard to which the artist used the terms ‘true and false angels’, is the positioning in the foreground of a pot of flowers: not the lilies habitually associated with Marian iconography, but rather gladioli. In themselves gladioli would not be an unusual choice of iconography in a religious setting, given that they are the flowers commonly used to adorn the altars of Portuguese churches. In the context of this visual narrative, however, the red flowers appear suspiciously akin to flames. And if they are the flames of hell, their representation here depicts them as enlisted in the service of this coven of suspect women who barely trouble to masquerade as saints. One of Paula Rego’s favoured ploys in the game of cat and mouse she repeatedly plays with her viewers can once again be seen to be underway here: we know that she knows that we know they are not what they pretend to be.

36This image of Amélia as a living reliquary represents the moment of rupture, the turning point that opens the way to a series of new possibilities with a gender agenda. These will be explored in the five pictures that follow, beginning with Lying.

37This picture does not refer to any specific moment in the novel itself but it might be linked to a vignette that takes place shortly after Amaro moves into his lodgings in Amélia’s home. The instant attraction each feels for the other reaches fever pitch every night when Amaro, in his downstairs room, is aroused by the sounds of Amélia undressing and dropping her heavy skirts on the floor in the bedroom above. This sexual excitement, brought about by the fantasy of a woman who at that point is still an unattainable virgin, links back to the depiction of Amaro in The Cell (fig. 3.2) masturbating over the image of that other virgin who is Amélia’s patron saint and was her predecessor in his desire. The special relationship between Amélia and the Virgin, linking them in a maternal/ filial bond, introduces once again the dimension of incest into the relationship between Amaro and Mary/Amélia. He lusts after the Virgin’s pet daughter, as he had once lusted after her (and his) Holy Mother. While Amaro longs silently for Amélia undressing in the upstairs room, she, in her turn, makes secret visits to his downstairs quarters when he is out, kisses his pillow, collects the hairs from his comb and fantasizes about a confused relationship in the course of which she imagines herself kneeling at his feet in the confessional and embracing him as a lover. In the novel their unspoken love is brought into the open on an afternoon when Amaro meets Amélia while out for a walk and kisses her. Amélia runs away overcome by emotion and later, reliving the many times when, alone in her room, she had despaired of his love, kneels by her bed and sends a profane prayer up to heaven: ‘Oh, Our Lady of Sorrows, my Godmother, make him love me’ (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 128).

Fig. 3.7 Paula Rego, Lying (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 100 x 80 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.7 Paula Rego, Lying (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 100 x 80 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
  • 13 The Sin of Father Amaro (London: Dulwich Gallery catalogue, 17 June-19 July 1998).

38Paula Rego has said more than once in referring to this picture that it is a depiction of Amélia as a liar.13 A liar, or perhaps a hypocrite, but in any case controversial, since if the above reference to the novel is correct, it depicts one virgin begging from another the fulfilment of sacrilegious desire for the man of the cloth who in due course will relieve her of that virginity. The paradox is reproduced by the model’s pose and appearance: Amélia prays by her rumpled bed for the consummation of her desires. Her posture is both genuflectory and sexually inviting, the open legs contradicting the semiotics of the hands united in prayer. Her dress, the bridal gown of a virgin who wishes to cease being so, is the same as that worn in The Company of Women (fig. 3.1) by one of the servants who are surrogate (but not real) mothers to Amaro, and in The Ambassador of Jesus (fig. 3.4) by Amélia, who is the understudy for the Virgin Mary. Furthermore, the dress is offset by the butch boots she wears on her feet, which bring into question the former’s maidenly symbology. The boots trample on the standard expectations of femininity that the virginal white dress had sought to sustain. Thus the semiotic significance of this dress worn by servants (handmaidens), virgin brides and Holy Mothers is invalidated, and these three permitted faces of womanhood are transfigured by the aggressive footwear, reviving instead the agency of the servants who un-manned Amaro, the mother who abandoned him, the godmother who castrated him, and the beloved who pushed him away. Amélia’s open-legged posture beside the bed with the dress immodestly pulled over her thighs links this picture to the image of Totó, open-legged on her bed and not wearing a dress at all, in Girl with Chickens.

39In the novel Totó is the daughter of the sexton in whose house Amaro and Amélia meet to have sex. Totó, who is in the last stages of tuberculosis, is the pretext offered to the world for Amélia’s visits, which are ostensibly intended to teach the sick girl the catechism and thence the path to salvation before she dies. Hilariously, we are told that the visits are planned to number seven a month, in reference to the Virgin Mary’s seven lessons.14

The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady
Today it is the Seven Sorrows, sheaf of swords.
I dreamed that my heart had turned to serpent:
I dragged it by the belly down long roads
To the world, non-sentient.
She, vibrant with steel, my Mother,
Raised it vertically from the soot
And clearsighted with tears
Holds it tenderly underfoot.

Fig. 3.8 Paula Rego, Girl with Chickens (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 80 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.8 Paula Rego, Girl with Chickens (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 80 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Thus perhaps the crushed snake
Embodies my poisoned thoughts:
And the pure remain, rose incarnate
Under her radical, detached foot.
Seven thunderbolts of love to the Untarnished: seven,
Like the branches of the candleholder
In the night, alive to evil undertaken
Impelling the executioner.
You, heraldic shield, conceal
This poem, or sorrow amid the constellations,
The eighth arrow on the timeless snowy breast
For God’s contemplation. (Nemésio, 1989, 287).

  • 15 Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-C (...)

Amélia’s routine with Totó, performed with increasing perfunctoriness, involves hurriedly placing a volume of The Lives of the Saints in her hands, prior to sneaking upstairs to the bedroom with Amaro. The differences and similarities between Amélia and Totó, in the novel and in these pictures respectively, are revealing as regards Paula Rego’s extensive rethinking of source scripts, and her observation of their moral contradictions. In the novel, intentionally or not, Eça contrasts Amélia’s blooming, splendid health and buxom body with Totó’s repulsive emaciation. One lies on the bed downstairs dying while the other lies on the bed upstairs being pleasured by her lover. Female representations by male authors in the Western literary canon tend to divide women into two broad categories: angel, and monster or whore.15 The angel-woman is modelled upon the cultural icon of the Virgin Mary: she is the dispenser of salvation to others but has no story of her own to tell. She is selfless and pure, self-sacrificial and chaste, self-effacing and silent. She is the daughter, mother, wife and sister of men, spirit rather than flesh, but as such is also a living-dead. If alive she is fragile, sick or dying. If dead, she is lyrically mourned.

40The monster-woman, madwoman or whore is the counterpoint of the angel woman: she encapsulates all that the angel woman cannot do or be, and also, conveniently, all the female danger that must be brought under control by patriarchy through consignment into a containing category. She personifies sexuality, the rule of self, autonomy and voice, independence, rebellion and self-affirmation.

The monster woman, threatening to replace her angelic sister, embodies intransigent female autonomy and thus represents both the author’s power to allay ‘his’ anxieties by calling their source bad names (witch, bitch, fiend, monster) and, simultaneously, the mysterious power of the character who refuses to stay in her textually ordained ‘place’ and thus generates a story that ‘gets away’ from its author. (Gilbert and Gubar, 1984, 28)
As the Other, woman comes to represent the contingency of life, life that is made to be destroyed. ‘It is the horror of his own carnal contingence […] which man projects upon [woman]’. (Gilbert and Gubar, 1984, 34)

The tidy compartmentalization of women into reassuring either/or categories, however, frequently gives way in writing and in art of male authorship to the uneasy suspicion that in fact, behind every idealised façade, there might lurk a monster woman waiting to escape. It is the slippage between categories, therefore, rather than anything inherent in either category itself, that emerges as the real threat to be either confronted, undone, or, if you are Paula Rego, nurtured to its full wicked potential.

41In Girl with Chickens the implied counterpoint to the supposedly tubercular Totó is Amélia, a strapping girl to whom the former is linked as dark avatar. In fact, in the picture though not necessarily in the novel, Amélia acts in absentia as Totó’s partner in crime, enjoying the illicit sexual pleasure they both crave; and together they unsettle the stability of either/or definitions. The model chosen to pose for Totó was a dancer, and the healthy musculature one associates with that physically demanding profession is reproduced here, in the depiction of a character whose essence in the original text was one of consumptive wastage, both physical and moral. Paula Rego thus dissolves the boundaries that separate the emaciation of disease from the leanness of energetic bodily exertion, and in so doing radically alters what Totó stands for in Eça’s tortuous vision. In the novel Totó is an object of compassion, but a repulsive one too, pitiful yet loathsome. She is both the cover-up for Amaro’s and Amélia’s meetings and the person who denounces their affair to Canon Dias. She operates both as the unwilling enabler of their passion’s consummation and the obstacle to its unalloyed delight, terrifying Amélia as she does by calling her a bitch and snarling at her as the latter slips upstairs into her lover’s arms. Furthermore, as the person who discloses the real purpose of Amélia’s visits in an attempt to put an end to the liaison, Totó arguably becomes the guardian of social, sexual and religious morality; but as the woman who herself desires Amaro — when he comes near her she sniffs at him with the animal heat of which she accuses Amélia — and as the acolyte of the lascivious Dias, she becomes associated not with morality but with a simulacrum of it, as upheld by the clerics and pious women of the community.

42Furthermore, both in herself, as depicted in this picture, and through the supposed contrast (but in fact unsettling resemblance) she bears to Amélia within the novel (both women desire Amaro), she dissolves a series of angel-whore boundaries that under normal conditions shore up the definitions of good and evil pertaining to gender.

43In Rego’s rendering, Totó, previously imprinted on our minds by Eça as a repulsive consumptive nose-diving into an ugly death, emerges as a solid, potentially desirable young woman: naked, nubile, available and ready, she sits rather than lying on the bed, not because she is sick but because she is not. The disagreeable instrument of hypocritical morality in the novel (she denounces a sin she wishes she could commit herself, to a priest — Dias — as corrupt as Amaro himself), she is here translated into the visual icon of that (im) morality. She appears also as the image of an in-your-face female sexuality that society traditionally abhors but into which it has willy-nilly metamorphosed, in the person of its agent, Totó. Thus, because she is the novel’s Totó, she exposes Amaro’s and Amélia’s lust (which in any case exactly mirrors hers), but because she is the modified Totó of this picture, she reclaims the terrain of and proclaims the right to her own sexual desire.

44In Rego’s interpretation, the tubercular Totó becomes the diametric opposite of her blueprint sister-in-suffering, Camille Gautier, the Lady of the Camelias. While the latter is spiritualized by illness from sexy prostitute into asexual angel, Totó, whether lying feverishly in her literary bed or sexily in its visual representation here, becomes obsessed with carnal passion and with Amaro as the oxymoronic sacerdotal embodiment of desirability:

The priest waited at the door, with his hands in his pockets, bored, embarrassed by the feverished eyes of the invalid, which never left him, penetrating him, running over his body, with passion and wonder, brighter in her sallow face, so sunken that her jaw bones stood out. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 352)

In the novel, therefore, Totó contravenes the acceptable parameters of angelic suffering beauty, being neither beautiful nor angelic. And in the picture Rego pushes the boundaries of outrage in the opposite direction by making her not sick but sexy. In Eça’s text Totó and Amélia are both antithetical and obscurely akin: the former is repulsive while technically conforming to established tenets of female acceptability, since she is a dying virgin. The latter is attractive while deviating from the orthodoxy of these tenets, since she is healthy and sexually active outside marriage. If we probe the details of this difference, however, the boundary that separates each from the other appears more precarious than Eça himself might have cared to acknowledge. Each woman in different ways is lustful, unchaste, sinful and fingered for a premature death. In terms both of moral essence and destiny, they are sisters under the skin, and only circumstantially different from one another: Totó, is sick while Amélia is healthy, but the latter not for long; Totó is ugly while Amélia, is beautiful, but also not for long. When she clambers onto her deathbed at the end, damp with the colossal strain of childbirth and lies ‘motionless, with her arms rigid by her side, her hands purple and clenched and her face stiff and flushed’, (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 475) her looks replicate the dying Totó’s, ‘prostrated with fever, under sheets soaked with perspiration’. Each, furthermore, in her juxtaposition to the other, illustrates the uncomfortable truth that the only thing that separates Totó, the sick virgin, from Amélia, the healthy slut, is not virtue, or lack of it, but only the fact that whilst both desire the same man, one is desired by him while the other is not. And in the end, in any case, both are abandoned by him. Each, as she lies in death, no longer distinguishable as either angel or whore, dissolves into the figure of the alter ego who shares her plight.

45In Eça’s novel both women end up ugly (in other words Platonically indicted, since, according to this formula, surface disfigurement signals inner sinfulness), and, subsequently, dead. In an audacious countermove, however, Rego lays claim to an artistic license that becomes tantamount to a declaration of power over life and death, and resuscitates both women. It is the un-Christ-like and un-Christian Totó (‘she died unrepentant’, Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 271), and the avenging, indomitable Amélia of subsequent pictures, rather than their dead textual precursors, who dominate this series of images. They appear here newly endowed with looks and sex appeal, as well as the power that these entail. And a sex appeal, moreover, which in the case of Totó is all the more perturbing for its androgynous allure, since this ready and willing Totó, displaying herself on the bed to elicit passion rather than compassion, could conceivably seduce a variety of appetites including a lesbianism reminiscent of the boot-wearing, dykish Amélia in Lying, from whom no boundaries now separate her. Like with like, since birds of a feather, after all, do sometimes stick together.

Fig. 3.9 Paula Rego, Looking Out (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.9 Paula Rego, Looking Out (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Moving on to Looking Out, this picture refers to a specific event in the novel. Before seducing Amélia for the first time, Amaro disposes of her fiancé, João Eduardo, a good if dull young man whom Amélia had previously strung along for want of a better suitor. João Eduardo is discredited by Amaro and his fellow priests in complicated circumstances and is driven out of Leiria, leaving Amaro in possession of the field. When Amélia becomes pregnant, Amaro and Dias hastily try to find and bring him back with a view to patching up the projected marriage and casting the mantle of marital respectability over the pregnancy (‘he who is the husband is the father’). João Eduardo however is nowhere to be found, requiring the fall-back plan to be put into motion. Amélia is dispatched to the remote country house of Ricoça with her censorious godmother, who plagues her with recriminations for the remainder of the pregnancy. Her only consolation resides in the ministrations of Abbott Ferrão, the only honourable priest in the novel. The latter attempts to steer her gradually away from her sexual obsession with Amaro and into more godly ways while nonetheless taking into account her ardent disposition:

He saw that poor little Amélia had a beautiful, weak flesh; it would be unwise to frighten her with the idea of lofty sacrifices. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 437)

Ferrão understands Amélia’s ardent temperament, knows that for her any possibility of future respectability must include the pleasures of the flesh within a lawful union and plans to attempt a rapprochement with João Eduardo, now back in Leiria and resident in the neighbourhood of Ricoça. At various earlier points in the unfolding of events Amélia had entertained the possibility of marrying João Eduardo while continuing the affair with Amaro. There is some evidence that this scenario might still be on her mind after she gives her approval to Ferrão’s plan, since she has sex with Amaro on at least one occasion after the possibility of reconciliation with João Eduardo has been discussed with the abbot. In the novel, in any case, Ferrão’s well-meaning plan comes to nothing, since Amélia dies after giving birth. In the weeks prior to her death and by then heavily pregnant, however, she finds solace from her godmother’s recriminations by standing at the window waiting for the newly-prosperous João Eduardo to ride by on his mare. Looking Out refers to the spectacle of Amélia done up to the nines from the waist up but slovenly and scruffy from the waist down (‘Whenever she could manage it, she stood by the window, well dressed from the waist up, which was what could be seen from the outside, dishevelled from the waist down’, Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 457). As usual in Paula Rego, however, the image is characterized by reversals of expectation of both a compositional and a thematic nature. In earlier paintings the female figures are characterized by exaggerated secondary sexual characteristics, such as the female artist’s huge child-bearing hips in Joseph’s Dream (1990), and the figure in Lying (fig. 3.7).

Fig. 3.10 Paula Rego, Joseph’s Dream (1990). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 122 cm. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.10 Paula Rego, Joseph’s Dream (1990). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 122 cm. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Whether what is in question here is the begetting of a painting or a child, the large buttocks are further accentuated by ample skirts in paintings such as The Fitting (fig. 1.3) and The Ambassador of Jesus (fig. 3.4), and evoke a female engendering power which however, through the areas of unorthodoxy raised elsewhere in these paintings, does not necessarily support their interpretation as straightforward exaltations of hallowed maternity. Womanly curves and flowing garments of various kinds lead instead from the Virgin in Rego’s earlier painting of the Apparition (1959) through many images of the female body and dress along the years, to the sullied Amélia of Looking Out. Significantly, in the series on abortion (chapter 4) that immediately followed The Sin of Father Amaro cycle, the models, women who by definition will not be mothers because they abort their children, are generally narrow-hipped.

46Anatomy, however, and clothing, are not the only link between works such as Looking Out, Joseph’s Dream, or Nativity (figs. 3.9, 3.10 and 7.3), the latter to be discussed in chapter 7. In Joseph’s Dream the artist’s wide hips symbolize her fertility as a metaphor for artistic production, while the feminine duty of maternity is confined to the theme of her painting (an Annunciation), on a canvas which will also entrap the image of the slumbering (outwitted) Joseph. In this painting, therefore, control over creation (the life of a child, the composition of an image), is neither man’s (he sleeps, is old), nor God’s (except within the irrelevant because unreal realm of the picture within the picture). Instead, the monopoly over the act of creation, both artistic and possibly biological, falls to the female artist alone, as the possessor of capacious childbearing hips and an indomitable creative streak. Similarly, in Looking Out (fig. 3.9) Amélia’s wide-hipped figure, indicative of fertility and easy birthing, might be said to compensate for her doomed maternity in the novel, whilst the direction of her gaze signals her capacity to conjure up a soothing mind-picture (future married respectability), achieved through the contemplation of yet another male object (model): in this case not the impotent, sleeping Joseph of Joseph’s Dream (fig. 3.10) but the equally oblivious João Eduardo riding by her window on his horse.

47In both images the traditional assumption of a voyeuristic male gaze is destabilized by the female characters. Each in a different way is a woman who not only controls the prerogative of looking but moreover transforms visual fact into artefact, and into a prospect hyperdetermined by her own requirements. In both pictures it is the woman’s gaze that controls first what we see (the painting in Joseph’s Dream); second what we are not allowed to see (the view from the window in Looking Out, fig. 3.9, which Amélia’s can enjoy whilst being concealed from us); and third what will be selected and recorded for posterity (the artist’s painting; Amélia’s imagined socially acceptable future life as a respectable married woman).

48In Looking Out, moreover, the play of power and powerlessness involved in gazing or being gazed at (which here reverses the habitual gender parameters of male spectator and female object) entails further complexities. Amélia’s project for social redemption — marriage to João Eduardo for the sake of appearances, which might be described as the aesthetic solution to the problem (literally making things look good) — does not in fact come to fruition in the novel, since she dies before it can become a reality. However, the moment captured in this picture radically rewrites the textual reality of Eça’s plot, by casting the invisible João Eduardo as the puppet of the scheming Amélia, just as the fat old Joseph and the moment of Annunciation by masculine (divine) decree became putty in the hands of the controlling female demiurge.

49The classic arrangement of beautiful female model and empowered male artist in command of both the image he produces and the woman he reproduces is consciously reversed by Paula Rego in both these works. With regard to Joseph’s Dream (fig. 3.10), the artist had observed in the past that she had always ‘wanted to do a girl drawing a man very much, because this role reversal is interesting. She’s getting power from doing this’ (Rego, 1998). The paint that issues from the female artist’s brush, like the fantasy of opportunistic marriage without love entertained by Amélia, become analogous because they are equally empowering and subversive. Each in a different way rewrites reality and usurps the traditional male claim to choice and voice.

50Returning to the question of gaze and view, in Rego’s picture Amélia not only sees what we do not (the view from the window), but she also controls what everyone else sees. In other words, she sets the stage or composes the picture (like an artist) and imposes it, or her interpretation of it, upon her viewers. These include the implied audience within the picture: first, João Eduardo, according to the novel riding by the window, himself excluded from the image and unable to see Amélia’s pregnant body, only her dressed-up torso; second, whoever might be in the room with her, presented with a view of her backside; and third ourselves, the implied viewers. The latter two categories of viewer do not signify, as indicated by the fact that neither we nor they warrant a glance from her, nor the trouble of dressing up for either our benefit or theirs. Thus João Eduardo may be deceived both in the short and long term (respectively by what he is permitted to see now, as he rides by, and by the marriage he may be drawn into in the future). But the implications of this picture as regards the remaining viewers also carry a radical impact that extends well beyond the parameters of the composition being explored here. Both the visual (as opposed to textual) Amélia and her creator appear here to be in cahoots to flaunt in the face of the onlookers (Amaro who visits her; God who sees everything; the viewers who cherish the illusion of sharing that divine prerogative; the art canon that has enshrined gender conflict at the heart of traditional rules of composition; and the patriarchal status quo upon which that canon is anchored) her metaphorically and concretely dishevelled, accusatory bottom half. Accusatory because the latter, of course, is among other things the locus of her illicitly fruitful womb and of the genitalia in whose perdition they (Amaro, God, the patriarchy, the status quo) and we (students, producers and consumers of art) become jointly complicit. The attribution of moral blame in the context of viewer participation will be discussed in greater detail in the next chapter, with reference to the abortion pastels. Here, its diversion away from Amélia who might be said to emerge as the accuser of a series of defendants that include us, leads us away from matters of composition and perception and into the consideration of further aspects arising from the subject matter, in a picture that clearly also carries a significant sexual-political and theological dimension.

51Amélia transgresses against social dictates (female morality, incest) and religious interdictions, when, as an unmarried girl she has sex with the priest who in that capacity represents also God the Father and her own spiritual father. As if this were not bad enough in the taboo stakes, in the novel Amélia mentally rejects Amaro, God’s delegate on earth, for the calmer envisaged delights of wedded orthodoxy, and in the picture turns her slovenly back on him. In this way she proposes to cuckold her lover-priest-father-God with the Saint Joseph figure of the faithful João Eduardo, who, in true Josephian manner, as hoped by her and Ferrão, might agree to foster another man’s (priest’s or God’s) child. Both Amaro, whom she therefore betrays in her heart, and João Eduardo, whose restricted view — in all senses of the word — she masterminds, are thus disempowered by her, as are God, whose earthly delegate Amaro is, and the patriarchal order, which João Eduardo represents as hypothetical husband-to-be. When Amélia proposes to reverse the Gospel plot by cuckolding God (Amaro) with Saint Joseph while still saddling the latter with the former’s son, she defies literally both Heaven and Earth, God and Man, biblical and societal codes. And it is this defiance, for which — in the novel, but nowhere discernibly in Paula Rego’s work — she pays with death, that is foregrounded in the likely next move of this figure who at any moment might lift up her rumpled skirt (or leg: Bad Dog, fig. 6.14) and moon at/urinate upon them and us.

52It is the absence of punishment for Amélia, in this and every other of Rego’s Father Amaro series, in particular The Coop (fig. 3.12), to be discussed next, which prompts an investigation of the reversal of moral stakes that separates the image from the text.

53Paula Rego is sometimes said to be a woman’s painter. The thesis defended here and in greater depth in the next chapter is that, in fact, an important aspect of her work involves a trap sprung on male viewers lured by and then castigated in the compositions she deploys as part of a one-woman battle of the sexes. Looking Out (fig. 3.9), a prime example of this process, foregrounds the artist’s manipulation of her viewers (for which here read male viewers) as being both acknowledged by and implicated in, yet paradoxically disenfranchised from the pictorial narrative. Traditionally, as argued above, female bodies in pictures presuppose a male viewer and his pleasure. The target male spectator of this particular picture, however, finds himself trapped by the surface pleasures of the image, a process exaggerated in the pictures to be discussed in chapter 4. In fact, he is caught between the worst of both worlds, in the dubiously moral position of the Peeping Tom, from whom, however, all titillation value is brutally snatched. Just as the conventional pleasure of the gaze appears set to get underway, the female protagonist gains control of viewer perception and redefines the rules of the game. In Looking Out, she alone inhabits a room with a view. The spectator is restricted to viewing that which is habitually concealed or overlooked: we see not a face looking out of a window — which is the usual pictorial arrangement of any number of canonical paintings (Murillo, Two Women at a Window, fig. 3.11) — but rather the backside and nether parts which that face implies, but which we tend to forget are also there.

54Instead, both here and in The Coop (fig. 3.12), what we view is what customarily takes place out of sight, in un-visited rooms. Like Bluebeard’s wife, we are allowed entry, up to a point, into forbidden spaces (figs 6.12; 6.13; e-fig 16). What remains unclear having done so, however, are the terms according to which we are allowed to retain control of the situation and participate in the dangerous cacophony of this artist’s unholy mirth.

Fig. 3.11 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Two Women at a Window (c. 1655–1660). Oil on canvas, 125.1 x 103.5 cm. Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Bartolom%C3%A9_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_014.jpg

Fig. 3.11 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Two Women at a Window (c. 1655–1660). Oil on canvas, 125.1 x 103.5 cm. Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Bartolom%C3%A9_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_014.jpg

In a discussion of The Coop Paula Rego stated that she saw a link between it and a long-standing tradition of iconography on the subject of Saint Anne and the birth of the Virgin Mary.

  • 16 e-fig. 10 Paula Rego, Annunciation (1981). Collage and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 250 cm. Posted by C (...)

55If there is such a link between this work and that sacral theme, the thread must surely be as tenuous as that between the standard beatific Annunciations of any number of paintings in the last nine or ten centuries and Paula’s own of 1981 (Annunciation, e-fig. 10),16 in which, according to John McEwen she emphasizes Mary’s panic upon being told the glad tidings by the archangel (McEwen, 1997, 99).

Fig. 3.12 Paula Rego, The Coop (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 150 x 150 cm. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.12 Paula Rego, The Coop (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 150 x 150 cm. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.13 Francesco Solimena, The Birth of the Virgin (c. 1690). Oil on canvas, 203.5 x 170.8 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:The_Birth_of_the_Virgin_MET_DT11676.jpg

Fig. 3.13 Francesco Solimena, The Birth of the Virgin (c. 1690). Oil on canvas, 203.5 x 170.8 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:The_Birth_of_the_Virgin_MET_DT11676.jpg

56The scene in The Coop (fig. 3.12) depicts the episode in the novel in the course of which Amélia gives birth and dies, although in the novel the only other people present are the midwife, the doctor, and, at the very end, the priest who administers the last rites to her. In a discussion of this piece Rego said it represented a symbolic hen coop within which all the females are pregnant. A collective pregnancy can arguably be read in two by no means mutually exclusive ways: first, the mimetic pregnancies of the other women may be interpreted as being in solidarity with Amélia’s, here repeating the notion in Crivelli’s Garden (fig. 3.6) of a coven of women (saints, witches or whores) bonded by a common pursuit. And second, it might be interpreted as an act of purposeful heresy: the birth of the Son of God to a Virgin has been theologically held to be a unique and unrepeatable event, miraculous and therefore impossible to replicate (Rotman, 1987, 57–98). In both Eça and Rego, on the other hand, Amélia’s enthronement by Amaro as a Marian substitute, on the occasion when he robed her in the cloak of the Virgin and declared her to be an improvement on the original (‘lovelier than Our Lady’, Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 345) had already lent itself to interpretation as an act of usurpation of Mary’s exalted status. And Amélia’s impregnation by God’s representative on Earth (his ‘ambassador’), compounds the offence by further contesting the claim to Mary’s role as mother of the one true God. The conflation in these pictures of Amélia and Mary — one is the other, Amélia in Mary’s clothing, one lapsed and one eternal virgin — now moves into another dimension in The Coop (fig. 3.12), through the impact of the notion of these multiple pregnancies as the echo of Amélia’s already blasphemous pseudo-Marian motherhood. All together they must be seen to render the original miracle commonplace through facile multiple (and therefore heretical) imitations, in the context of what the author describes in the catalogue text as ‘a women’s mafia’ (Rego, 1998).

57And just as the coven of gestating females can be said to gesture back to the female reliquary of saints in Girl with Gladioli and Religious Figures (fig. 3.5), as well as to their gathering in Crivelli’s Garden (fig. 3.6), so too the disturbing otherness of the nature of sainthood put forward by those two works is here taken up again and made more explicit. Thus, deviant sainthood in the Gladioli picture here topples over into unabashed voodoo, as represented by the hung chicken, and the doll (the latter the inanimate representation of either a dead baby or an aborted foetus) on the lap of the midwife. The voodoo cockerel is both linked to and separate from the two hyper-Christian animals in this image, namely the lamb (Paschal symbol) and the dove (the incarnation of the Holy Ghost). What links them is their connection to resurrections of various sorts (eternal bliss in the hereafter in the case of the lamb and the dove, or a return as the living dead, in the case of the voodoo cockerel). But whilst, within the orthodoxy of Christianity, resurrection (life after death) heralds the promise of ecstatic continuity, the walking dead of voodoo tales are the stuff of horror, signalling everlasting restlessness. In the game of blurred boundaries between life and death, what’s sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander. On the other hand, the unrest of the living dead might be said in one interpretation to be akin to the state of Limbo which is where the unbaptized aborted foetuses and the stillborn or murdered children of Christianity become suspended ad infinitum. Worrying differences, therefore, give way to even more worrying affinities, between positions that would be expected to be antithetical. The Coop (fig. 3.12) rewrites Eça’s novel in many ways, including the salient fact of omitting any hint of impending death for Amélia, in an echo of the thriving Totó in Girl With Chickens (fig. 3.8), Paula Rego’s previously suggested unwillingness to portray women as victims results very literally in pictures of health, portraits of women who are, in the most concrete sense, fighting fit, with all the threat that implies. These are very much unorthodox resurrections within an eccentric universe in which dead angel women surrender space to their more resilient avatars, and voodoo beasts overshadow in stature their Christ-like counterparts, within a profane cosmogony.

  • 17 Under Roman Catholic rules a priest is only allowed to approach a woman in childbirth to administer (...)

58The heretical elements in this picture are numerous. First, the reference to mysticisms and religious practices (voodoo) generally seen to be variously threatening (because different, ‘other’ and uncontrolled), here opens up glimpses into paths of faith other than a Christianity whose symbols (the dove and the lamb) are in this picture given not exclusive but merely comparable status in relation to voodoo magic (the dead chicken and the aborted foetus). Second, because the imagery deployed gestures to a series of profane possibilities: the stillborn foetus on the midwife’s lap (a step further in outrage from Amélia’s — and because of their twinned status Mary’s — dead child in the novel) in Paula Rego’s vision does not even achieve the fruition of the live birth in the precursor text. As such, and even more blatantly than in Eça, this aborted foetus gestures towards a heretical void, and to the absence of the Father and his Son in a world where the all-abounding plenitude of God — as incarnated in his human offspring — is replaced by a miscarriage or induced abortion, brought about by a Satanic runaway Virgin. This counterfeit Madonna gestures back to the dubious saints of Crivelli’s Garden (fig. 3.6). And her miscarrying deed opens the way for the abortion theme of the works that followed the following year. Be that as it may, back in The Coop (fig. 3.12) it becomes significant that what we do not see in this birthing room is the living fruit of the birth in question (son of Amaro, Son of God). What we do see, instead, is an ostentatiously contrasting scene: a surviving mother against the backdrop of a heretical voodoo practice, within a room full of happy women, in which God, His Son, and His priestly delegate are conspicuous by their absence. In this context it is also interesting to speculate that what is depicted in Rego’s picture is what imaginatively (in a female world) goes on in a situation such as childbirth, when the men — priests, doctors and authors — are not present.17 In Eça’s novel neither the reader nor the author is granted entry into the labour room. Even the priest is reluctant to venture (and to allow God, as symbolized by the holy sacraments) into a space where the female drama of childbirth is being played out. In the novel Abbot Ferrão argues that as a priest, he may only enter the room of a woman about to give birth in order to help her die. This stricture acquires particular force in the case of a woman about to give birth to the child of another priest who, as God’s stand-in on earth, seduced her whilst dressing her in the guise and clothing of the Virgin Mary, thus casting her in the untenable dual role of mother of the Son of God and lover of God’s supposedly celibate priest. Whereas in the novel Ferrão and God at the last are permitted to approach Amélia’s deathbed, however, in Paula Rego’s much cosier hen party, their entry is barred, but more to the point unnecessary, since Amélia will not die, and the former are narratively obliterated. Furthermore, what is also foregrounded by this absence and this presence — the absence of God and of the wholesome Saviour child; the presence of the latter’s cursed (by voodoo) foetal avatar — is what in the novel emerges as the appalling paradox of a moral imperative: that which leads Amaro to the infanticide of his son in order not to offend social decorum and clerical respectability. The aborted foetus or murdered newborn of the Rego picture alludes to possibilities that, in the novel, are ostentatiously rejected, but nonetheless are brought into play by the very fact of that denial: namely, the possibility touched upon but swiftly brushed aside by the two priests (paladins, it is to be assumed, of the rights of the unborn child) of giving Amélia a drug to induce a convenient abortion:

‘Surely you are not thinking of giving the girl a drug that might destroy her’.
Amaro shrugged his shoulders impatiently at such an absurd idea. The good Canon was talking nonsense. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 366)

  • 18 e-fig. 11 Paula Rego, Pendle Witches (1996). Etching and aquatint on paper, 35.7 x 29.7 cm. Tate, L (...)

More chilling, in light of the events that follow, is the comment made by Amaro: ‘the best thing would be if the child were born dead’, and Dias’ reply, which can be seen with hindsight to foretell the advent of the murderous nanny (weaver of angels): ‘it would be one more little angel for the Lord! ’ (268). Ironically and tragically, what must be seen as the lesser crime of abortion — the ‘absurd idea’ that Amaro apparently would not contemplate — opens the way to the aggravated crime of infanticide, that macabre ‘weaving’ of an angel for God. An angel, or a tapestry, or a picture: this picture, now created as the indictment of a series of fathers, heavenly or otherwise, here tried in absentia. Paula Rego called this piece a room full of witches: in her universe, witches from Leiria in Portugal, Pendle in Lancashire (in 1996, the year before the Amaro series, see e-fig. 11)18 or elsewhere. In the remaining pictures in the Amaro series, their malevolence may prove sufficient to exact vengeance for a variety of crimes both individual and collective, self-evident and obscure, covered up by the establishment but here exposed through anarchy.

All at Sea

59I will proceed now to that moment, that ever preoccupies Paula Rego’s work when the move from the individual towards the collective acquires national and institutional specificity. The focus of my reading of the remaining images in the current series links them closely to some of the works of the previous decades through the continuity of historical and political motifs. Beginning with The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (fig. 3.14) and following the exegetic opportunity extended by the title of the picture, we learn from the Gospels that the Holy Family were forced to escape from Judea to avoid the wrath of King Herod, who had commanded the massacre of the innocents in order to thwart the prophecy of a new king of the Jews (Matthew 2: 13–15).

Fig. 3.14 Paula Rego, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 170 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.14 Paula Rego, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 170 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

This picture’s connection to the Gospel does not exclude further semantic ramifications, such as a link to the originating novel, as refracted through the cast — Amaro, Amélia and the child (doll) — and may preserve thematic continuity. Compositionally and in terms of casting, the image speaks volumes not due to what it makes possible but due to what it makes clear never was. In a family-driven, church-bound, father-revering, godly nation, there cannot be much greater blasphemy than the multiple attributions surrounding the figure of the man in this picture. Its import extends further, so that, in a move which by then had become a calling-card of this artist, the reverberations of the ancient Judean setting extend as far as twentieth century Portugal. Let us see.

60In the earlier discussion of The Cell (fig. 3.2) it was argued that although the act of masturbation desecrated the figure of the mother, whether Holy or otherwise, it struck even more deeply against paternal and patriarchal insecurity in the face of recidivist Oedipal sons who persisted in preferring the mother to the father. The Rest on the Flight to Egypt (fig. 3.14) provides another twist to this tale. Maria Antonietta Macciocchi, whose work has been previously discussed, argued that in fascist regimes the leader represented a potent pope, and in that guise figured the unconscious sexual imagery that encouraged women to ‘invest some of their desires in fascism’ (Macciocchi, 1976, 128) With reference to Macciocchi’s work, Jane Caplan writes as follows:

It’s crucial to her conception of the close identity between left and feminist revolutionary politics that Macciocchi interprets this role of the fascist Leader as sexually exploitative of both women and men: the Leader symbolically castrates all men, in the act of expropriating the sexual capacity of women. […] ‘On the sexual plane, as I have frequently stressed, fascism is not just the castration of women, but the castration of men: in fascism, sexuality like wealth belongs to an oligarchy of the powerful. The masses are expropriated’. (Caplan, 1979, 62)

In Eça’s novel, indeed, the antagonism between clerical and non-clerical males — namely Amaro and Amélia’s rejected fiancé, João Eduardo — is couched in terms of a sexual rivalry that involves both priest and God in cahoots against secular man. Thus Amaro justifies to himself his persecution of João Eduardo in the following soliloquy:

‘Get thee behind me, you scoundrel! This morsel belongs to God!’ […] And that, Lord help him, was not a scheme for taking her away from her fiancé: his motives (and he said it out loud to convince himself) were very honest, very lofty: it was a holy mission, to save her from perdition: he didn’t want her for himself, he wanted her for God. As it happened, yes, his interests as lover coincided with his duty as priest, but even had she been cross-eyed, ugly and stupid, he would still have gone to Misericórdia Street, in the service of Heaven, to denounce João Eduardo, slanderer and atheist that he was! And reassured by this logic, he went to bed in peace. (Eça de Queirós (a), s.d., 210–11)

Be that as it may, in The Rest on the Flight to Egypt (fig. 3.14) Paula Rego’s insinuation of grounds for masculine disquiet in the face of a filial enemy (an unwanted child) within the ranks goes further even than the spectacle of males locking horns over a desirable female, and turns into the detection of a deeper self-destructive impetus at the heart of the status quo.

61The title of this complex picture refers to a Gospel tradition that has been taken up by several artists throughout the centuries, including Fra Bartolomeo (fig. 3.15), Orazio Gentileschi (fig. 3.16) and Nicolas Poussin (fig. 3.17).

Fig. 3.15 Fra Bartolomeo, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1509). Oil on panel, 129.5 x 106.7 cm. J. P. Getty Centre, Los Angeles. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Fra_Bartolomeo_-_The_Rest_on_the_Flight_into_Egypt_with_St._John_the_Baptist_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Fig. 3.15 Fra Bartolomeo, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1509). Oil on panel, 129.5 x 106.7 cm. J. P. Getty Centre, Los Angeles. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Fra_Bartolomeo_-_The_Rest_on_the_Flight_into_Egypt_with_St._John_the_Baptist_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Fig. 3.16 Orazio Gentileschi, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1625–1626). Oil on canvas, 137.1 x 215.9 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Orazio_Gentileschi_-_Rest_on_the_Flight_to_Egypt.JPG

Fig. 3.16 Orazio Gentileschi, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1625–1626). Oil on canvas, 137.1 x 215.9 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Orazio_Gentileschi_-_Rest_on_the_Flight_to_Egypt.JPG

Fig. 3.17 Nicolas Poussin, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1627). Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 62.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:The_Rest_on_the_Flight_into_Egypt_MET_DT4169.jpg

Fig. 3.17 Nicolas Poussin, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1627). Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 62.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:The_Rest_on_the_Flight_into_Egypt_MET_DT4169.jpg

But if it refers also to Eça’s novel, the man in Rego’s image is not João Eduardo (the unwilling adoptive father to someone else’s — God’s — son) but Amaro (the model in the other pictures in this series). Amaro as a Catholic priest under vows of celibacy is supposed to be spiritual father to all but biological father to none. His tragedy as man and priest is to be condemned never to hold his own son in his arms, which however he does, both in this picture and in the novel, as the sinful priest that he is. In his capacity as biological father, moreover, he is not supposed to murder that son (which however the novel tells us he is about to do, shortly after that first and only moment in which he holds him after the birth). Fathers — whether as representatives of a paternal God, or as morally and legally conditioned social beings, or as patriarchal defenders of their bloodline, or as Darwinian creatures driven by the imperatives of selfish genes, or as followers of the fourth commandment — ought not to extinguish their progeny, but in the novel, Amaro, most unnaturally, will do so. Furthermore, if the picture refers to the Gospel story of the flight into Egypt, Amaro here represents Saint Joseph, in Catholic hagiography the patron saint of fathers, whose calendar day is celebrated also in Portugal as Fathers’ Day. That abnegated loving father of the New Testament, however, is overshadowed here by his alter ego, Amaro, in the novel not a loving and holy father but an infanticidal progenitor from hell. And in the context of the flight into Egypt, infanticidal fathers trigger associations with Herod, and beyond him, with murderous rulers or fathers of their people, be they popes, kings, ministers (is there a faint, fortuitous resemblance between Rego’s model and Salazar, fig. 3.18?) or even God himself, or all of them rolled into one.

62In the first version of Eça’s novel (1875) Amaro drowns his son with his own hands, a plot decision that was changed by the third version (1878), in which the murder was delegated to the killer nanny. In dramatic terms, the earlier version probably worked better, resulting as it did in the deed of a priest whose murder of his own son took the form of a grotesque simulacrum of the baptism ceremony he had been anointed to perform. On the other hand, the fact that in the third version of the novel his hands are technically clean of the crime, while his guilt remains nonetheless unquestionable, emphasizes the reality of indirect blame, which means that if Amaro is guilty of infanticide, so too, by association, are the massed powers of the various institutions that he represents, and which support him, cover up for him, endow him with authority and turn a blind eye to nannies whose charges invariably die the day they are handed to them (‘ “What do the authorities do about it, Dionísia?” Good old Dionísia shrugged silently’, Eça de Queirós (a), 448). Both the man and the establishment whose creature he is, thus become tarred with the same brush. In Rego’s image the figure of the priest, disproportionately large in relation to the kneeling girl and the baby in his arms, seems to reinstate the first version’s option of hands-on murder by the father, accentuating the guilt of kin-slaying. That same scale, moreover, suggests that what we view here is not merely a man but an emblem, a human being who synecdochically represents a greater institutional whole (patriarchy: Amaro-the-lover-and-father; the church: Amaro-the-man-of-God; and the state: Herod-the-King/Salazar-the-ruler).

Fig. 3.18 Manuel Anastácio, António de Oliveira Salazar (n.d.). Drawing. Wikimedia, CC BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Ant%C3%B3nio_de_Oliveira_Salazar,_drawing.jpg

Fig. 3.18 Manuel Anastácio, António de Oliveira Salazar (n.d.). Drawing. Wikimedia, CC BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Ant%C3%B3nio_de_Oliveira_Salazar,_drawing.jpg

63The more cryptic imagistic and compositional aspects of the picture potentially also give rise to heterodoxy. I refer here to the nature and size of the baby on man’s lap and the doll in the background, whose implications require the consideration of aspects of Catholic orthodoxy that these figures contravene in two ways: first, the picture depicts a scene forbidden under Catholicism, namely, a happy family life for a priest in reality vowed to celibacy; the second point refers to the problem presented by the concept of ghosts. Ghosts are not admitted in Catholic doctrine. After death one’s soul conventionally goes either to heaven or to hell, or, in the case of an unbaptized child, to Limbo. In the novel, Amaro and Amélia never hold their child in their arms together. Amaro briefly fantasizes about it, before handing his son over to death. In reality, however, the child is taken from his mother’s arms immediately after the birth and delivered by Amaro to his killer. Amaro and Amélia also never see one another again after the baby’s birth, since Amélia herself dies immediately afterwards. This picture, therefore, depicting as it does the tender threesome of a family that never was is both cruel and variously contumacious.

64And if this family tableau not only has no referent in reality but moreover does not take place in the novel, the pictorial alternative it represents here must be either a dream or a ghost story (involving the spectral return of Amélia and the infant, both dead). But ghosts conventionally only return to haunt those that murdered them. And if this picture refers not only to a murderous (Father) Amaro but also to that Holy Father — the pope whom Amaro dreamt becoming in the future — and beyond him to Joseph, patron saint of fathers, Salazar and Herod, fathers of their peoples, and God, father of them all, these male figures — both human and divine — stand indicted together under the same charge of collusion in each others’ crimes. As suggested before, the association between Amaro (the ambassador of Jesus), the pope (God’s Vicar on Earth), Joseph (the saint), Herod (the king), Salazar (the statesman) and God himself (the deity), would also explain Amaro’s colossal stature in Rego’s picture, out of proportion to the scale of the other human figures: namely Amélia (here seen kneeling, possibly in unsuccessful plea to God and Earthly rulers for her child’s life); the baby itself; and the enigmatic Barbie-doll-like angel in the background. The doll conjures up a further association with the voodoo doll in The Coop, symbol of another infant death on yet another ungentle lap. And that fact introduces the final paradox that this picture brings to light.

65The artist who in 1960 offered us Salazar Vomiting the Homeland (fig. 1.1) here charts the self-defeating modus operandi of a covenant of deities, patriarchs, fathers, priests and statesmen, the counterproductive consequence of whose deeds is the rupture of their own blood-lineage. In a country and in a theology where fathers, rulers, priests and gods loom so large and their sons (and daughters) so small, the outcome, not surprisingly, is a deconstructive contingency: namely the death of the Sacred Son at the hands of a short-sighted father, who thereby cancels his own bid for blood continuity and his ticket to immortality. In the next picture to be discussed, symbolic figures of power are transposed onto the wider representation of the nation itself.

66In The Company of Women (fig. 3.1) Paula Rego had rehearsed the plot of a man who fell prey to narcissism and lost his soul. In Mother (fig. 3.19) she recasts the plight of a nation with the same problem. The man is denied salvation because he is a bad priest, citizen, son and father. And the nation, because it carved out a sea-borne empire but lost its way.

67In Mother, man and nation are linked since Amaro is a man who regressively longs for a return to the watery, aquatic cosiness of the maternal womb (Horney, 1973; Chodorow, 1979; Dinnerstein, 1987) just as the nation he represents longs to resurrect those maritime adventures that, with the collusion of the church (new worlds to proselytize) had once gained an empire. In either case, what Paula Rego seems to be driving home with some relish is that you can’t go home again.

68Throughout the centuries, anti-imperial warnings were issued by some of Portugal’s most reputed writers, artists and historians. Figures such as Gil Vicente, Luís de Camões, Alexandre Herculano, Almeida Garrett, Oliveira Martins, Fernando Pessoa, Miguel Torga and Eça de Queirós himself argued with varying degrees of bitterness of the dangers of failing to construct a solid economic infrastructure at home independent of revenue from the imperial possessions abroad. For all the reverence in which they are held culturally, however, they remained curiously unheeded politically. Rego’s onslaughts against Atlantic expansionism fall within a time-honoured tradition in Portuguese cultural life. Like Eça de Queirós, her inspiration for this series, therefore, she belongs to a distinguished body of Portuguese intellectuals who, over the centuries, have strongly condemned Portugal’s colonial policy and advocated instead the desirability of a non-expansionist economic strategy of internal domestic development independent of colonial revenues. The link between Mother, Eça’s novel, and wider cultural and historical preoccupations, therefore, may be somewhat tortuous but is nonetheless valid. The shared leitmotif is the condemnation of empire and the attempted revival of the merits of staying home rather than going out to sea. Mother (fig. 3.19) contributes to a corpus of art works that are inscribed within that cultural tradition of dissenting (anti-imperial, anti-religion, anti-nationalistic) feeling, and, of all the pictures in the Father Amaro series, it speaks most eloquently to these concerns.

Fig. 3.19 Paula Rego, Mother (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.19 Paula Rego, Mother (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
  • 19 See chapter 5, footnote 1.

69At the emotional, as well as geometric centre of the image sits a large white conch that Paula Rego has said represents Portugal, the motherland. It is indeed altogether proper that the icon chosen to represent a nation that, for five centuries defined itself, first realistically and then nostalgically, as a sea-borne empire, should be represented by a sea-shell. As ever in Paula Rego, however, twisted perversity underlies apparently straightforward symbolism. Shells, though beautiful, are in fact part of the detritus that is left behind on the beach when the sea — or empire — has come and gone. They are what is left of certain crustaceans when the living organism has died and disappeared. The shell, therefore becomes the clever turning of the knife in the perennial wound of this beached post-colonial motherland, as grounded as the tiny boat whose minute scale emphasizes that to which it has been reduced: a knick-knack forgotten on a chair, rather than the unstoppable fifteenth-century caravela (ship) of the Portuguese maritime discoveries, forging a route, in Camões’ famous words, ‘through seas none had sailed before’ (Camões, 1572). The theme of vessels and sailors forced into early retirement carries echoes of a similar admonition in Time: Past and Present (fig. 1.8). Both share the undertone of cruelty with which the plight of former heroes and conquerors is depicted in these images. In Mother (fig. 3.19), the shell in question is a prickly one, a motherland possibly offended and poised to retaliate against her mismanaging sons and the policies deployed in her name to such disastrous historical effect. In this image the punishment, and its form, are rather toothsome: Amaro, half-naked man but also disrobed priest, represents the secular and spiritual concerns that in Portugal joined in unholy alliance what ought to have remained separate spheres of influence (family, church and state). He is surrounded by three women who may represent some of the reaches of the former Portuguese territories: a black woman in the centre, possibly representing the African possessions that Portugal occupied first and held onto the longest; an Indian woman on the left, representing the territories in the East Indies, the first to be lost,19 and a white woman kneeling on the right, representing perhaps Portugal itself, brought to its knees by the ruinous aftermath of its maritime adventures. Brazil, which famously, if inaccurately has folkloric pride of place in the popular imagination as the happy utopian racial synthesis of all three (black, white and Indian — albeit here American Indian: in Portuguese ‘índio’ rather than East Indian ‘indiano’), is significantly absent from this configuration. And at the centre of this worrying trinity stands Amaro, naked from the waist up, wearing a skirt from the waist down, and being dressed by the women. The implications of men being groomed by women in circumstances that thoroughly emasculate them have already been rehearsed, as we have seen, in paintings such 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), The Cadet and His Sister (fig. 2.9), The Policeman’s Daughter (fig. 2.13) and The Family (fig. 2.14). The skirt Amaro wears here is the same garment he wore in The Company of Women (fig. 3.1), in which the grown man, as we remember, stands in for the maternally-arrested little boy, and vice-versa. As in the former picture, here too, an important role is played by the mirror. Amaro dresses in what resembles a eunuch’s outfit, but is unable to look into the mirror or to find — in his manifold capacities as man, boy, priest and state dignitary — either his lost self or the image of the prickly, angry motherland.

70Art theory, in ways analogous to film theory, has suggested that the male nude in the Western aesthetic tradition is usually depicted in ways that emphasize the man’s control over his own body (for example through focusing on it while in action rather than in repose, and on its purposefully built-up musculature). The female nude, in contrast, is generally offered as the object of voyeuristic, presumed-male contemplation. Here, however, Amaro is himself the object of a fivefold gaze: ours, of course, those of the three women, and, more perversely, that of the mirror into which he himself does not look, but which reflects him. In the image in the mirror, moreover, he appears completely naked, since even the effeminizing skirt is not visible. The overall effect is that of a round-shouldered, bowed down, exposed Amaro. The mirror, site of a Freudian narcissistic love that seeks to substitute the self for the lost mother, and which here, like the camera, does not lie, is that into which one looks when one is caught up in the maelstrom of the self, narcissistically inwardly directed, rather than able to look outward, onward and forward (for example overseas). What it reflects back at the viewer is the plight of the man but also of the nation, through the metonymical agency of that pathetic little boat on the chair, against the backdrop of a window that ought to have a view out to sea, but does not. Here, then, is played out the comeuppance of those against whom the betrayed, wrathful motherland (and, shadowing her, numerous sidelined human mothers) raise their prickly hackles.

71The other image featuring a half-dressed Amaro is Perch (fig. 3.20). This picture, like The Company of Women (fig. 3.1) and Mother (fig. 3.19), not related to any specific episode in the novel, depicts Amaro barefoot and wearing a dressing gown, perched on an armchair. The pose is unnatural; the model, alone in the room, is possibly unstable and likely to fall, with all the metaphorical (Biblical, social or postural) associations of such an occurrence. There are many ways for men to fall, and women, as it turns out, whether in the Garden of Eden or in the artist’s studio, may after all be only partly responsible.

Fig. 3.20 Paula Rego, Perch (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 100 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.20 Paula Rego, Perch (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 100 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

The final three pictures I wish to discuss rework national and religious motifs somewhat more obliquely. Paula Rego has suggested that Amélia’s Dream (fig. 3.21) was inspired by a flashback in the novel, describing Amélia’s adolescent passion for a young man, Agostinho, whom she meets on a seaside holiday and by whom she narrowly misses being seduced in a pine forest by the sea. At the end of the holiday Agostinho moves on and later marries into money, leaving Amélia temporarily broken-hearted. In the catalogue to the exhibition in Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1998 Paula Rego writes that ‘in a pine forest by the sea, Amélia comes upon two women disembowelling a dog. They release a vulture. She does not want to join’ (Rego, 1998).

Fig. 3.21 Paula Rego, Amélia’s Dream (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 162 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.21 Paula Rego, Amélia’s Dream (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 162 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

This picture, one of the last in this series, is one of Rego’s most self-referential works, reflecting back upon formal as well as thematic propositions earlier in the artist’s career. Thus the dog being matter-of-factly eviscerated is clearly the unhappy descendant of the endangered animals in the Girl and Dog series of a decade earlier (figs. 1.13; e-fig. 6; e-fig. 7; figs. 1.21; 1.22; 1.23; 1.26–1.33), and is disconnected from the self-assured Dog Women of the mid-nineties, with whom the former clearly contrasted (fig. 1.12; fig. 6.14).

72The ballet tutus of the butchering damsels of Amélia’s Dream were themselves salvaged from earlier sketches for the Dancing Ostriches series of the mid-nineties (fig. 3.22).

Fig. 3.22 Paula Rego, Dancing Ostriches from Disney’s ‘Fantasia III (1995). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium. Triptych right panel 150 x 150 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.22 Paula Rego, Dancing Ostriches from Disney’s ‘Fantasia III (1995). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium. Triptych right panel 150 x 150 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

The metaphorical dance in question here, it would appear, takes place on the grave of the dog. The symbolism of the vulture that erupts from his ripped-up insides is cryptic. A vulture is a carrion beast that feeds off dead (possibly murdered) bodies, and therefore stands as the signpost for that murder, as well as the metaphor for its confession. Here the dog is at first glance the victim of a slaughter perpetrated by the two ostrich women. But the vulture that bursts out of gut may be the testimony to an earlier crime (his), whose secret the dog had harboured. A deathbed confession? A confession extracted under torture? Neither would be inappropriate, in the context of a set of pictures such as these, haunted by the dark manoeuvring of organized religion and their visual demolition. And if this reading is correct, the nature of the crime can be easily conjectured, both from the foregone narratives and in light of this animal’s habitual position in Rego’s private bestiary, being, as it is, the representative of a masculinity upon which female figures insistently wreak revenge.

73The women themselves, moreover, performing as they do the dual role of confessors and executioners, allude to the proclivities of the Inquisition in earlier times. Disturbingly, however, they simultaneously reverse the gender roles that more habitually cast men as the witch-hunters and women as the hunted. The link to a broader historical framework is here strengthened by the accompanying catalogue text and by the phantasmagorical backdrop. ‘In a pine forest by the sea’ carries an echo of national beginnings that lead vertiginously from this picture to the dysphoric end of empire discussed with reference to Mother (fig. 3.19). Pine forests are linked in the Portuguese imagination to the thirteenth-century king, Don Dinis, who greatly developed Portugal’s economic capabilities in the Middle Ages through agricultural policies that included establishing vast pine tree plantations in central and northern Portugal. Don Dinis, whose cognomen was ‘The Farmer King’, has been famously described as ‘the planter of future ships’ (Pessoa, 1992, 31). His forestation policy produced the timber from which two centuries later the ships of the navigators — the caravelas — would be built. Those trees, however, the rustle of whose needles ‘is the present sound of that future sea’ (Pessoa, 1992, 31), in Paula’s composition are as attenuated as the invisible sea at whose edge, according to her, they grow, and to which historically they reach out. Both sea and trees, therefore, as the objective correlatives of the maritime adventure, here become figments of a female imagination whose only concession to their existence paradoxically aims at emphasizing their insignificance. As author of her own catalogue text, we take the artist’s word for it that the trees figure in the picture. But their presence in reality appears to be confined to that text, with all the implications which that entails, bearing in mind the liberties this artist is prone to take with textual precursors, including possibly those of her own authorship.

74In the background of the picture, instead of the pine trees and sea, which are the caretaker symbols of the imperial adventure (and the site of Amélia’s near-seduction by Agostinho, Amaro’s precursor in love and desertion), we glimpse two spectral figures. They are two voices from the artist’s past, two belated ostrich women, just discernible in their trademark black tutus, the chorus in a picture of bacchantes making merry on the ruins of a variety of erased male dreams. In this picture, as in Departure (fig. 2.8), The Cadet and His Sister (fig. 2.9) and The Soldier’s Daughter (fig. 2.11), it is clearly no longer the case that men must work while women must weep. And towering above the overall composition stands the figure of an Amélia in childish dress and hair ribbon but with aggressively clenched fists, who, we are told ‘does not want to join in’ but looks on nonetheless. Just looking? Just following orders?

75The next picture, In the Wilderness (fig. 3.23) offers us another seascape populated not by conquering heroic males but instead by a solitary woman.

76The title suggests that she is usurping the role of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is both Everyman and like no other man. The female figure is Amélia, who, according to the catalogue write-up, is praying for help. The title of the picture refers us to the passage in the Gospels in which we read that Jesus, having been recognized by God as his son (‘this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3: 17) is ‘led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’ (Matthew 4: 1). He emerges triumphant from his forty-day ordeal to be acclaimed as the Son of God but also as the Son of Man.

77Aside from the implications of a gender-swap sacrilegious in its own right, and more emphatically even than in pictures such as Time: Past and Present (fig. 1.8) and Mother (fig. 3.19), this picture deploys a wild, untamed sea, disencumbered of men and ships. The only splash of colour stems from the incongruous little pink pig lost in a greyness of overcast dreams. In a Portuguese context, the misty seascapes recollect Don Sebastião, Portugal’s version of the myth of the once and future king, outlined in the Prologue. In the nation’s imagination, misty seaside dawns are first and foremost the metonymical trigger for nostalgia, recalling the disappearance of the king at Alcácer Quibir, the ensuing period of Spanish rule and the hope of the monarch’s return on a misty morning, to rescue the homeland and restore it to its former greatness.

Fig. 3.23 Paula Rego, In the Wilderness (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.23 Paula Rego, In the Wilderness (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

78In Paula Rego’s foggy seascape, however, the emptiness is absolute and does not bode well for pseudo-messianic returns. The nineteenth-century period dress of the kneeling woman also invites comment. Portugal’s imperial dreams, deflated in 1578 by the death of Don Sebastião, were revived in the 1870s in what became known as the project of the Pink Map (fig. 3.24). This referred to intended expansion in Southern Africa, aiming at bringing under Portuguese control all the land (coloured in pink in world maps) linking the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique in the East and Angola in the West . These territorial ambitions led Portugal into conflict with Great Britain, in what became that century’s scramble for Africa. In 1890 Britain issued Portugal with an ultimatum. The outcome, predictably in view of the former’s industrialized wealth and proportional war machine, was a climb-down on the part of the Portuguese, international humiliation abroad and an escalation of resentment against a weakened monarchy at home. The medium-term effect was severe popular discontent, arguably leading to the assassination of the king and heir to the throne in 1908 and the implantation of the Republic two years later. Following the Ultimatum, Portugal’s imperial ambitions were put on the back-burner for the following four decades, until revived by Salazar in the context of the political events discussed previously.

Fig. 3.24 The Portuguese project of Pink Map (‘Mapa Cor-de-Rosa’) (1886). Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Mapa_Cor-de-Rosa.svg

Fig. 3.24 The Portuguese project of Pink Map (‘Mapa Cor-de-Rosa’) (1886). Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Mapa_Cor-de-Rosa.svg

In In the Wilderness (fig. 3.23) the recumbent Amélia prays before a seascape that, for the Portuguese in the long term, proved to be an empty dream, and from which, in this image, (white) men and pink maps (but not satirical pink pigs) are excluded. Speculation regarding that farcical little animal is cut short by the artist who, in conversation, claimed she included it because ‘it just happened to be lying around in the studio’. Quite so, and Sigmund Freud aside, for those wary of over-interpretation, a cigar sometimes is just a cigar. Nonetheless I will venture that for all its incidental meaninglessness, the pig here, as in The Maids (fig. 1.4) invites association with that animal’s generic function as avatar of the artist and mouthpiece of authorial judgement. ‘People have to work out their own story’ (Rego, quoted in Lambirth, 1998, 10).

  • 20 Interestingly in English the expression denoting a matter so uninteresting as to warrant no discuss (...)

79Returning to the title of this picture, from the Gospels we know that after Christ’s forty days in the wilderness, ‘the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him’ (Matthew 4: 11). In the Father Amaro series, Angel, one of Paula Rego’s most powerful works to date is, in her own words, ‘both guardian angel and avenging angel. Her mission is to protect and to avenge. She carries the symbols of the Passion, the sword and the sponge. She has appeared and she has taken form and we don’t know what comes next’ (Rego, 1998). What indeed? What we do know is that according to Rego, this particular angel is definitely female, unlike those traditional beings (Michael, Gabriel) who, notwithstanding their dresses, are male:20

Fig. 3.25 Gaspar Dias, The Appearance of the Angel to St. Roch (c. 1584). Oil on panel, 350 x 300 cm. Church of St. Roque, Lisbon. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Apari%C3%A7%C3%A3o_do_Anjo_a_S%C3%A3o_Roque_Gaspar_Dias.jpg

Fig. 3.25 Gaspar Dias, The Appearance of the Angel to St. Roch (c. 1584). Oil on panel, 350 x 300 cm. Church of St. Roque, Lisbon. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Apari%C3%A7%C3%A3o_do_Anjo_a_S%C3%A3o_Roque_Gaspar_Dias.jpg

Fig. 3.26 The Archangel Gabriel (Power of God) (1729). Marble. Chiesa dei Gesuiti, Venice. Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Interior_of_Chiesa_dei_Gesuiti_(Venice)_-_Center_of_the_transept_-_Archangel_Gabriel.jpg

Fig. 3.26 The Archangel Gabriel (Power of God) (1729). Marble. Chiesa dei Gesuiti, Venice. Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Interior_of_Chiesa_dei_Gesuiti_(Venice)_-_Center_of_the_transept_-_Archangel_Gabriel.jpg

Fig. 3.27 Paula Rego, Angel (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

Fig. 3.27 Paula Rego, Angel (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.

In conversation with Paula Rego at a stage when this picture was only sketched and destined to undergo considerable modifications, she intended to call it Amélia’s Revenge. It is perhaps typical of this artist that an image of retaliation should be translated into the deceptive vocabulary of angelology, while in fact retaining all the menace of the original concept. The danger is twofold. First, gender antagonism (love turned to hatred, in an echo of the artist’s unsettling admission of perplexity faced with the Amélia of the novel: ‘I find that curious: a woman who can love a man until the very end’ (Rego, quoted in Rodrigues da Silva, 1998, 10). And second, a threat to Catholic orthodoxy, since the ambiguously-sexed angel of convention is here categorically depicted as female but simultaneously linked, via the sword and the sponge, with Christ at the moment of the Passion, which is the moment of his greatest divinity and greatest humanity. In that earlier conversation Paula Rego suggested that this figure represents both Amélia herself and the angel that appears in her room after she dies. The angel bears the Arma Christi (weapons of Christ or instruments of the Passion), the phallic sword or lance that wounds and the sponge dipped in vinegar from which he drank on the cross.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. […] But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (John 19: 28–34)

  • 21 In Isaiah, 14: 12, nonetheless, Lucifer is definitely a male angel: ’How art thou fallen from heave (...)

In Rego the symbolism is both secular (Amélia) and celestial (angelic), both lacerating (the sword) and soothing (the sponge). During Christ’s crucifixion, tradition tells us, the sponge was dipped in vinegar. Vinegar may be drunk, but if used to wipe wounds it both disinfects and stings. The Portuguese version of ‘being cruel to be kind’ translates as ‘burning before healing’ (‘arder para curar’). The angel bearing sword and sponge epitomizes that requirement of being cruel in order to be kind. On the other hand, not inconceivably in the case of this artist, and as was the case with those earlier ministering girls and suffering dogs, cause and effect may be reversed, with apparent kindness masking intended cruelty. In this good-cop-bad-cop universe, angels have Janus faces, and may after all, modified titles notwithstanding, symbolize any number of unspecified retributions. If so, the impetus for Amélia’s revenge might lie in the provocation instigated by a religion, Judaeo-Christianity, which from its inception has always readily blamed the female of the species (‘the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate’, Genesis 3: 12). And the agent of that revenge, altogether properly, turns out to be a combination of a Fallen Angel (Lucifer, son of the morning)21 and (because this is Rego) an unequivocally female one.

  • 22 In the 1950s it was decided that the term ‘colonies’, with its inflammatory potential, should be of (...)

80Post-imperial Portugal is a nation in the grip of enduring contradictions: mariological reverence side by side with enduring chauvinism; pro-European modernism hand in hand with Atlantic imperial nostalgia; nouveau-democracy in the face of ingrained civic discrimination. The latter allegation requires some elaboration. The Portuguese fixation upon its lost empire, in the aftermath of the independence of its remaining colonies at the end of the twentieth century, has coexisted with ongoing resentment against the last generation of empire builders, who in 1975 descended upon the European motherland to what at best was a chilly welcome from those who had stayed home. The economic difficulties resulting from the loss of colonial revenue in 1975 were compounded by the arrival in the space of less than two years of one million Portuguese citizens from the erstwhile African colonies, as well as a few rare black holders of Portuguese passports. The longing for the lost empire — which endures to this day in Portugal, with considerable lack of historical self-reflection and proportionate political incorrectness regarding the moral implications of imperialism — goes hand in hand with two social phenomena: institutional racism against the scarce black incomers from those former Portuguese ‘provinces’,22 and a persistent resentment against the white so-called retornados (returnees) who had been the keepers of the imperial goose with the golden eggs. To a greater or lesser degree — largely depending on skin colour and more or less obvious hallmarks of difference — almost half a century later, both groups continue to suffer from discrimination in their land of origin or post-colonial adoption. The lack of self-knowledge evinced by a longing for empire that runs in parallel with a hatred of empire-builders (white colonials) and empire-fodder (colonized black people) is aggravated in the case of a country such as Portugal, whose dominant religion has always been wary of gnosis. The self-insight that Paula Rego seeks to impose upon her fellow countrymen through her art, therefore, may be interpreted as a case of administering to the nation a taste of foreign (pagan) medicine as preached by the oracle at Delphi: ‘know thyself’.

Notes

1 e-fig. 9 Paula Rego, Centaur (1964). Collage and oil on canvas, 140 x 139 cm. Casa das Histórias, Cascais, Portugal, all rights reserved. Posted by Martin Gayford, ‘Remarkable and powerful — you see her joining the old masters: Paula Rego reviewed’, The Spectator, 22 June 2019, https://www.spectator.co.uk/2019/06/remarkable-and-powerful-you-see-her-joining-the-old-masters-paula-rego-reviewed/

2 See footnote 7.

3 Alfredo Campos Matos, Dicionário De Eça De Queirós (Lisbon: Caminho, 1993).

4 Until a recent translation by Margaret Jull Costa, the title of the novel was usually rendered as The Sin of Father Amaro rather than the actual The Crime of Father Amaro: a clear instance of inexcusable translator liberty, since in the novel Amaro is both a sinful priest and a murderous one. In the first version of the novel he murders his newborn son with his own hands although by the third version he contracts out the killing to someone else. In the English exhibition and catalogue Rego opted for the term ‘Sin’.

5 Page numbers in translated quotations refer to the original passage in the Portuguese text, in the edition detailed in the list of works cited at the end of this book.

6 Eça did in fact write a novel involving mother-son incest, which was only published posthumously as A Tragédia da Rua das Flores (The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers). Instead, in his lifetime he published what is generally regarded as his greatest novel, Os Maias (The Maias) of 1888, which included brother-sister incest.

7 José Maria Eça de Queirós, O Primo Basílio (Cousin Basílio) (Lisbon: Livros do Brasil, s.d.). With reference to Cousin Basílio, a novel published in 1878 while he was still working on revisions to the third version of The Crime of Father Amaro, Eça wrote the following: ‘Cousin Basílio represents above all a small domestic tableau which will be very familiar to anyone acquainted with the Lisbon middle classes: the sentimental lady, uneducated and not even spiritual (because she is no longer really Christian; and as for the sanctions of justice, she is completely unaware of them), destroyed by romance, lyrical, her temperament overexcited by idleness and by the very objective of Peninsular marriage, which is lust, made nervous by lack of exercise or moral discipline, etc., etc. In short, the downtown bourgeoise. On the other hand her lover […] a cad without passion nor any justification for his tyranny, who seeks nothing more than the vanity of an affair and love free of charge. Then we have the housemaid, full of secret rebellion against her condition and thirsty for revenge. […] A society based on these premises is not on the path of truth. It is a duty to attack it. […] My ambition is to portray Portuguese Society such as it has emerged from Constitutionalism since 1830 […] and show it, as if upon a mirror, what a sad country they are, both men and women. […] It is essential to needle the official world, the sentimental world, the literary world, the agricultural world, the superstitious world […] and with all the respect due to institutions which are eternal, to destroy false interpretations and achievements as instituted by a rotten society’. Eça de Queirós, letter to Teófilo Braga from Newcastle, 12 March 1878, in Obra Completa (Porto: Lello & Irmão, 1979), III, 517.

8 José Maria Eça de Queirós, Os Maias (Lisbon: Livros do Brasil, s.d.).

9 José Maria Eça de Queirós, A Tragédia da Rua das Flores (Lisbon: Livros do Brasil, 1984).

10 José Maria Eça de Queirós, ‘Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loira’ in Contos (Porto: Lello e Irmão, s.d.).

11 A Tragédia da Rua das Flores, op. cit.

12 It is worth noting, however, that there is a rich history of Judith being celebrated in religious festivals, art and music as a holy figure.

13 The Sin of Father Amaro (London: Dulwich Gallery catalogue, 17 June-19 July 1998).

14 The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/7sorrows.htm#7. See also Introduction, footnote 11.

15 Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984).

16 e-fig. 10 Paula Rego, Annunciation (1981). Collage and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 250 cm. Posted by Cave to Canvas, https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4a/de/b4/4adeb42a69e4a06df9ca617140898be1.jpg

17 Under Roman Catholic rules a priest is only allowed to approach a woman in childbirth to administer the last rites to her.

18 e-fig. 11 Paula Rego, Pendle Witches (1996). Etching and aquatint on paper, 35.7 x 29.7 cm. Tate, London, all rights reserved, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/rego-pendle-witches-p77906
In 1996, just one year before The Crime of Father Amaro series, Rego created nine illustrations for poems by Blake Morrison, whose work has repeatedly inspired her (for example her series on the Pendle Witches, inspired by the famous witch trials in Lancashire in 1612, in which twelve women were tried for witchcraft).

19 See chapter 5, footnote 1.

20 Interestingly in English the expression denoting a matter so uninteresting as to warrant no discussion is ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ but in the equivalent in Portuguese refers to speculation on ‘the sex of angels’.

21 In Isaiah, 14: 12, nonetheless, Lucifer is definitely a male angel: ’How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!’

22 In the 1950s it was decided that the term ‘colonies’, with its inflammatory potential, should be officially changed to ‘overseas provinces’ (províncias do ultramar).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 3.1 Paula Rego, The Company of Women (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 170 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 59k
Titre Fig. 3.2 Paula Rego, The Cell (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 160 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Fig. 3.3 Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing (c. 1665). Oil on canvas, 45 x 39.9 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Johannes_Vermeer_-_A_Lady_Writing_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 23k
Titre Fig. 3.4 Paula Rego, The Ambassador of Jesus (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 180 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 51k
Titre Fig. 3.5 Paula Rego, Girl with Gladioli and Religious Figures (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 160 x 120 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 46k
Titre Fig. 3.6 Paula Rego, Crivelli’s Garden (left-hand panel) (1990–1991). Acrylic on paper on canvas, left panel, 190 x 240 cm. Sainsbury Wing (brasserie), National Gallery, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 37k
Titre Fig. 3.7 Paula Rego, Lying (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 100 x 80 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Fig. 3.8 Paula Rego, Girl with Chickens (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 80 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 43k
Titre Fig. 3.9 Paula Rego, Looking Out (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 34k
Titre Fig. 3.10 Paula Rego, Joseph’s Dream (1990). Acrylic on paper on canvas, 183 x 122 cm. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 38k
Titre Fig. 3.11 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Two Women at a Window (c. 1655–1660). Oil on canvas, 125.1 x 103.5 cm. Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Bartolom%C3%A9_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_014.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Fig. 3.12 Paula Rego, The Coop (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 150 x 150 cm. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 38k
Titre Fig. 3.13 Francesco Solimena, The Birth of the Virgin (c. 1690). Oil on canvas, 203.5 x 170.8 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:The_Birth_of_the_Virgin_MET_DT11676.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 32k
Titre Fig. 3.14 Paula Rego, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 170 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 58k
Titre Fig. 3.15 Fra Bartolomeo, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1509). Oil on panel, 129.5 x 106.7 cm. J. P. Getty Centre, Los Angeles. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Fra_Bartolomeo_-_The_Rest_on_the_Flight_into_Egypt_with_St._John_the_Baptist_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Fig. 3.16 Orazio Gentileschi, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1625–1626). Oil on canvas, 137.1 x 215.9 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Orazio_Gentileschi_-_Rest_on_the_Flight_to_Egypt.JPG
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 30k
Titre Fig. 3.17 Nicolas Poussin, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1627). Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 62.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:The_Rest_on_the_Flight_into_Egypt_MET_DT4169.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 32k
Titre Fig. 3.18 Manuel Anastácio, António de Oliveira Salazar (n.d.). Drawing. Wikimedia, CC BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Ant%C3%B3nio_de_Oliveira_Salazar,_drawing.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Titre Fig. 3.19 Paula Rego, Mother (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 47k
Titre Fig. 3.20 Paula Rego, Perch (1997). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 120 x 100 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 39k
Titre Fig. 3.21 Paula Rego, Amélia’s Dream (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 162 x 150 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Fig. 3.22 Paula Rego, Dancing Ostriches from Disney’s ‘Fantasia III (1995). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium. Triptych right panel 150 x 150 cm. Saatchi Collection, London. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 50k
Titre Fig. 3.23 Paula Rego, In the Wilderness (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Titre Fig. 3.24 The Portuguese project of Pink Map (‘Mapa Cor-de-Rosa’) (1886). Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Mapa_Cor-de-Rosa.svg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 18k
Titre Fig. 3.25 Gaspar Dias, The Appearance of the Angel to St. Roch (c. 1584). Oil on panel, 350 x 300 cm. Church of St. Roque, Lisbon. Wikimedia, public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Apari%C3%A7%C3%A3o_do_Anjo_a_S%C3%A3o_Roque_Gaspar_Dias.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Fig. 3.26 The Archangel Gabriel (Power of God) (1729). Marble. Chiesa dei Gesuiti, Venice. Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/​wiki/​File:Interior_of_Chiesa_dei_Gesuiti_(Venice)_-_Center_of_the_transept_-_Archangel_Gabriel.jpg
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 30k
Titre Fig. 3.27 Paula Rego, Angel (1998). Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, 180 x 130 cm. Photograph courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art, all rights reserved.
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/9761/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 19k
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