Rego, Paula

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary II


Dimensions: 440 x 570mm
Medium: Etching with Aquatint
Format: Framed
Edition size: 50
Date: 1989

Paula Rego’s first major set of original prints was the Nursery Rhymes series of 1989, which includes 31 astonishingly elaborate and inventive etchings and aquatint, showing her to have completely mastered the medium and used it to give fresh visual expression to the traditional rhymes collected in Iona and Peter Opie’s Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. Among the images that ‘illustrate, embellish, adapt or subject [the rhymes] totally’ (TG Rosenthal, Paula Rego: the Complete Graphic Work, p. 26) is Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary II, one of two interpretations of this popular rhyme, which according to the Opies was based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, and on Catholicism, with the ‘pretty maids’ representing nuns, and the cockleshells emblematic of pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. In Rosenthal’s words, ‘Both rhyme and interpretation seem tailor-made for Rego with her jaundiced eye for the foibles of the religious. A child-sized gardener with an adult’s spade has a wholly adult mien with her lantern-jawed profile. The silver bells litter the ground like discarded Christmas tree decorations. The little arch…is made of cockleshells as well as ammonites.’ The maids loom in the background, like topiary. ‘We can see why the slightly sardonic Mary is not only quite contrary but also quite pleased with herself.’

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