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"Two Strings To Her Bow", by John Pettie, 1882
("Two strings to one's bow" is a traditional English proverb, and also puns on "beau" here.)
This Victorian "genre" painting depicts a Regency (early 19th-century) young lady delighted at being the focus of attention of two rival "beaux" (handsome potential suitors), and even seeming to enjoy playing them off against each other. It would probably have struck a somewhat false note (with respect to the prevailing standards of 1882) for a Victorian artist to portray a contemporary respectable Victorian young lady uninhibitedly rejoicing in playing such a game (unless the illustration was didactically disapproving); but by moving it back to the Regency, it all somehow became quaint and historical, and the artist was freed from any perceived necessity to offer a moral lesson. (In Pettie's painting, the bodice of her dress and the sharp vertical creases spaced widely around the hem are not really authentic Regency styles.)
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