Madeleine Lemaire. Ophelia, 1880's.

The Ophelia of Madeleine Lemaire, painted in the 1880's, presents a strikingly different interpretation of the character. Breasts bared, she looks lasciviously into the distance as she steps into the stream. One has little doubt that this Ophelia's madness is related not just to grief but to frustrated sexuality. Dijkstra says that Lemaire

depicted Shakespeare's heroine in the precarious, tottering stance introduced a century earlier by Sir Joshua Reynolds in certain of his full-length studies of society ladies. In addition, she placed her, as was generally customary, among the reeds and flowers at the water's edge. But what was far from customary was that she made Ophelia leer with the glowering light of a vampire in her eyes, thus emphasizing the sexual origin of her madness--an aspect further accentuated by the very undecorous fashion in which her dress has slipped off her shoulders to reveal her breasts. Male painters, in contrast, preferred to show Ophelia fully clothed to emphasize the heroic nature of her choice of madness and death over a state of dangerous arousal. (44)