Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Art in focus: 'The Empress'

In standard Tarot, 'The Empress' is one of two female archetypes, the other being 'The High Priestess', who represents the mysterious, Unknown side of female nature, while the Empress represents the 'other side' of female nature. Femininity, fertility, abundance, motherhood, and creativity are all associated with the Empress. She is the embodiment of Mother Nature following the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth and reminding us of the importance of nature in our lives.

In most depictions of 'The Empress' she is a strong, queen like figure. Originally in Marseille Tarot many aspects are akin to 'The Emperor', however as time has progressed many depictions have focused on the symbolism of 'The Empress' far more, drawing on her connections with nature and fertility, sometimes portraying her as with child, or as in Rider Waite a goddess like figure of nature, covered in and surrounded by imagery relating to harvest, fertility and abundance.

When designing my Empress quite quickly I had a clear idea about her concept and how I wanted to portray her. I really wanted to emphasise the connection between the Empress and nature, that they are totally at one and reinforce her 'Mother Nature' persona. The most logical and interesting way to do this (to my mind) was to directly connect the figure of the Empress to the earth. The landscape flows into her, and she into the landscape. They are seamlessly connected signifying their bond, unity and that her fertility is tied to the land. With this in mind I started to sketch my Empress, hair and dress flowing into the landscape, with no beginning or end. She is a goddess of nature and this is the powerful, bountiful, glorious image I wanted to portray. I also decided to place the empresses hands over her womb to signify fruitfulness and fertility. She is bare chested to express her bountiful body and nature. This also reinforces her strength of character and the natural form of her own body. Her dress/the fields, are blooming with flowers, again to reinforce her abundance and fruitfulness. The simple design of the flowers was inspired by the Simbelmynë from Tolkien's Middle Earth, which grew on the tombs of ancient ancestors in Rohan.
Most versions of The Empress feature a crown as a main element of the Empress, suggesting her status and importance. But I wanted my imagery to tie more with nature and its power than material wealth, so I chose to crown my Empress with Simbelmynë flowers and a wreath of leaves, reaffirming her status as the empress of the earth.
Her throne is of simple design and natural materials. The wood is solid and represents natures support, and the gold represents the sun and it's fertility, as well as a halo to elevate the spiritual status of the Empress.
The distant mountains, which are not connected to the Empress directly, but are part of her world and the landscape of her life are related to the Emperor card, which is connected closely and follows the same theme of emanating from the earth, as the Emperor erupts from the distant mountains, strong and hard.

I enjoyed developing 'The Empress' and portraying a very different image of women to 'The High Priestess', though I know which category I fall into!


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