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The Portrait of a Lady

The Portrait of a Lady

by Henry James

Art, objects

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

We encounter many collectors of beautiful objects in this novel – Ralph, Osmond, and Rosier in particular – and their attitudes towards the artifacts that they collect extends into their human relationships. Women are often seen as things of beauty that these men long to possess, and Isabel, Pansy, and Madame Merle are all represented as works of art at various points in time. Osmond is the master collector, and his view of both his daughter and his wife is limited to a relationship between possessor and possession – a view that grates against Isabel’s beliefs.

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