Fishergirl – 14 February 2022
Above a sandy promontory, a fisher-girl stands holding the hand of a young boy. In her right hand and resting on her shoulder are her nets, around her shoulders hangs a basket for her catch of fish. She and the boy, most likely a brother, are barefoot on the sand. The wind is blowing, the movement caught by clothing and the fishing nets.
In placing the figures high up, raised from the bottom of the picture, there is an enhanced sense of perspective. The sea and the coast line lie below, in the distance. The girl has a far view, out to the sea. The wistful turn of her head suggests a long perspective in life for someone still young.
This picture is offered in contrast to the picture of the fishermen last week. Here it is children that are off to catch fish. The tone of the picture is such that we know that what might seem like play is also about the provision of food.
The painting is ‘Fishergirl of Picardy’ (1889) by Elizabeth Nurse, found in the Smithsonian. This is a posed picture, carefully constructed. The Smithsonian website comments: ‘In the summer of 1889, Elizabeth Nourse travelled with her sister Louise and their Cincinnati friend Anna Schmidt around northern France. It was a bitterly cold day when Nourse painted this scene, and Anna later wrote: “I was with Elizabeth when she painted that girl on the Etaples Dunes — it was so cold and windy the model used to weep.” The model’s pink cheeks and limbs suggest the discomfort of the blustery coastal air that particular day.’
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.
I went fishing
Took some bait.
Didn’t go early,
Didn’t go late.
Caught eight fishes
To put in my pail.
Seven were mackerel,
But the eighth was a whale.
The seven were easy
To put into the tin,
But that whale caused me trouble
Before I packed him in!
Took my catch home.
What did mother say?
‘Get those eight fish out of here –
We’re having steak today!’
I walke and fisshe Cristen mennes soules
To yelden Jhesu Crist his propre rente;
To sprede his word is set al myn entente.”
I walk and fish Christian men’s souls
To pay Jesus Christ his proper income;
To spread his word is set all my intention.
Chaucer, Summoner’s Tale