The Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse painted the artwork entitled Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may in 1909. This painting was inspired by Robert Herrick’s seventeenth-century poem called “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” that features the title of the painting as the first phrase and continues speaking of the flower and the concept of life and death.
In April of 2007, a British multinational corporation called Sotheby’s valued Waterhouse’s work at over 2 million dollars. Curiously, the painting was lost for about a century but found in a farmhouse in Canada. A couple bought the house and kept the painting that was already hanging inside. It was only after thirty years that they had an art dealer look at it. No one knows how the artwork ended up in that location.
In “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” Herrick was speaking of the brevity of life and is considered one of the most famous poems to deal with the notion of carpe diem – meaning to live in the moment and for the moment. The concept of carpe diem originates from the Horace, a Roman lyric poet from the Augustus period. Waterhouse’s interpretation of the poem resulted in the painting Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may which depicts two women picking rosebuds in a beautiful field.
The central figure of the work is the woman in a light pink dress, standing in the forefront of the composition. She is bending down to pick the flowers with one hand, while holding a bundle of small violet, red, and white blossoms over her belly, along with a brown scarf which is wrapped around her waist. She has light skin, and her dark hair is wrapped in a bun. The other woman is slightly to the back, seen to the left of the composition. She is also leaning down to reach colorful blossoms but is facing forward. She has red-orange hair that complements her blue dress. Both models are seen barefoot.
The background shows a breathtaking landscape with a peaceful river, many large trees and a purple-blue sky on the horizon. There are two other women seen in the distance, also picking flowers. The top part of the canvas is rounded like an arc, giving this artwork a unique touch, as if looking out a window.
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