The Red Hair – Portrait of Miss Davison by Sir John Everett Millais

Portrait of Miss Davison by Sir John Everett Millais (Via Sotheby's)
Portrait of Miss Davison by Sir John Everett Millais
(Via Sotheby’s)

Porcelain cheeks, chubby little arms, and round dark eyes like marbles. Miss Davison poses with the discipline and the confidence of an adult. As she plays and learns all day long, her tutors, instructed by her parents, give her the highest level of education, including outstanding behaviour, good manners, and impeccable posture.

Today, she was caught by surprise. She had no idea she would have to pose. Dressed in a white crinoline dress, the one that has ruffles on the sleeves and has a large cuff on the hemline, she was sat on the golden and red embellished stool, given a doll and an accordion to play with. Her red straightened hair has been enhanced with a velvet blue bow by one of the nurses, Ursula. Her mother too, has the same hair colour, always trying to cover it with hats and scarfs, something Miss Davison never understood. She once asked Ursula, “Can I have a hat too, to cover my red hair like mother?”. With sadness and compassion for the child she almost considered her own, Ursula replied that her hair is a treasure, unique and coveted. “You should be proud of your hair, they are a gift from G.od and will protect you forever”.

At times, an introvert, others times, an attention seeker, Miss Davison has had a difficult time realising her mother was not Ursula. She was given to the nurse only a couple of a second after she was born, Mrs Davison being too exhausted to hold her new-born baby.
One day, she will be forced to leave the house and enter one of the residencies for ladies, where they are taught to become women in order to evolve into the Haute Bourgeoisie where they belong. Ursula prepares her little Miss Davison for this day. Fragile and over sensitive, she fears she will not handle the outside world, the competitiveness of the other girls, and the demanding hours preparing to find a wealthy husband to ensure her life is comfortable with money.
Although she has been brought up in mundane protocols since she was born, Miss Davison, in the eyes of her second mother, Ursula is different. She will always shave the stare of the painting: intrigued yet haggard, graceful and unique, just like her red hair she will proudly sport throughout the rest of her life.


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