|Marie–Denise Villers: "Young Woman Drawing" (1801)|
From the Met's Heilbrunn Timeline.
There are several things that I love about this chapter that I haven't seen sufficiently appreciated elsewhere. One is its summary of the dynamic between Emma and Harriet through the metaphor of artist and subject—Emma trying to craft the raw material of Harriet into whatever she likes, not necessarily a faithful representation of what Harriet actually is. This subplot of Emma is the grandparent of Shaw's Pygmalion: a comic drama concerning how much a person's social habits can be changed when elevated from one social stratum to another, where the stakes are the potentially devastating consequences of failure in the form of hybridity—being comfortable neither in one environment nor the other, with all suitable matches lost in the process.