As a English Victorian painter, George Frederic Watts became famous for his allegorical works. This painting is called Sympathy, and is part of an epic symbolic cycle called the House of Life, in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language.
Often, something concrete used as symbolism can be somewhat ambiguous. Here it is “sympathy.” One must look for the clues. We start with the sensory impressions. Do we find any metaphysical, political, or social connotations? Does it evoke immense and unfathomable things? Or, is something revealed about human nature by the way the character responds to the symbol?
Why ask these question? Because, Symbolism above all asks the question: What if? It doesn’t focus upon real situations that can be observed and compared to it.
What I see is--possibilities. And for some reason, I think of Madame Bovary. This is how I imagine she looks.
This painting evokes creativity and depth, once we speculate, imagine, and wonder.
Alas, when Modernism arrived, Watts’ reputation declined. Virginia Woolf's comic play Freshwater portrays him in a satirical manner.