There are two possible interpretations to this wonderful piece of art.
The first is based on Swedish lore and says that the dragonfly is the devil’s instrument to weigh the soul.
Moreover the girl’s eyes are not defined, and as with Modigliani (who wouldn’t paint the model's eyes unless he saw her soul), so it is with Larissa.
The soul would therefore be the pivotal point of the painting. The immortal essence of the being, the psyche, anima, nephesh, atman, that which gives life.
What is it that Larissa wants to tell us?
Is this magnificent painting a comment on the soulless lifestyle of young girls in the Tudor ages, without a life of their own, in the hands of fathers or tutors and sold by the pound to the highest and most advantageous bidder? Or is it a warning not to throw our lives away, along with our soul, that will inevitably be weighed and measured in order to determine the future path of our afterlife that the girl seems to stare into with her vacuous, unattentive and stray gaze?
The second interpretation is highlighted in Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem The Two Voices, in which a dragonfly is described as coming out of its ugly larval exoskeleton and becoming the beautiful creature we see depicted in Larissa’s painting, embracing the girl’s waist and lying on her most creative and fecund centre.
“...Today I saw the dragonfly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew…”
The transformation from ugly duckling to swan, from an uncharming child to a young woman blossoming into life as symbol of beauty, grace and fertility.
Whichever interpretation one wishes to embrace, it is indubitable that this painting is a formidable work of art.
The composition is simple, the subject is centred and symmetrical in every part except for the girl’s left hand, raised to her heart, as if to underline that the real nucleus of life is the heart. The fingers also point to the only note of pure light - her white Elizabethan ruff - which frames the neck and emphasizes the predominance of the head and the mind, completing the symbolism representing the genuine essence of a true woman.
The girl’s dress is painted in the warmer colours of the spectrum in strong contrast with the magnificently bright and complementary hues of the dragonfly that together create a deeply hypnotic and alluring effect.
Larissa Davatz has created a masterpiece of visual beauty and significance and we are extremely lucky to be able to admire and experience it in all its magnificence.