Sheridan Le Fanu

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The Portrait of Countess Mircalla Symbol Analysis

The Portrait of Countess Mircalla Symbol Icon

The son of the picture cleaner delivers a number of restored portraits to the schloss one evening, and among them is the portrait of Countess Mircalla, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Carmilla. Previously smudged and damaged beyond recognition, it has now been restored so that every last detail may be observed. Laura is struck by the portrait and its likeness to Carmilla, asking if she can hang it in her room. The portrait represents the version of Carmilla to which Laura is attracted—the young, beautiful, and innocent aristocrat—while hiding the darker side of Carmilla that frightens her. At the same time, the portrait gestures towards Carmilla’s true nature—the portrait has no frame, for instance, which is indicative of the inability to truly restrain Carmilla. So, as Laura attempts to control the image of Carmilla by hanging the portrait in her room and reducing her to an object on her wall, she is actually holding onto the proof of Carmilla’s wickedness.

The Portrait of Countess Mircalla Quotes in Carmilla

The Carmilla quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Portrait of Countess Mircalla. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Wildside Press edition of Carmilla published in 2000.
Chapter 5 Quotes

“And you asked for the picture you think like me, to hang in your room,” she murmured with a sigh, and let her pretty head sink upon my shoulder. “How romantic you are, Carmilla,” I said. “Whenever you tell me your story, it will be made up chiefly of some one great romance.”

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), Carmilla (speaker)
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Portrait of Countess Mircalla Symbol Timeline in Carmilla

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Portrait of Countess Mircalla appears in Carmilla. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Class and Class Warfare Theme Icon
...who sits back apathetically) crowd around as he unpacks the paintings, which are mostly old portraits that have been restored. The paintings have been sent to them by Laura’s mother’s family,... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Love and Lust Theme Icon talk with the son of the picture cleaner. Laura continues to gaze upon the portrait  in wonder, and she asks if she can hang it in her room. Carmilla, meanwhile,... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Upon closer examination, Laura and her father realize that they’re not looking at a portrait of Marcia Karnstein, but of Mircalla, Countess Karnstein. Carmilla reveals that she is descended from... (full context)
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
Love and Lust Theme Icon
...delighted by her company. Carmilla draws her closer, happy that Laura asked to hang the portrait that resembles her in her room. Laura tells Carmilla that she is sure that Carmilla... (full context)
Chapter 13
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Recognizing the name, Laura’s father asks the General if he would like to see the portrait they have of her back at the schloss. The General replies that he has seen... (full context)