In particular I examined a little known painting by the Victorian artist John Collier called The Death of Albine (1895).
The painting takes as its subject the bizarre suicide of the female protagonist of Zola’s novel, The Sin of Father Mouret (1875). In the novel, Albine, an innocent and uneducated village girl, fills her bed with flowers and suffocates, intoxicated under an intense cloud of scent. She is heartbroken as her lover, the devout curate Père Serge Mouret has forsaken her – and returned to the cloth and his beloved idol of the Virgin Mary. In a scene of frantic intensity, Albine plunders her beloved gardens of Paradou of all its blossoms, heaping great mounds of petals and blossoms about her room, until the bed is ‘completely buried …under hyacinths and tuberoses’ and the mattress ‘overflows on all sides’ with streams of flowers trailing to the floor.’ Only when the boudoir is decked with roses, violets, carnations, stocks, primroses, heliotropes and lilies - flowers of every kind - and she has sealed her tomb, cramming aromatic herbs into ‘every crack’ and ‘every hole in the door and windows’ does she arrange herself on her bed 'to die with the flowers'.