We see a beautiful woman, with lush red hair, floating effortlessly, gazing ahead in an attitude of easeful melancholy. The airline artist has recruited Dante Rossetti’s 1877 Mary Magdalene, with perhaps an ironic nod to Botticelli’s Venus, as the heroine of our worst-case scenario. Thus the “fallen woman” motif is reimagined in the most urgent terms: this airline Magdalene is a woman who has quite literally fallen. And this is where we find her, floating in limbo, clutching a lily-white life preserver to her breast (instead of a vase, as in the 1877 portrait). Like Rossetti’s romantic Pre-Raphaelite Magdalene, this woman’s lowly state serves only to magnify her elemental beauty. Here she is, Our Lady of the Plane Crash. “I will make you fishers of men,” says the Christ. “We will rescue you in any corner of the globe,” says a Pan Am safety card. The fallen woman will not remain cast away forever—and, if we follow her lead, the artist assures us, neither will we. It is a pretty vision of earthly salvation.
(via The Hairpin)