The Diaries of William Allingham

William Allingham reading.  Painted by his wife, artist Helen Allingham.  Visit the Helen Allingham Society.

If you’re interested in studying the Victorian era seriously, then diaries and letters are important.  At times I feel like a 21st-century snoop, devouring personal journals and private correspondence whenever I get the chance.  Through contemporary accounts, the past may not always come alive but it shines through the mist more clearly.  The diaries of…
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Botanical Paintings: My Top Picks


An  important hallmark of Pre-Raphaelite art is truth to nature.  Of course, there are many reasons why the art of the Pre-Raphaelites is so visually striking.  Their subject matter often illustrates a compelling narrative,  the vibrant hues they used results in a visually arresting effect that commands attention, and who can resist the beauty of…
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The Symbolism of Lepidoptera

'The Hireling Shepherd', William Holman Hunt

Truth to nature was one of the main tenets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and an excellent example of this can be seen in the Death’s Head moth in William Holman Hunt’s painting The Hireling Shepherd (above).  I’ve blogged about it many times before; it’s part of my Shakespeare post that I share yearly on the…
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Embracing Dante Alighieri

'Giotto painting the portrait of Dante', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight path was lost”  So begins Dante’s journey through Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (purgatory), and Paradiso (paradise).  His travels through these  three areas of the afterlife make up La Divina Commedia, the Divine Comedy.  I came to the…
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#WombatFriday: Miniature Rossetti, Jane, and Pandora


Inspired by artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s passion for wombats, every Friday is Wombat Friday at Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. “The Wombat is a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness!” ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti This delightful Rossetti and Jane Morris figurine is available from a company called Department 56. I purchased mine on Amazon: Pandora (For a…
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The Unique Beauty of Rossetti


I often see criticism of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s work that describes his paintings of women as masculine. Some people see Rossetti’s frequent depictions of elongated necks and broad shoulders and are instantly dismissive. This is not a conventional beauty, they think, this is not a goddess. The fact that Rossetti’s paintings of women fall outside…
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sonnet Life-in-Love fascinates me, especially when read with knowledge of two great loves in his life: Elizabeth Siddal and Jane Morris.   The first two lines suggest that his deceased lover’s life has somehow migrated into the body of his new love: Not in thy body is thy life at all/But in…
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Rossetti’s Models

The Bower Meadow, 1871-72, Oil on Canvas

Like his Pre-Raphaelite brethren, Dante Gabriel Rossetti used live models in his works.  Throughout the course of his career, the same faces grace his canvasses, ranging from family members to lovers.  Occasionally, models Elizabeth Siddal and Alexa Wilding are confused for each other. Other models may be misidentified completely. so this post is intended to…
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Burne-Jones’ “Bogey Drawings”


“I do not know exactly where to place a class of drawings for which Edward was famous in our closest circle. We called them “Bogey drawings”, and they dealt fearlessly with the fearful subject. We shuddered and laughed as we saw the old fears of our childhood embodied in the march of a Bogey up…
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Sighting: Pre-Raphaelite art in Law and Order: SVU


New addition to the Unexpected Pre-Raphaelite Sightings page. Season 17, episode 1 of Law and Order: SVU included Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Belcolore and Lady Lilith.  It’s not a spoiler to tell you that the art in the killer’s home reflects his obsession with red hair.  

Images of the Annunciation


Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portrayal of the Annunciation is a continuation of the theme begun in his painting The Girlhood of Mary Virgin.  The moment that Mary learns she is to give birth to the Christ child has been depicted in art frequently since the Middle Ages. Rossetti’s Ecce Ancilla Domini is shockingly intimate in comparison.  We see…
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Art of the Story


In a post a few years ago, I said that my love of Pre-Raphaelite art probably stems from my lifelong love of stories.  Much of the Pre-Raphaelites’ work presents a narrative often inspired by literature and myth.  I have noticed recently that a number of Victorian artworks are not just the telling of a story,…
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Oracles and Sibyls

'Sibylla Palmifera', Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Model: Alexa Wilding

sib·yl: noun a woman in ancient times supposed to utter the oracles and prophecies of a god. literary a woman able to foretell the future. Sibyls appear often in art and fiction and I find them indicative of female power and mystery. They represent arcane knowledge of the future, usually sought by someone on an…
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Did Elizabeth Siddal inspire Bram Stoker?

Photograph of Elizabeth Siddal

In the early years of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, artist Walter Deverell discovered Elizabeth Siddal working in a millinery shop.  After modeling for his painting Twelfth Night, Siddal posed for several Pre-Raphaelite painters, including William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais.  It was the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was captivated by her. He drew and…
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Supernatural

'How The Met Themselves', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Pre-Raphaelites sought fidelity to nature in their works, recreating the natural world with painstaking attention to detail. They did not, however, limit themselves to realistic subjects.  Their paintings often placed supernatural or fantasy subjects from mythology and literature into realistic settings. Such depictions with their vivid hues and photographic realism resulted in works that were…
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A #WombatFriday for Poe


Inspired by artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s passion for wombats, every Friday is Wombat Friday at Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. “The Wombat is a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness!” ~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti Edgar Allan Poe died October 7th in 1849, quite soon after the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed.  Poe was a huge inspiration for poet…
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Hide Me Among the Graves


Tim Powers doesn’t write about your run-of-the-mill vampires.  His undead may feed upon you, but in return they will inspire words and poetry that you could never have written before.  I found Powers’ mythology to be a refreshing twist.  In Hide Me Among the Graves, the artistic Rossetti family deals with the vampiric curse of…
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Autumnal Beauty

Autumn Leaves, Sir John Everett Millais, circa 1856

I’m particularly happy to welcome Autumn this year, with its crisp breezes and the promise of adventure.  Autumn Leaves, painted by Sir John Everett Millais, is a wonderful example of the beauty I find in the season.  It is an impressive example of a Pre-Raphaelite twilight and Millais has captured an unmistakable Autumn glow.  His…
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Proserpine and Blogging About Art

'Proserpine',  Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting Proserpine is an arresting and visually striking work.  Blogging about it once has never been enough; it resurfaces in my posts again and again. The myth of Proserpine/Persephone is a story that resonates with me on multiple levels, so I think that in writing about it I am attempting to explore…
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Book review: Ophelia’s Muse


The romance of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal lends itself well to fiction. It’s a story that has it all: beauty, pathos, and the synergy of artistic creation that flowed between them. Author Rita Cameron’s new book Ophelia’s Muse tells the story of Elizabeth Siddal’s discovery by the Pre-Raphaelite circle and how it led…
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The bias against Fanny Cornforth

'Hope' (unfinished) Sir Edward Burne-Jones

Sir Edward Burne-Jones used Fanny Cornforth as a model for his unfinished painting, Hope,  above.  Although incomplete, it remains one of my favorite paintings of Fanny.  As Jan Marsh points out in Pre-Raphaelite Women: Images of Femininity in Pre-Raphaelite Art, in Hope it is possible to ‘appreciate the ‘fine regular features’ that attracted so many admirers before her…
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Art is a Mirror

'I am Half-Sick of Shadows', Sidney Harold Meteyard

When I was fifteen years old, my father taught me how to drive.  I was eager yet scared; I couldn’t believe that I had actually passed the test to get my learner’s permit. Dad wanted to give me ample opportunity to practice before beginning Driver’s Ed at school so we drove together often.  He’d pick…
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