Not in thy body is thy life at all

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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Signs of Life

In 1865, Dante Gabriel Rossetti orchestrated a series of images of Jane Morris to be photographed by John Robert Parsons.  While they are all interesting and beautiful to me, my favorite is the one above for one reason:  that scarf. There’s a gauzy scarf that is seen repeatedly in Rossetti’s works.  Here’s just a few…
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Tragic Lovers

Early Death by Elizabeth Siddal Oh grieve not with thy bitter tears The life that passes fast; The gates of heaven will open wide And take me in at last. Then sit down meekly at my side And watch my young life flee; Then solemn peace of holy death Come quickly unto thee. But true…
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A Rossetti Reading List

I’ve been re-reading Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Family Letters, edited by his brother William Michael Rossetti.  I was struck by this passage about DGR’s reading habits.  First of all, I love William Michael’s descriptors.  Saying Rossetti ‘drunk deep of an author’ and ‘surged through its pages like a flame’ presents a reading life that mirrors the…
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On Suicide

Friends sometimes say it’s strange that I can simultaneously be optimistic and bubbly while also being captivated by art filled with melancholy and death.  I’m not sure how to answer except to say that I consciously choose to embrace life to the fullest and believe that my positive mindset is one of my strengths.  But I’ve also encountered death, pain, and trials in my life that have helped me understand how fleeting it is.  I want to experience it…
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Happy Birthday, Dante Gabriel Rossetti!

Today marks the anniversary of Rossetti’s birth in 1828.  A founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti’s works capture his unique view of beauty.  His paintings of women during the latter stage of his life are often criticized for their unusual physical attributions: elongated necks, cupid bow lips, and  languid gazes.  And, of course, all…
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“A study of varied greens”

“The girl is in a sort of passionate reverie, and is drawing her hand listlessly along the strings of a violin which hangs against the wall, while she holds the bow with the other hands, as if arrested by the thought of the moment, when she was about to play.  In color, I shall make…
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Exploring La Bella Mano

Iconic Pre-Raphaelite paintings like Millias’ Ophelia, Rossetti’s Proserpine, or practically any Lady of Shalott garner a lot of attention.  (Rightly so.)  Of course, there are also several works that might not capture your eye right away when you see them in books or online, but in person they captivate you so unexpectedly and completely that…
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In a World of Her Own

I’ve seen  Pre-Raphaelite paintings  of women  dismissed as ‘languid’ or ‘vapid’ and many critics view them as sensual images created solely for the male gaze. That’s a fair argument, of course, but I feel it’s a point of view that barely scratches the surface. To me, Pre-Raphaelite women are not shallow objects of beauty, but…
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Music is Hope

Have you ever noticed that Pandora is a lot like Eve?  Eve is to blame for being cast out of Eden, Pandora is to blame for unleashing evil into the world. Both stories can be ways to judge women harshly for their curiosity and instinctive need to pursue knowledge. Yet if Pandora is to be…
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Circe the Enchantress

The works of John William Waterhouse often blend feminine beauty and mystery.  Above is Circe Invidiosa, his depiction of the goddess Circe. With a sumptuous  blend of greens and blues, he created a world that draws us in and mesmerizes. It’s as if you can feel yourself transported into Circe’s world. You can hear the water…
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Aesthetic Vampirism

Literature is filled with fictional portraits. Visual art and the written word can intertwine in glorious ways. Dorian Gray’s mysteriously aging painting springs to mind and both the image of Lady Audley in Lady Audley’s Secret and descriptions of art in The Woman in White are excellent examples of Pre-Raphaelite principles used within a novel….
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Goblin Market

“We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits:” Written in 1859 by  Christina Rossetti (sister to Dante Gabriel Rossetti), Goblin Market is a narrative poem of two sisters who encounter temptation. It is a complex poem–almost too complex to delve into for a blog post simply because it is hard…
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A Primordial Venus

I’ve written about Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting Astarte Syriaca (1877) more than once on this blog, saying in Those Rossetti Lips:  She could totally crush you.  It’s a powerful painting, one of my favorites. I realize that it may not be to everyone’s taste. Especially if you are not already a Rossetti fan, it could come…
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Menacing Beauty

“There’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck.” – Radiohead, “There, There” Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse depicts a scene from Jason and the Argonauts.  Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas, who was killed in battle by Herakles.  Herakles then raised Hylas as his own. Known for both his striking beauty and his…
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Painting the Soul

At the age of twenty-one, Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote the short story Hand and Soul, which was published in The Germ, a short-lived magazine created by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.    Not only does the story  offer a glimpse into the young Rossetti’s beliefs and aspirations  but it seems to be the only work of fiction…
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Marigolds, Sacred Flowers for the Dead

Our Halloween revelry is over and now we honor our ancestors with the Day of the Dead.  Throughout Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.,  this is Dia de los Muertos, a special event that focuses on togetherness of family and friends and honoring those who have passed on.  It is a beautiful way to honor the…
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Halloween, Pre-Raphaelites, and Keats

I think Sir John Everett Millais’ painting Speak! Speak! is a perfect Pre-Raphaelite image to share on Halloween.   The ghost of a bride appears to her love.  He reaches out to her, urging her to speak. It’s a haunting image and the concept had been on the artist’s mind for forty years before he…
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Victorian Murder

In 1857, a twenty-two-year-old woman stood trial in Glasgow for murdering her former lover. It was the cause célèbre of the day and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti declared her too beautiful to be executed whether she was guilty or not, saying, “you wouldn’t hang a stunner!” (‘Letters of DG Rossetti’, Atlantic Monthly vol. 77) Rossetti…
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The Diaries of William Allingham

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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