The Woman in White

The Somnambulist  by Sir John Everett Millais is a captivating image and many speculate that it is inspired by the Wilkie Collins novel The Woman in White.  Millais was a close friend to both Wilkie Collins and his brother, artist Charles Collins.  The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, written by the artist’s son,…
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Aspecta Medusa

Medusa was once a beautiful maiden who was transformed by the goddess Athena into a Gorgon.  Of all three Gorgons, Medusa alone was mortal.  Her hair was a mass of writhing serpents and a glimpse of her face would turn you to stone. Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, avoided Medusa’s deadly gaze by viewing…
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On Aging

Jane Morris was swept into the Pre-Raphaelite world at age eighteen.  She was La Belle Iseult to William Morris, who declared “I cannot paint you; but I love you”. Then she was Pandora, Mnemosyne, Astarte Syriaca and other assorted goddesses to Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Years later, after the Pre-Raphaelite bloom had faded from her cheeks, we see Jane on canvas again in Evelyn…
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A Pre-Raphaelite Look at Hitchcock’s Vertigo

Warning: This post contains spoilers. If you have not seen Vertigo, you might want to back away slowly because I do not want to ruin your experience You have been warned. “Do you believe that someone out of the past, someone dead, can enter and take possession of a living being?”–Gavin Elster to Scottie in…
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Autumn Inspires

I find Autumn to be healing.  Life takes on a distinctive flavor and the speed may be different, but the possibilities are endless.  It’s an inspiring season that delights the senses with colors and smells in a way I find comforting.  It’s no wonder that many artists and poets have paid homage to it in…
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#WombatFriday: Rossetti’s Menagerie

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 T-Dub knows all about Rossetti’s wombats, but today I thought he might like to learn about the rest of the exotic menagerie of…
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Roman Widow

  A beautiful Roman widow plays music beside her husband’s urn.  According to Walker Art Gallery, the marble cinerary urn is based on one Rossetti owned and the instruments were from Pompeian wall paintings.  While I don’t know exactly which images Rossetti used as his source, I did find this fresco from Pompeii via Wikimedia Commons:…
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Exploring The Portrait

The Portrait is a poem I’ve wanted to write about for a while now, because writing about things is how I unpack and explore them.  One thing I love about poetry, though, is its prismatic quality.  The facets I see may not be what you see, but if we compare notes then new colors emerge….
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The Imprisonment of Pia

In 1868, Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted Jane Morris as La Pia de Tolomei.  Pia appears in Canto V  of Purgatorio in the Divine Comedy. Pia’s story is a sad one. Dante encountered her during his journey through Purgatory, where she remains since she has died without absolution.  She says to Dante “remember me, the one who is Pia; Siena made…
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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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