To See the Gorgon’s Head

aspectamedusa

Medusa was once a beautiful maiden who was transformed by Athena into a Gorgon.  Of all three Gorgons, Medusa alone was mortal.  Her hair was a mass of writhing serpents.  One look upon her face would turn you to stone. Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, avoided Medusa’s deadly gaze by viewing her reflection in…
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Veronica Veronese

Veronica_Veronese

“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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I stretch my hands and catch at Hope

'Pandora' (detail), Dante Gabriel Rossetti

According to myth, after Prometheus stole fire from the gods, Zeus wanted to punish mankind. He ordered Hephaistos and other gods to create a woman that they would endow with gifts and beauty. Hephaistos created her lovely form; the Four Winds breathed life into her. Her beauty was given to her by Aphrodite. Zeus bestowed…
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Music in The Bower Meadow

'The Bower Meadow', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

For years, when I would see this piece I would focus on the women in the foreground. What’s their story? They play music and dance, yet there is a sense of sadness. Each of them looks in a different direction. They are in a group, but they seem alone.   Now my focus has shifted…
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Exploring Rossetti’s Home

'D.G. Rossetti and Theodore Watts-Dunton in the sitting room at Cheyne Walk.  Watercolour by Henry Treffry Dunn

“I was ushered into one of the prettiest and most curiously furnished old-fashioned parlours that I had ever seen. Mirrors and looking-glasses of all shapes, sizes and design lined the walls. Whichever way I looked I saw myself gazing at myself.”–Recollections of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his circle (Cheyne walk life), Henry Treffry Dunn. Henry…
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Her enchanted hair

Lady Lilith, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1868

And  her enchanted hair was the first gold./And still she sits, young while the earth is old –from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sonnet Lady Lilith Lilith appears here with pale skin and clad in a white gown, making her luxurious hair the most vivid thing in the room.  In this painting, Dante Gabriel Rossetti is not…
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Katabasis: Descend into Hell

'Proserpine', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

After my recent post on Dante’s Divine Comedy, I’ve been thinking about metaphorical descents into the Underworld.  The rather beautiful Greek word for descent is katabasis, usually used to describe a hero’s journey into the underworld on a quest of some sort.  It’s a journey seen in not only a  variety of myths, but multiple…
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La Mandolinata

La Mandolinata, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

La Mandolinata is an excellent example of opulence in jewelry in Rossetti’s work.  Complementing her brocade gown, we see that familiar spiral hair pin set among strands of pearls. (I love pearls in Pre-Raphaelite art.  See The Pursuit of Pearls and More Pre-Raphaelite Pearls) The necklace is similar in style to the one seen in Rossetti’s…
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Shades of Dante

'Paolo and Francesca de Rimini', Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Victorian poet, painter and co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, grew up in the shadow of Dante Alighieri.  Although he lived several centuries before, Medieval poet Alighieri was a permanent fixture in the Rossetti household. Rossetti’s father, Professor Gabriele Rossetti, was an Italian expatriate who came to London in 1824. He was a…
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Forbidden Fruit

Mauvais Sujet is not your stereotypical, chocolate-box-pretty Victorian portrait.  She’s almost uncomfortable to look at, as she is both very young and very sensual. On her desk you can see her name, Mary, scrawled in a childlike hand.  The childish scrawl is a direct contrast to her adult, knowing look.  I think it’s safe for us…
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Poppies: Sleep, Death, Remembrance

The Tower of London is marking the centenary of World War I with a breathtaking art installation called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by artist Paul Cummins.  The installation will include total of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each flower representing a British military fatality from WWI.   The tradition of using poppies for remembrance of those…
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Don’t look back!

Orpheus was given his lyre by the god Apollo and it was the Muses that taught him how to play.  His gift for music enchanted all living things: wild beasts, trees and even stones.  After his journeys with the Argonauts, Orpheus married his love Eurydice.  When Eurydice died from a snake bite, grief-stricken Orpheus felt…
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Ulalume

As I mentioned in Rossetti and the art of death, Edgar Allan Poe was a great influence on DGR’s work. The Raven is a prime example of Poe’s poetry influencing Rossetti’s.  It was a catalyst for The Blessed Damozel, where Rossetti reversed the conditions of The Raven in order to tell the story from the deceased lover’s…
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Rossetti and the art of death

“It is a subject from an old story of mine — a woman dying while her lover is painting her portrait”  (Dante Gabriel Rossetti) This is a story of beauty, art, and death. The study for Bonifazio’s mistress captures a scene from Rossetti’s story St. Agnes of Intercession.  It was intended to be published in…
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