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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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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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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Lamia, seductive and monstrous

Seen above is Lamia, the Serpent Woman by Anna Lea Merritt.  Be wary of her beauty, for she means to consume you. In mythology, Lamia is a mistress of Zeus and her affair with him angered Hera so much that she transformed Lamia’s children into monstrous beings.  Grief-stricken, Lamia devours any child she finds, thus…
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The lure of water-women

In Rossetti’s 1853 drawing Boatmen and Siren, one of the boatmen is captivated by the siren, but is saved from certain death by his companion.  The accompanying inscription was written by Jacopo da Lentino, a Italian poet of the Rennaissance era whose work was translated by Rossetti in The Early Italian Poets: I am broken,…
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Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus

There are many artistic representations of Circe.  Previous posts on this blog include Circe Invidiosa and The Wine of Circe.  Kirsty Stonell Walker explores Circe more deeply in her post Snowdrops, Swine and Seductive Sorceresses. I’ve been looking at mirrors in Pre-Raphaelite art in my previous posts.  In Il Dolce Far Niente and Viola, the…
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Medea

Medea by Frederick Sandys Sandys portrays Medea as a powerful beauty and I especially love the abalone shell included among the other details of the painting.  She’s wearing a coral necklace mentioned in my post Rossetti and his baubles and in these posts at The Beautiful Necessity: The Pre-Raphaelites and “Hippie” Beads and Hippie Beads…
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Circe Invidiosa

Waterhouse is an adept at blending feminine beauty and mystery.  Here he depicts the goddess Circe amidst shades of greens and blues, creating a world that draws us in and mesmerizes.   If you really look at this painting, you can feel yourself transported into Circe’s world:  you can hear the water echoing through a secluded grotto. …
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Sidonia von Bork by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

The intricate pattern of Sidonia’s gown is amazing. Painted in 1860, Sidonia von Bork is an early watercolor by Burne-Jones and is based on the book Sidonia the Sorceress.  Burne-Jones used model Fanny Cornforth (a Rossetti favorite) to portray Sidonia.  We see her standing in profile, apparently lost in thought while plotting and scheming.  In…
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Lucrezia Borgia

I believe the model to be Fanny Cornforth. According to the Tate, Rossetti repainted her face several years after completing the painting. The tale of the Borgias captivated Rossetti. Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) was the member of a ruthless political family. Her father Rodrigo Borgia eventually became Pope Alexander VI. We see her in Rossetti’s painting…
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