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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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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Why write about Pre-Raphaelite women?

I receive many positive emails through this blog because, for the most part, people in the world are great.   The negative ones stand out, though, and occasionally eat at me. In a recent message, someone (I assume not a regular reader of this blog) questioned my feminism because I am devoted to Pre-Raphaelite art….
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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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Life-in-Love

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

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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Proserpine and Blogging About Art

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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Unconventional Beauty

Author Henry James had seen Rossetti’s paintings of Jane Morris during a visit to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s studios.  Upon seeing Jane in person, he had this to write: “A figure cut out of a missal – out of one of Rossetti’s or Hunt’s pictures – to say this gives but a faint idea of her,…
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The Unrequited Love of Mariana

Above is Sir John Everett Millais’ painting Mariana, which I’ve blogged about before in this post. Her dress is bluer than blue, the stained glass is exquisite, but let us have a moment of silence for the little mouse who died for Millais to include him in the work. When Millais first exhibited this painting…
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101 years ago today, Jane Morris died

Today marks the anniversary of Jane Morris’ death 101 years ago. Wife of William Morris, she was immortalized on canvas repeatedly by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Here’s the post I wrote last year: 100 years after her death, Jane Morris continues to inspire. Also written last year, The Hour Glass: On Jane Morris and Aging. A…
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Shades of Dante

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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Rossetti’s Day Dream

One of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s last paintings shows Jane Morris in a world of green.  She’s surrounded by foliage, seemingly lost in a day dream while her book lies ignored on her lap.  Her hand loosely holds a honeysuckle. Jane is  clad in a similar dress to the one she wore in Proserpine, where she is…
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What is the “Pre-Raphaelite Woman”?

Women are central figures in Pre-Raphaelite art and this has given us the concept of a “Pre-Raphaelite Woman”. I frequently see the term ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ in occasional news articles, usually describing an actress or singer with long curly hair.  Florence Welch is often described as Pre-Raphaelite and it’s definitely a look she has embraced. But was there…
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The Hour Glass: On Jane Morris and 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.  And years later, after the Pre-Raphaelite bloom had faded from her…
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100 Years After Her Death, Jane Morris Continues to Inspire

Jane Burden and her sister Bessie were attending a theatre performance when they were spotted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones.  When Gabriel asked Jane to model for them, her initial answer was yes–although later she failed to appear.  Burne-Jones was apparently able to convince Jane and her family that their intentions were respectable…
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Water Willow

Water Willow is one of my favorite depictions of Jane Morris by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Her face has a tender, graceful appearance. The setting is sentimental; DGR and Jane used to take walks in the area around Kelmscott.  Kelmscott Manor can be seen in the left top corner of the canvas, Kelmscott church is in…
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The Art of Slumber

The Sleeping Model by William Powell Frith is a work that I find incredibly interesting. The tedious act of sitting for the artist has caused the model to fall asleep. Undeterred by her slumber, he paints her face as if she is awake. The mannequin sprawled in the corner behind her seems curiously alert. It’s…
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Those Rossetti Lips

One of my favorite details in Rossetti’s Proserpine is that her lips are painted almost the exact shade of the pomegranate.  Those luscious, cupid’s bow lips and the elongated neck are indicative of Rossetti’s later style.  It was a time in his life when he was plagued with mental health troubles and personal drama, yet…
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The Handwriting of Jane Morris

You may remember Dutch artist Margje Bijl from my previous blog posts about her project “Reflections on Jane Morris”. If you’re not familiar with her yet, let me introduce you to her. I believe she has an uncanny resemblance with Jane Morris, the Pre-Raphaelite muse who lived from 1839 till 1914. As I described in…
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Roman Widow (Dis Manibus)

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: Most…
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