Images of Guinevere

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Arthur’s Tomb The Last Meeting of Lancelot and Guinevere, 1854, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Medievalism grew in popularity early in the nineteenth century England and had a definite influence on William Morris especially, who even rode a horse in a toy suit of armor as a child.

It is interesting that the story of Lancelot and Guinevere can be seen as a parallel to the story of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Both were entranced by the same woman, and although Jane married William, their triangle was never fully broken.

Morris painted Jane as Guinevere the year before they were wed.  Previously, this painting has been known as La Belle Iseult and is the only known painting by Morris to have survived.  His poem The Defence of Guinevere was quite popular on publication.

Queen Guinevere, painted in 1858 by William Morris

Queen Guinevere, painted in 1858 by William Morris

We see Guinevere in her bedchamber.  Her face is stoic while she dresses and the bed-clothes are rumpled enough so that we have little doubt as to the activity that has taken place.

Stained glass window of Guinevere, designed by William Morris:

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Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (mentioned here previously) illustrated Guinevere in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King:

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Brickdale shows Guinevere in her old age, living out her days as a nun

One of my favorite images of Guinevere comes from Julia Margaret Cameron, who photographed a series of  Arthurian-themed portraits to illustrate Idylls of the King:

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8 thoughts on “Images of Guinevere

  1. Beautiful post, Stephanie! I think that Brickdale’s art is so distinctly feminine… Obviously, she espouses the Pre-Raphaelite maxims, even if she is two(?) generations younger than the founders of the Brotherhood. I wonder if they would have accepted women in their “Brotherhood”, but this means that they would have had to change the name, too…
    “The parting of Lancelot and Guinevere” by Cameron is one of my favourite images, too, due to its overflowing emotion.

  2. I loved reading about Guinevere today. I thought it would be appropriate to share this poem by Sara Teasdale, “Guenevere.”

    I was a queen, and I have lost my crown;
    A wife, and I have broken all my vows;
    A lover, and I ruined him I loved: —
    There is no other havoc left to do.

    A little month ago I was a queen,
    And mothers held their babies up to see
    When I came riding out of Camelot.
    The women smiled, and all the world smiled too.

    And now, what woman’s eyes would smile on me?
    I still am beautiful, and yet what child
    Would think of me as some high, heaven-sent thing,
    An angel, clad in gold and miniver?

    The world would run from me, and yet am I
    No different from the queen they used to love.
    If water, flowing silver over stones,
    Is forded, and beneath the horses’ feet
    Grows turbid suddenly, it clears again,
    And men will drink it with no thought of harm.
    Yet I am branded for a single fault.

    I was the flower amid a toiling world,
    Where people smiled to see one happy thing,
    And they were proud and glad to raise me high;
    They only asked that I should be right fair,
    A little kind, and gowned wondrously,
    And surely it were little praise to me
    If I had pleased them well throughout my life.

    I was a queen, the daughter of a king.
    The crown was never heavy on my head,
    It was my right, and was a part of me.
    The women thought me proud, the men were kind,
    And bowed right gallantly to kiss my hand,
    And watched me as I passed them calmly by,
    Along the halls I shall not tread again.
    What if, to-night, I should revisit them?
    The warders at the gates, the kitchen-maids,
    The very beggars would stand off from me,

    And I, their queen, would climb the stairs alone,
    Pass through the banquet-hall, a loathed thing,
    And seek my chambers for a hiding-place,
    And I should find them but a sepulchre,
    The very rushes rotted on the floors,
    The fire in ashes on the freezing hearth.

    I was a queen, and he who loved me best
    Made me a woman for a night and day,
    And now I go unqueened forevermore.
    A queen should never dream on summer eves,
    When hovering spells are heavy in the dusk: —
    I think no night was ever quite so still,
    So smoothly lit with red along the west,
    So deeply hushed with quiet through and through.
    And strangely clear, and deeply dyed with light,
    The trees stood straight against a paling sky,
    With Venus burning lamp-like in the west.

    I walked alone amid a thousand flowers,
    That drooped their heads and drowsed beneath the dew,
    And all my thoughts were quieted to sleep.
    Behind me, on the walk, I heard a step —
    I did not know my heart could tell his tread,
    I did not know I loved him till that hour.
    Within my breast I felt a wild, sick pain,
    The garden reeled a little, I was weak,
    And quick he came behind me, caught my arms,
    That ached beneath his touch; and then I swayed,
    My head fell backward and I saw his face.

    All this grows bitter that was once so sweet,
    And many mouths must drain the dregs of it.
    But none will pity me, nor pity him
    Whom Love so lashed, and with such cruel thongs.

  3. I love the work you’ve done here. Btw, to the best of my recollection, a shot in Werner Herzog’s 1979(?) film Nosferatu virtually replicates the William Morris painting of Guinevere in her bedchamber.

  4. HELP!
    Sorry if this has nothing to do with this post, but I need help to find a particular preraphaelite painting: I don’t remember the name of the artist nor of the painting, but, in my memory — which could be flawed — the painting features Lancelot, on the right, dressed in red, standing on stairs, and holding Guinevere’s hand. Guinevere is dressed in blue and is standing in front of a door, on the step in front of Lancelot, and is turning his back on him.
    Please if you know the name of the artist and the painting, I’d be very grateful if you could help me! I’ve been looking for this painting since yesterday and can’t find it anywhere 🙁

  5. Does anyone know who the model was for Edmund Blair Leighton’s “The Accolade” 1900? This may sound terribly vain, but Guinevere looks exactly like me…to the shock of many a shopkeeper (and myself the first time it was pointed out to me) whose store I’ve been in when that poster has been hanging on the wall. there seems to be virtually nothing about E.B. Leighton on the internet or in book form…

    Thanks

  6. Pingback: Les légendes arthuriennes | Littérature chez les Préraphaélites

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