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 De Morgan’s The Hour Glass (above).
Her hand rests on the hour glass. Does she reflect on the time that has passed or how much she has left? De Morgan’s work is filled with symbolism and I enjoy the fact that some if it is on the floor, reminiscent of Holman Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience — a dying rose and a book entitled ‘Mors Janua Vitae’ or Death is the Portal of Life. Tapestries adorn the background, an allusion to Jane Morris’ work with embroidery.
I find Jane beautiful in The Hour Glass. It’s a shame we as a society fear aging so much. We have this need to pretend, to botox wrinkles into submission. Last year, I happened upon some videos of myself and my children that I hadn’t seen for quite a while. It was fun to revisit those golden days when my children were babies. At the same time, it was like looking at a stranger. I remember the days perfectly, but I was seeing myself from the outside. Somehow, I wasn’t fully me yet. Stephanie was not yet fully cooked.
Am I fully cooked now? No, but I have a feeling of empowerment that I definitely did not have in my twenties or even early thirties. I sometimes find myself thinking about moments where I held myself back or allowed others to control me. Lately, I like to end those memories by looking myself squarely in the eye and saying “I’m ready to be me now. Unabashedly me.” I’m forty-two and I’m proud of it. I can’t wait to see who I am at fifty-two and seventy-two and eighty-two. I shall have a day when I can sit resplendent on a throne, gowned à la Jane Morris and look back on my time with my own hour glass.
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” —Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
Constantly bombarded with modern images telling us what aging should be, we can look to Jane in The Hour Glass and know that beauty in aging is not necessarily about appearance. It’s about the attitude and the ease that comes from being comfortable with one’s self. It is a gift to be able to make peace with your decisions and know that when you look back on your life, warts and all, it was a life well lived.
“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”–Agatha Christie