Why write about Pre-Raphaelite women?

'The Hours', Sir Edward Burne-Jones

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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Celebrating Elizabeth Siddal

Photograph of Elizabeth Siddal

On this day in 1829, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall was born (she dropped a letter L from her name when she became an artist).  I write about her frequently on this site; she’s a woman I admire immensely.  You can visit my other site, LizzieSiddal.com to see a timeline of her life, view her paintings, and…
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Lizzie Siddal: Love and Hate

Elizabeth Siddal as Ophelia, painted by John Everett Millais. See Ophelia's Flowers

Many people hear about Elizabeth Siddal through dramatic anecdotes of her life, such as the serious illness she suffered as a result of  posing in a bathtub for Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (above). In 1860 she married artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and died a mere two years later of a laudanum overdose.  The fact…
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The Valkyrie’s Vigil


Seen above is The Valkyrie’s Vigil by Edward Robert Hughes. Valkyries have been described as ‘dark angels of death’, ‘choosers of the slain’ and ‘spirits of slaughter’.  These battle maidens appear on horseback with swords drawn, ready to guide those chosen to die to Valhalla. Usually depicted as warlike and strong, the Pre-Raphaelite-influenced works of…
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Lamia, seductive and monstrous

Lamia, Herbert James Draper

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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Pan, Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Detail from Arthur Rackham's illustration of Pan from The Wind in the Willows

Above is a detail from Arthur Rackham’s illustration of Pan from The Wind in the Willows. I first became enchanted by Pan when, as a little girl, I read The Wind in the Willows. I was in love with that book from the moment Mole became fed up with his spring-cleaning, left his hole, and met…
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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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That quivering expression


“Exquisite in every way; lovely in colour, most subtle the quivering expression of the lips, and sweetness of the tender face, shaken like a leaf by winds upon its dew, and hesitating back into peace.”–John Ruskin on Arthur Hughes’ painting April Love. *** In several of Hughes’ works, it is the evocative shades he uses…
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Rebel’s Daydream: An Animated Short Film


A breathtaking animated video celebrating the beauty and poetry of Pre-Raphaelite art. Directed and produced by Anna-Ester Volozh. Honestly, I was touched by the delicacy of this work. Absolutely stunning.  Watch below. Rebel’s Daydream – Tribute to the Pre-Raphaelites from Dragonbee on Vimeo.

Pre-Raphaelite Sighting in Whitechapel


New addition to the Pre-Raphaelite Sightings page.  William Holman Hunt’s painting Isabella and the Pot of Basil spotted in Whitechapel. If you are unfamiliar with this work, see my previous post Love, Death, and Potted Plants.   Whitechapel is a British detective series.  It’s dark and atmospheric with  plots that hearken back to historic Whitechapel crimes…
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Sidonia: From Burne-Jones to Tim Burton

1999 Miranda Richardson Stars In The Movie "Sleepy Hollow." directed by Tim Burton  (Photo By Getty Images)

I posted about Sir Edward Burne-Jones’ painting Sidonia von Bork in 2009, but Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood’s readership has grown quite a bit since then, so I thought I’d revisit it for those of you who are new to this blog.  Honestly, when I read some of the older posts on this site, I can’t help but…
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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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Then be not coy, but use your time


For the title of his 1909 painting Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, John William Waterhouse used a line from the poem To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick (1597-1674) Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be…
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Blanche Fury


Over the years, the term Pre-Raphaelite somehow took on a life of its own and no longer refers to just art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but a bohemian style of dress or a certain physical type. Usually, when I see a modern woman described as Pre-Raphaelite it refers to her wild and flowing hair. Is it…
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Seance on a Wet Afternoon

William Morris willow patterned wallpaper is seen in the background of the opening scene of Seance on a Wet Afternoon

I have added a few new screenshots to the Pre-Raphaelite Sightings page from the 1964 movie Seance on a Wet Afternoon. Seen above is the opening scene which features William Morris ‘Willow Bough’ patterned wallpaper in the background. This wallpaper was designed by Morris in 1887. Seance on a Wet Afternoon is a rather dark…
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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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The Testament of Sophie Dawes


When the Prince Consort died, Queen Victoria mourned for the rest of her life.   She would not allow the room where he passed to ever be changed; she wore black attire (her widow’s weeds) for the next forty years.  Many busts, statues, and memorials to Prince Albert were commissioned.  His belongings and papers were treated…
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Lyres of Waterhouse

'Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus' (John William Waterhouse)

In 1900 John William Waterhouse painted Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus, which shows the discovery of Orpheus’ decapitated head floating next to his lyre. Orpheus was given the 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…
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What shapes our perception of Elizabeth Siddal?

Photograph of Elizabeth Siddal

 For those of us who admire Pre-Raphaelite art, Elizabeth Siddal is a familiar face.  Her story is repeated often and frequently embellished.  When beginning to research the life of Elizabeth Siddal, readers will invariably encounter this description of her written by poet William Allingham in his diary: “Short, sad, and strange her life; it must…
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Rossetti’s Models

The Bower Meadow, 1871-72, Oil on Canvas

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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Perdita, the lost girl

Perdita, Frederick Sandys

Perdita (seen above) was painted by Frederick Sandys with  Mary Emma Jones as the model.  Also known by her stage name Miss Clive, Mary Emma Jones appears in several of Sandys’ works.  They never married, but the couple did have ten children together.  Sandys was a bit of a rogue when it came to his…
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A Mother’s Exile


Georgiana Burne-Jones, wife of artist Edward Burne-Jones, was a devoted wife and mother.  Her love for her husband and children is obvious when reading any account of the Burne-Jones family.   Despite her joy at becoming a mother, Georgie poignantly described a sense of exile once she was no longer in the studio with her…
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