Aspecta Medusa

Medusa was once a beautiful maiden who was transformed by the goddess Athena into a Gorgon.  Of all three Gorgons, Medusa alone was mortal.  Her hair was a mass of writhing serpents and a glimpse of her face would turn you to stone. Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, avoided Medusa’s deadly gaze by viewing…
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“A study of varied greens”

“The girl is in a sort of passionate reverie, and is drawing her hand listlessly along the strings of a violin which hangs against the wall, while she holds the bow with the other hands, as if arrested by the thought of the moment, when she was about to play.  In color, I shall make…
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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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La Ghirlandata

La  Ghirlandata was painted at Kelmscott Manor after a period of great difficulty for Rossetti — he had attempted suicide earlier that year. Despite his paranoia and mental troubles, his work during this period is vibrant and beautiful.  This painting,in particular, is appealing to me with its stunning contrast of glorious red hair and verdant…
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Veronica Veronese

“The girl is in a sort of passionate reverie, and is drawing her hand listlessly along the strings of a violin which hangs against the wall, while she holds the bow with the other hands, as if arrested by the thought of the moment, when she was about to play.  In color, I shall make…
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Her enchanted hair

And  her enchanted hair was the first gold./And still she sits, young while the earth is old –from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sonnet Lady Lilith Lilith appears here with pale skin and clad in a white gown, making her luxurious hair the most vivid thing in the room.  In this painting, Dante Gabriel Rossetti is not…
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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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Book Review: A Curl of Copper and Pearl

“To start with I was nothing, but then the merest sweep of his pencil gave a hint of what I could become.”  –A Curl of Copper and Pearl I’ve spent almost my entire adult life pursuing the Pre-Raphaelites, but never have I felt so immersed in their world as I did while reading this book….
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Who is The Blessed Damozel?

The Poem:  Drawing inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Blessed Damozel explores the theme of lovers separated by death.  Like Poe’s Lenore, the damozel (an archaic form of damsel) has died and Rossetti introduces her to us as she looks down upon her lover from heaven.  Rossetti later told Hall…
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Regina Cordium (Queen of Hearts)

In 1859, Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted Bocca Baciata and it was a radical change in style. Afterwards his work gravitated towards images of a single female, quite often depicted from the bust up and surrounded by flowers, jewelry and other symbolic objects. Why the change? In the late 1850’s Rossetti had definitely matured as an…
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Monna Vanna

Rossetti frequently used Alexa Wilding as a model. Tall and voluptuous, she appears in some of his most beautiful works. She is The Blessed Damozel, although she is frequently misidentified in that painting as Elizabeth Siddal. In Monna Vanna, Rossetti has cast Alexa in the role of a vain beauty. Her large-sleeved, opulent gown is…
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The Impossible Mirror of Lady Lilith

I’ve mentioned my love of mirror paintings before: Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus, Viola, Photograph of Fanny Cornforth, Seeking out mirrors, and Preparing for the Ball. It’s understandable if we fail to notice the mirror in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Lady Lilith (previous post about the painting here).  Our eyes are naturally drawn to Lilith,…
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Rossetti Studies

Often I find that I prefer an artist’s studies to the completed work.  Perhaps it is that they are raw beginnings, a hint of what is to come.  Although usually I feel that a certain emotional quality is captured in the face of the model and somehow lost in translation when recreated in oils. Head…
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Rossetti’s Lilith and Kaballah Bracelets

Of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, it is told (The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,) That, ere the snake’s, her sweet tongue could deceive, And her enchanted hair was the first gold. And still she sits, young while the earth is old, And, subtly of herself contemplative, Draws men to watch the bright…
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Venus Verticordia

Venus Verticordia, painting and poem both by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Alexa Wilding posed for the painting, although I’ve read that Rossetti also used Fanny Cornforth. Venus Verticordia She hath the apple in her hand for thee, Yet almost in her heart would hold it back; She muses, with her eyes upon the track Of that…
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Genius in Beauty

Genius in Beauty by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Painting shown is Regina Cordium, painted by Rossetti in 1866 using Alexa Wilding as a model.) Beauty like hers is genius. Not the call Of Homer’s or of Dante’s heart sublime, — Not Michael’s hand furrowing the zones of time, — Is more with compassed mysteries musical; Nay,…
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Sibylla Palmifera

For this week’s poem, I have chosen Rossetti’s Sibylla Palmifera. I usually include external links at the end of posts, but I don’t want this to be overlooked: On this page at Liverpool Museums , you can view an actual X-Ray of Rossetti’s painting Sibylla Palmifera. (Rossetti Exhibition Home) Rossetti, Religion, and Women: Spirituality Through…
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Rossetti’s Lilith

Dante Gabriel Rossetti originally painted Lilith using Fanny Cornforth as a model when he began painting it in 1864. For some reason, in 1868, he changed the face from Fanny’s to that of another of his favorite models,  Alexa Wilding. According to Hebrew myth, Lilith was Adam’s wife before Eve. Lilith had refused to be…
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The Bower Meadow

The Bower Meadow, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1872. Featured in the foreground are Maria Spartali Stillman (left) and Alexa Wilding(right). I’m not sure about the women in the background. Musical instruments, such as the ones seen here, seem to figure prominently in many of Rossetti’s works Veronica Veronese, The Sea-Spell, La Ghirlandata to…
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La Bella Mano

La Bella Mano, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti – 1875, oil, Delaware Art Museum. Models: Alexa Wilding as the woman, May Morris (daughter of William and Jane Morris) as the angel. More at Rossetti Archive. Rossetti’s Sonnet for La Bella Mano: O lovely hand, that thy sweet dost lave In that thy pure and proper…
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