The Symbolism of Lepidoptera

Truth to nature was one of the main tenets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and an excellent example of this can be seen in the Death’s Head moth in William Holman Hunt’s painting The Hireling Shepherd (above).  I’ve blogged about it many times before; it’s part of my Shakespeare post that I share yearly on the…
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Searching for Symbolic Windows

Last week I posted Evelyn De Morgan’s Hope in a Prison of Despair (seen above) on the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Facebook page. A happy byproduct of sharing things on the Pre-Raph Sisterhood Facebook page is that when people comment, like, or share the post, it pops up in my own feed again.  I noticed that the…
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The Significance of Three

I have an obsessive/compulsive relationship with the number three that has been in place for most of my life. For many years, it was so subtle that neither I or loved ones noticed.  It existed in childhood but was overlooked.  I have now been a parent for nineteen years, and it is something my children…
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Birds in the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti

While from the quivering bough the bird expands His wings. And lo! thy spirit understands (from A Vision of Fiammetta, Dante Gabriel Rossetti) Birds appear frequently in both Rossetti’s paintings and poems.  In the late 1860s, after his wife Elizabeth Siddal’s  death, Rossetti began to be plagued by health and mental problems. A chaffinch landed…
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Lewis Carroll and the Pre-Raphaelites

Alice in Wonderland has a strong hold on our popular culture.  Over a century has passed since it and the sequel Through the Looking Glass were written and Alice’s strange journeys charm us still.  How many times can we reinterpret this book on screen?  It seems to be an endless source of inspiration and the…
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The Hours

“I have been working very hard in spite of all things, and I hope to finish the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and the ‘Hours’.  I think you never saw the last–not a big picture, about five feet long–a row of six little women that typify the hours of day from waking to sleep.  Their little knees…
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Poppies: Sleep, Death, Remembrance

The Tower of London is marking the centenary of World War I with a breathtaking art installation called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by artist Paul Cummins.  The installation will include total of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each flower representing a British military fatality from WWI.   The tradition of using poppies for remembrance of those…
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Ophelia’s Flowers

When John Everett Millais painted Ophelia he chose to depict her in the moments just before she drowns, a bold choice as most previous artists portrayed Ophelia before she ever enters the water.  This isn’t the only striking aspect of his painting, however.  In the midst of this picture of death, the plant life 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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La Pia de Tolomei

Dante Gabriel Rossetti painted La Pia de Tolomei at the beginning of his affair with Jane Morris, the wife of his friend William Morris. In this painting, Jane models as La Pia, from Dante Alighieri’s poem the Divine Comedy. La Pia is found by Dante during his travel through Purgatory, in Part II of the…
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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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Magic in Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist Art

Magic and witchcraft can be depicted as ugly and dark in art as in William Blake’s Hecate, but Pre-Raphaelite artists embrace its beauty and mysticism. Look at her skirt. Her magical symbols, I think, are Celtic in origin. If anyone has any info on them, please post a comment.

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 Awakening Conscience

The fallen woman was quite a theme for the Pre-Raphaelites. In this painting, The Awakening Conscience, we see a mistress rising from the seat of her lover, seemingly stricken with the realization of what her life has become. The Awakening Conscience, painted by William Holman Hunt, is filled with symbolism: a cat crouches under the…
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Remember me when I am gone away…

Christina Rossetti has the distinction of appearing not only in her brother Dante Gabriel’s first painting to be exhibited, but it was also the first piece of work to bear the mysterious initials “PRB”. At the time, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was still a secret group of young idealists and the meaning of the PRB inscription…
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