Monstrous Women

I was browsing a bookstore and found an aisle offering boxed sets of movies packaged with the books they were based on. A little girl picked up Frankenstein and handed it to her mother, who rolled her eyes. “You don’t want that. That’s for boys.” I assume the mother had never heard of Mary Shelley….
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Pyramus and Thisbe

The tale of Thisbe comes from book four of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In ancient Babylon, the families of Pyramus and Thisbe live in separate houses that share a roof. Over time, the two youths fall in love but are forbidden by their parents to see each other. Undaunted, the lovers use a crack in the wall…
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Exploring the Beauty of Melancholy

“Our sweetest songs are those that tell of the saddest thought” –Percy Bysshe Shelley At what point in human history did we decide that in music, a slow tempo is sad while upbeat music with a faster beat is happy?  Instinctively we have always known that certain music and art reflects a sense of melancholy.  While…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: The Tempest

In The Tempest, Shakespeare tells us the story of Prospero, duke of Milan.  Prospero was dethroned by his brother Antonio and abandoned at sea with his three year old daughter Miranda.  Eventually they landed on an enchanted island, where the sole inhabitant is the creature Caliban.  Prospero works his magic and places Caliban and all…
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Waterhouse and Transformations

After my post about Clytie changing into the sunflower, I’ve been pondering transformations. Lamia is perhaps my favorite example of a dramatic transformation.  Based on the poem by John Keats, Waterhouse depicts Lamia after she has transformed from serpent to woman.  I adore the vivid imagery of Keats’ poem (She was a gordian shape of…
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Love, Death and Potted Plants

William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil is currently in the news with the recent announcement that the Delaware Art museum will be auctioning the painting tomorrow.  The work has been in their collection since 1947 and it is sad news indeed that the Delaware has to sell it and three other works…
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Tennyson’s ‘Lady Clare’

“He does not love me for my birth, Nor for my lands so broad and fair; He loves me for my own true worth, And that is well,” said Lady Clare. Published in 1842, Lady Clare is a romantic ballad by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  Exploring issues of class, marriage and honesty, Lady Clare is the…
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Ariadne

Ariadne was a daughter of Minos, king of Crete.  She defied her father by helping his prisoner, Theseus, who had been imprisoned in the Minotaur’s labrynth.  Ariadne gave him the thread that he used to find his way to freedom after killing the monster.  In helping Theseus, she risked the anger and retribution of her…
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‘The Magic Circle’ and ‘The Crystal Ball’

In The Magic Circle, a lone sorceress casts her spell while surrounded by ravens in a desolate landscape. No lush greenery here, Waterhouse has placed her in a barren spot that lends an atmosphere of something wild and primitive. Practicing her magic, the sorceress is firmly in control. You may not be able to see…
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To live forgotten, and die forlorn

And on the liquid mirror glow’d The clear perfection of her face, ‘Is this the form,’ she made her moan, ‘That won his praises night and morn?’ –Alfred, Lord Tennyson Mariana in the South   Like the Lady of Shalott, Mariana lives a secluded existence. The subject of Mariana was visited twice by Tennyson, in…
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Art Inspired Flash Fiction: Vanity

She was engaged once, although she has pushed it out of her mind. He loved her and was endowed with a large enough fortune to satisfy her whims and capricious needs. Sadly, she was unable to tear her eyes off of herself long enough to carry on even the simplest conversation with him. When she…
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Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus

There are many artistic representations of Circe.  Previous posts on this blog include Circe Invidiosa and The Wine of Circe.  Kirsty Stonell Walker explores Circe more deeply in her post Snowdrops, Swine and Seductive Sorceresses. I’ve been looking at mirrors in Pre-Raphaelite art in my previous posts.  In Il Dolce Far Niente and Viola, the…
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The Winds of Waterhouse

Zephyrus The Awakener Come, thou awakener of the spirit’s ocean, Zephyr, whom to thy cloud or cave No thought can trace! speed with thy gentle motion! –Percy Bysshe Shelley “ZEPHYROS (or Zephyrus) was the god of the west wind, one of the four directionalAnemoi (Wind-Gods). He was also the god of spring, husband of Khloris (Greenery), and father of Karpos…
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Goddess of Soul and Memory

I love how names from ancient mythology still permeate our language. They do not shrivel and fall away. They persist. Today we use the word psyche to sum up everything that we are. It is our soul, our mind. It is both our conscious and unconscious. Our subconscious fears and troubles lurk in our psyche….
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Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus

Pre-Raphaelite art has its critics. I feel like many of them don’t actually look at the paintings or consider an artist’s individual work. They give it a cursory glance, assume that it’s all sentimentality and languorous women and then promptly dismiss it. A similar reaction takes place when people think of mythic fiction and fantasy,…
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Lamia

I just discovered that in January there was an adaptation of Keats’ Lamia on BBC Radio 4.  I’m sorry that I missed that.  Lamia is one of my favorite works, here are two passages I enjoy the most. (You can read the complete poem here) Lamia has vivid imagery: “She was a gordian shape of…
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More on Waterhouse’s Undine and Mermaids

Apparently I can not resist their lure and mermaids have become my theme of the week. Previously I shared that I had read Undine, which prompted a post of Undine images by artists Waterhouse and Rackham and yesterday’s post featuring mermaid images by Burne-Jones and Waterhouse.  I was browsing through a book about Waterhouse this…
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Mermaids

Last week, I posted about reading the classic fairy tale Undine, in which a water spirit marries a human in order to gain a soul.  If you seek the enchantments of water-women, then a dose of Burne-Jones is in order: The Sea-Nymph: One of the most haunting images I’ve ever seen, The Depths of the…
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Undine

I’ve recently read Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. Written in the early 1800s, it is a classic fairy tale in which Undine, an elemental water spirit, marries a human in order to gain a soul. It may be derived from the tale of Melusina. (I prefer Melusina, who seems to have a strength…
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Medea

Medea by Frederick Sandys Sandys portrays Medea as a powerful beauty and I especially love the abalone shell included among the other details of the painting.  She’s wearing a coral necklace mentioned in my post Rossetti and his baubles and in these posts at The Beautiful Necessity: The Pre-Raphaelites and “Hippie” Beads and Hippie Beads…
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Circe Invidiosa

Waterhouse is an adept at blending feminine beauty and mystery.  Here he depicts the goddess Circe amidst shades of greens and blues, creating a world that draws us in and mesmerizes.   If you really look at this painting, you can feel yourself transported into Circe’s world:  you can hear the water echoing through a secluded grotto. …
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JW Waterhouse Royal Academy Exhibit

Link: The Royal Academy has announced a 2009 exhibit of 40 Waterhouse paintings. Sketches and drawings will be shown as well. June 27 – Sept. 13. From the Royal Academy website: “The exhibition will consider how Waterhouse’s paintings reflect his engagement with contemporary issues ranging from medievalism and the classical heritage to spiritualism and the…
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